I visited Bhutan on a cultural tour in late October 2011 with Bhutan Herders Expedition. It was an awesome experience visiting Bhutan, Land of the Dragon. The authenticity of its natural landscape was touching, and the simplicity of its people inspiring. It is important to explore Bhutan with a Travel Company that is knowledgeable and passionate. Travelling with Bhutan Herders Expedition was a pleasant experience. It was flexible in arranging a tour for just the 2 of us. This flexibility makes a lot of differences in that it allows us to discover the undisturbed Shangri-La, and its unique way of straddling the ancient and modern world at our own leisurely pace.
My wife and I visited Bhutan in December last year which included a 3 days 2 nights trekking cum camping. I considered that as one of the best experience we have had. The sceneries was breath-taking and the our guide Karma was just superb. Apart from being very knowledgeable with the historical, geographical and cultural aspects of the country, he was also an extremely competent trekking guide who always put the needs of his customers first. What set him apart was his willingness to go the great length to delight his customers. Apart from making sure we are kept warm in our camp at sub-zero temperature, he would spin that little surprises once in a while. How about having a nice fresh fish for dinner deep in the mountains?
I am planning another trip to Bhutan in end 2013 and Karma will definitely be my guide again – no doubt about that!
Roy and wife
I was in a bookshop and spotted a book featuring major leaders of Bhutan. I asked for its price but the shop-owner would not sell it to me.
“It has not been updated, ” the owner lamented.
“I don’t mind, as it contains all the information I need,” I said.
“If that’s the case, you can have the book for free, ” came the reply.
Welcome to Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital. It offered me the first impression of Bhutanese — touted as the happiest people on earth but people with huge pride, in my eyes.
The awesome landscape notwithstanding, its people are the ones that bring fond memories — our caring guide and adorable driver included!
Shoe Bee friends and family (July – August 2012).
The group of us (5 persons) arrived in Bhutan on a clear, blue sky day. We were very impressed with the smell of grass in the air when we arrived at Bhutan’s only international airport in Paro. I have long forgotten how grass smells with all the developing works back home in Singapore! Bhutan has definitely done a great job in preserving nature by limiting heavy industries and the no. of visitors per year. We were greeted by our smiling, friendly and courteous guide and his driver, Karma & Chilin, at the airport exit with them holding the traditional long white scarf (sorry, what is it called again?) and their greetings.
During our trip, we have noticed that the Bhutanese love their chilli. The national dish, Emadatse (known to us as “chilli with cheese”), is everywhere. This unique dish is worth a try but maybe not for anyone who dislikes cheese. I am very pleased to notice that our guide and driver are proud of their many traditions and were always seen in Gho (the traditional Bhutanese outfit for men).These outfits seen daily have definitely reminded us that we were on holidays and away from our hectic working and city life! Bhutanese men love archery and we had the privilege to watch a friendly match along the way when Karma noticed our interest in it.
The last stop, Taktshang Goemba (Tiger’s Nest) is the holy site in Bhutan. The more than 2-hour hike is the only way to get there. But keep climbing, the view out at the top is so magnificent that everything else could be forgotten! I would like to conclude that this trip was tiring and a test on our physical energy (leg-energy, especially) but the tour has covered the highlights of Bhutan and the itinerary planned by Karma has made the trip more enjoyable although the drives on a few occasions were very long and tiring. The small surprises such as a little picnic in the National Park with tea and biscuits, though simple, have made our walk round the big place more of an enjoyment than a chore.
Thanks Karma, Chilin and Bhutan Herders Expedition!
A good friend who has travelled with Bhutan Herders Expedition has recommended the Travel Agent to us for our visit to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon in Oct 2012. Everything, from booking our flight, customizing our itinerary, visa applications etc for our scenic 11 days 10 nights stay was personally & carefully arranged by Karma Tshetem, the Managing Director of the travel company. He was also our guide for the trip. We were given a warm welcome & greeted with the presentation of hadas at Paro Airport. His service & efficiency is superb.
We’re also provided with a very good, skillful & experienced driver, Jamyang Wangchuk, who is able to manoeuver the 12-seater bus through many narrow, winding, rocky & bumpy roads. He kept his bus very clean so that we can have a comfortable ride every day. A very hardworking driver, Jamyang is always helping out with everything from making coffee/tea for our breaks to carrying our bags etc.
The Hotels used for our group of 6 were all comfortable & clean with good views of the area, with exception of YT Hotel, a little family-run hotel which is a little bit run-down, but the food was yummy. The best is Natksel Resort, with extremely beautiful rooms. All the hotel staff throughout our stay was courteous, friendly & helpful.
Food was great too. We had a combination of buffet & ala-carte meals ranging from Bhutanese to Indian, Chinese, Continental & even a Swiss meal too. At times, he would ask us for our choice before he does the bookings. Karma even brought us to the most popular Indian Restaurant in Thimphu, with excellent food. Karma has his meals with us most of the time, which is a good move. By doing so, we’re able to chat with him, thus getting to know more about Bhutan’s culture, their people etc & at times also to discuss our following day’s programme.
All the sightseeing spots were also well arranged. Walking sticks were readily available for a few short hikes in the itinerary. We had many beautiful photo stops on the way. Where time permitted, he did some extras by bringing us to the Burning Lake, the Royal Botanical Park & shopping. It was a good choice to do the Burning Lake, a sacred pilgrimage site. You can give it a miss for the Botanical Park as there’s nothing interesting there. Visiting Tiger’s Nest perched on the side of the cliff at a height of 900m above Paro Valley was awesome. Thanks to Karma & Jamyang for helping to carry our back-packs throughout the exhausting climb up & down Tiger’s Nest. Fortunately half of the climb up the monastery was done on horse-backs, otherwise we wouldn’t have made it within half a day. Having a hot-stone bath in a 200 years old farmhouse was also a good experience that’s not to be missed. Bhutan is a fascinating country with amazing natural & beautiful sceneries everywhere. It really lives up to its name of “Switzerland of the East”. Karma also included a few stops where we had hot coffee/tea while viewing the beautiful sceneries in the cold weather. He’s so thoughtful.
To sum up all, both Karma & Jamyang are really fantastic guys, always so accommodating & kind. Our trip to Bhutan is a very fruitful, enjoyable & relaxed one. We would definitely recommend Bhutan Herders Expedition to friends & family. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Karma & Jamyang for making our well organized trip to Bhutan so wonderful & memorable.
Mr & Mrs Steven Kok, Singapore, Oct 2012
I met Bhutan Herders at the 2012 Sydney Travel Show and booked a trip to Bhutan with that company. During my travels there I found Karma Tshetem, the proprietor, equally personable and professional with excellent knowledge to show me a few amazing spots, especially in Eastern Bhutan. I have no hesitation at all to recommend the services of Bhutan Herders to any interested traveller who is seeking not only to explore the sites, but more so to share many laughs and fun times with Karma.
Ilka Staschen, Political Scientist, Sydney, Australia
Getting under the skin of a country when you only have limited time is a challenge. And Bhutan is a rare example. To make the most of your time you need a good guide and a companionable means of seeing the country. Bhutan Herders can provide this service in a professional and meaningful way and you probably find yourself enjoying the experience as well as having a few laughs with Karma and his driver.
Robert, Architect, Sydney, Australia (visited Bhutan in November 2012)
I had a totally enjoyable and fulfilling trip in December 2012, thanks to Bhutan Herders.
Everything we encountered had more meaning because our guide Karma was very knowledgeable about history, religion, geography, nature to culture and current affairs.
When we compared notes with travelers from other tour groups, we realised we had a better deal in every aspect. We had extras tailored to our interests, such as a hotstone bath in a farmhouse, a riverside picnic in the national park and a cultural performance. We also had the rooms with the best views. They must have spared no effort as room allocation depend on availability and the hotel management.
Most of all, our guide was very warm, gentle and non-calculative. That was the most direct and powerful influence for me to emulate the Bhutanese wisdom of pursuing happiness.
Charles Sng, Singapore
“Bhutan will not give you more than what you already have but it will take away what you do not need in the form of stress and anxiety derive from the complexity of modern life” – Joseph Law. Contributed by Lester and Charles)
I read this in Druk Air’s inflight magazine as I was flying into Land of Happiness and was breathless with anticipation to experience this for myself.
The first thing that greeted me when I landed was…fresh air! At the risk of sounding like a silly urban boy, I never knew air could be as fresh as this (having lived in modern man-made cities my entire life). I was then presented with a white scarf as a welcome gesture from my tour guide Karma from Bhutan Herders Expedition and our driver Gyembo, our two Bhutanese companions for the trip.
For the next ten days traveling in the land governed by “Gross National Happiness” index, Karma never failed to impress us on his level of hospitality service as well as the historical, cultural, geographical and religious knowledge of his country. Karma continuously surprised us throughout the entire trip with his knowledge of nature (birds & trees species), and intrigued us with Bhutan’s mythical stories & his childhood stories from the village.
Not contented with the standard tour package itinerary of Dzongs and temples, we requested additional programs to be included:
1. Rinchengang Cluster Village. Ancient architecture domestic dwelling where original habitants came from India in the 17th century. Interesting building forms with different housing units inter-connected to one another.
2. Weekend Market. An insider’s look at where locals do their weekly marketing chores, and a wonderful introduction to the various types of fresh and dried produces from different regions of Bhutan including the minority tribes who travel 4 hours on donkeys to do their marketing here. If you think you have seen all the spices and produces in the world, think again!
3. Waterfall Picnic. Indulged in mother’s nature: fresh air, scenic nature and gorgeous waterfall together with home cooked Bhutanese meal, life’s as good as it gets.
4. Farmhouse Lunch. An invaluable experience to enter into the private home of local villager and taste an authentic lunch prepared by the homemaker. To meet and interact with the locals in their domain added an interesting perspective to our trip.
5. Hotstone Bath. Extravagant luxury spa resort is so passé! We opted for a traditional hotstone bath in an ancient residence of more than 250 years. The ‘antique’ looking wooden tub where we soaked our tired bodies looked suspicious like the old food trays for the farm pigs. What a joy!
6. Cultural Dance. A surprise finale program – Karma had specially arranged a traditional cultural dance performance at our hotel just for the two of us to end our trip. The clarity of voice and the singing of the performers would put some performers of today’s talent scouting reality shows to shame!
Lester and Charles December 2012.