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Our Trip to Bhutan

October 15-November 9, 2013
Birds, Mammals, and Festivals
Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris and Hishey Tshering

 Brian and Louise McLeod
Curtis and Carolyn Cowgill

Daily Journal and Photos
>> New York to Bangkok
>> Bangkok to Paro
>> Hiking to Tiger’s Nest
>> Bumthang Festival
>> Thrumshing National Forest
>> Chhumey Valley and the Tharpaling Monastery
>> Trongsa
>> Zhemgang
>> Phobjika Valley and the Black Necked Cranes
>> Punakha and the White-bellied Heron
>> Thimpu
>> Back to Paro, the Chellila Pass, the Tshering Family Farm and on to Bangkok

Photo Galleries
>> Faces and People of Bhutan – photo gallery
>> Animals of Bhutan – photo gallery
>> Birds of Bhutan – photo gallery
>> Flowers/Plants of Bhutan – photo gallery
>> A Mantis captures a butterfly

Bhutan and the Happiness Factor
Louise’s President’s Message to Women Graduates-USA


The legendary land of Bhutan was first settled in the 9th century by wandering migrants from the Tibet region of China.

Called Druk Yul (Land of the Thunder Dragon) by its people, the strikingly beautiful Kingdom of Bhutan lies in the eastern Himalayas, sandwiched between China and India.

This is summary of what we expected to do on our trip to Bhutan, followed by 3 days in Bangkok.

Our leader, Hishey Tshering, took us on an amazing trip over the scenic passes of Bhutan, along roads laden with prayer flags. This shining Buddhist gem is a birder’s paradise. Bhutan’s altitudinal variations, from tropical lowlands to mountain peaks, kept us constantly guessing about the next surprise around the corner!

Bhutan has twenty peaks over 23,000 feet, a wonderful place to enjoy stunning Himalayan mountain scenery at this season, looking down on forests and picturesque valleys with terraced rice fields, while also seeing spectacular birds and charming mammals.

The Buddhist culture in Bhutan is more than religion, as it is integrated into all aspects of daily life in this “land of the peaceful dragon.” We enjoyed the first full day of the trip walking slowly up to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery. We then flew to Bumthang for a colorful festival.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is the size of Switzerland, nestled between Tibet and India, and is truly one of Earth’s most remote countries. Over 60% of the country is still forested with many farms dotting the countryside, especially in eastern Bhutan. Bhutan has 20 peaks over 23,000 feet (7,000 meters), a wonderful place to photograph stunning mountain scenery, while also seeing spectacular birds and charming mammals. The Buddhist philosophy of respect for all living things alongside a progressive governmental approach to environmental preservation and promotion of Bhutan’s unique culture and traditions have maintained an environment where wildlife flourishes. Bhutan lies in an area designated as one of the world’s ten biodiversity hotspots. Over 600 species of birds live in Bhutan, including some of the most exotic and rare species in the eastern Himalayas. Bhutan is also home to at least 165 species of mammals, including three species of langurs, macaques, Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Musk Deer and in the alpine meadows, Takin. Tiger tracks might be found along the bases of the foothills to above the tree line, although this predator is very seldom seen.

We visited the impressive goembas (monasteries), dzongs (the monastery/fortresses that serve as Bhutan’s administrative and religious centers), lhakhangs (temples), and chortens (stupas), all of which are important features of Bhutan’s past and present religion and culture. The Buddhist culture in Bhutan is more than a religion; it is integrated into all aspects of daily life in this Land of the Peaceful Dragon. We had opportunities to examine traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts, which represent a vital aspect of Bhutan’s living heritage as well as its spiritual and intellectual life. Surrounding us at every turn from the moment we landed at the airport in Paro were the appealing Bhutanese architecture with its traditional shapes, colorful patterns, outrageous motifs, and an unmatched combination of engineering skill and beauty.

Until recently, Bhutan’s remoteness, steep terrain, and tightly controlled tourism ensured that its incredible beauty and fascinating people remained known only to a few. Bhutan was closed to outsiders until 1960; its first roads were built in 1961 and no tourists were officially permitted until 1974. Bhutan is a developing country yet its unique agrarian Buddhist culture is very much intact.

Bhutanese suffixes: “la” is pass, “chu” is river, “ka” or “kha” is valley.