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I touch down in Bhutan, the remote country Lonely Planet says is the best place to visit in 2020 and which touts on being the ‘happiest place on earth’, and I admit I’m feeling rather jolly.
At this point, it’s solely for the reason that I’ve survived landing at the country’s international airport, which is notoriously treacherous given that it’s surrounded by sharp peaks up to 18,000ft tall.
Plane - Sense - Relief - Airport - Buddhist
Hopping off the plane with a sense of relief I find the airport, styled after a traditional Buddhist temple, is eerily quiet, which I kind of expect given Bhutan’s strict restrictions on tourism.
The Buddhist kingdom, referred to as the ‘Switzerland of Asia’ given its comparative size and landscape, only opened its doors to tourists in 1974.
Today - Country - Beauty - Cent - Place
Today, to preserve the country’s natural beauty (72 per cent of the place is under forest cover) and keep out the Starbucks-guzzling masses there is a tourism tax of $250 (£193) a day.
The fee includes meals, transport, accommodation and a local guide who must accompany visitors at all times to ensure they stick to designated areas.
Handful - Flights - Bhutan - Day - Flight
There are only a handful of international flights in and out of Bhutan each day and flight prices are pretty exorbitant for non-residents.
Mine is just over $900 (£700) for a three-hour return trip from Bangkok to Paro International Airport.
Trip - Adventure - Company - G - Adventures
I sign up for an 11-day trip with adventure tour company G Adventures, with tourism taxes and a local guide sorted as part of the package.
There are 13 of us in total, with some from the UK, several from the U.S, a lady from Germany, a man from the Netherlands and a few women who have made the long journey from Australia.
Chirpy - Guide - Long - Name - Lhawang
Our chirpy guide tells us to call him ‘How Long’ as most can’t pronounce his Bhutanese name, Lhawang.
The trip centres around our group completing the...
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