Flying from New Dehli or Bangkok, you land in Paro -- which is surely the most modernized city in Bhutan. But once the jet hits the ground, in one of the most precipitous landings you can imagine, the jet spiraling in for a touchdown, the spirit of presence begins to change. Bhutan emerges. Your spirit begins to adjust to the character of a wholly new landscape, there are sights merely within a mile that celebrate the fact that you are in another world. The character of the land is much like the foothills of the Cascades, from where I grew up. Pines cover the hills, grasses rustle with the rarefied air, prayer flags ripple in the mountain winds and the reaches of the Himalayas and what lies beyond beckons you.
The only passages are by car, traversing the sometimes harrowing two lane highways of the Bhutanese highlands. These winding roads roam -- rising up from rushing river valleys and rock strewn channels, dotted with villages and temple compounds, up to the high passes, with sacred sites festooned with stupas and crag-hanging monasteries where monks meditate and drone the mysterious intonations of Tibetan Buddhist chants, accompanied by bells, long horns and skin clad drums, swaying together in unison, turning the long horizontal pages of their texts.
But you can go deeper. You can climb to the monastic vistas, sit with monks sipping tea, listening to their teachings, explore the high passes of extraordinarily exquisite vistas, wander ancient paths and hike to places of profound quietude -- and everywhere, children gather smiling around you, families wave from their rammed earth homesteads and simple local restaurants offer the largely vegetarian fare.
While there are increasing numbers of tourists from different parts of the planet, careful planning, early starts and exploration of the off-road locations and paths lend themselves to largely unrivaled, untrammeled experiences. Being a long running traveler to virtually all parts of Asia, that ability to find the remote experience is something distinctively present for the sojourner. Seek it out. And you shall find.
Bhutan offers simplistic, even rustic accommodations - but the basics are in order, for the western traveler. What one does experience is a culture of deep and ever present spirituality and wonder, embodied in ancient principles, ritual observances, deeply symbolic art and medieval Himalayan architecture. And sheer exhilarating joy -- the power of it all, the rich density of these explorations, embraces a renewed and remarkable energy, igniting your soul...forever.