Bhutan Travel Diary - p 1Tiger's Nest Monastery

6 April 2007
In the high Himalayas lies the country of Bhutan, which is nothing if not unique.  Somewhat smaller than the state of West Virginia, Bhutan's 670,000 citizens are ruled by a true king (soon to become a parliamentary democracy).  Its people practice Tibetan-style Buddhism.  The national sport is archery; there are four movie theaters in the country.
   When we arrive at Paro International Airport, I am sick and feverish, unable to bear even the odor of food - one last souvenir of Thailand.  Greeting us is Chozang Tangbi, our guide, and Tandi our driver, from Bhutan Birding and Heritage Travels, our tour company for the trip.  Chozang is smartly dressed in his gho, the traditional men's attire that consists of leather shoes, knee-length stockings, and a plaid knee-length robe that looks like a kilt.  The women wear brightly colored floor-length dresses called kiras.
    I try but cannot eat lunch in Paro, then it's off to the capital city of Thimphu via bumpy, dusty roads that are under repair.  Night is spent at the austere but beautiful Hotel Riverview.  









Spot-winged Grosbeak

7 April 2007
I'm still feverish and miserable as we drive east toward Dochu La (La means pass in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language).  Here we find nice birds.  Maybe they will begin to cure me.  First is a small flock of Spot-winged Grosbeaks that pose in the rhododendrons.













Green-tailed Sunbird (female)Next comes a sprightly female Green-tailed Sunbird, drawn by Chozang's imitation of a Collared Owlet call.  










Green-tailed Sunbird maleThe male Green-tailed Sunbird finally comes in to set things straight.  These dazzling birds, who fill the same niche as hummingbirds in the Americas, are as lively as they are beautiful.  Darting, twisting first one way then another, sunbirds are a challenge to photograph but always delightful.
  - Later  Today we're joined by our cook, Karma.  Heritage Travels knows how much birders love to eat.  With splendid mountain views as a setting, Karma and Tandi cover a portable table with a roadside breakfast of black tea, mango juice, omelets and sausage and even hot toast.  Alas, in mid-meal I begin to shiver uncontrollably and must retire to the van to warm up.  I'm still not over my illness.


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