This vast and beautiful world can often get drowned out in the cacophony of the modern experience. Far below the din of tablets and cell phones, emails, schedules, morning commutes and concrete sidewalks a siren’s song hints at a different interpretation of humanity. For the lucky few who take notice of the beckoning call, vacations become adventures, travel takes on the weight of a journey and every step down a dirt path or ancient cobbled street brings wonderment and joy. My wife, Michelle, and I are two such people. Over the past several years we have been fortunate enough to visit some of the more remote corners of the globe. Every experience fuels a desire to see more and in the summer of 2017 we directed our attentions to Bhutan.
Cursed with a naïveté that plagues many Westerners setting their sights to the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon my imagination had adopted an incomplete sketch of the country I was so excited to visit. Bhutan is impossibly tall Himalayan peaks, it is ancient monasteries, fortresses on the banks of rivers and beautiful picturesque valleys, but this is far from the total picture. The heart of this mystical land resides in its people and Bhutan beats to a rhythm that keeps an ancient history vibrant and relevant while navigating through this ever-changing modern world. Centuries old monasteries are not antiquated relics or ruins, but essential parts of daily life for Bhutanese people. Dzongs maintain their place as regional governmental centers; a role they have served for more than half a millennia. A reverence to traditional forms of art can be found in the textiles, painting styles and ornamental woodworking found throughout the country. Yet, progress abounds in the form of large public works projects. An upgraded system of roads has begun to make access to many of the more secluded valleys more practical. Thimphu, the nation’s capital, is growing into its own as a modern city. The same resolve and strong work ethic that allows a culture to thrive in such remote and isolated surroundings has been unleashed in a wave of entrepreneurship that is reshaping the face of the country while honoring the traditions it holds so dear. It is a very exciting time indeed to visit Bhutan.
On a vacation where my wife and I were greeted with warm smiles from everyone we spoke to or had dealings with, the most special of the people we met was our guide Kezang Dawa. Surely any trip to Bhutan will be memorable for anyone lucky enough to make the trip, but Mr. Dawa forever holds a spot as the highlight of our trip. The Last Shangri-La is an amazing travel destination, but it owes some of its specialness to the fact that it is, by definition, inaccessible.
The lure of Bhutan’s remoteness definitely grabbed hold of both my wife and my imaginations. We pictured ourselves cresting high mountain passes as we trekked the days away enjoying seclusion and all the raw beauty nature has to offer. What we didn’t imagine was how utterly exhausting and trying the trek would be. In hindsight we were definitely not in the kind of shape required to undertake such a task. We would have easily qualified as a challenge for a lesser guide. Kezang, however, went out of his way to keep us comfortable and on track and we eventually made our way into camp each evening worn out, but in one piece. For the portions of our trip that did not involve traipsing over mountains Kezang’s expertise and attention to detail made every hotel transfer, every car trip, every lunch stop along the way an effortless experience. His mastery of logistics afforded my wife and I a carefree vacation where we could concentrate on enjoying all the beautiful scenery and wonderful architecture Bhutan has to offer. For all the hard work Mr. Dawa put into managing our trip he never failed to have a smile on his face. He was very interested in making sure we got to see the things we wanted to see. More importantly he made sure we saw the things we didn’t even know we wanted to see until after we saw it. I cannot speak highly enough of Mr. Dawa’s character or how much he was a part of our vacation’s success.
When you meet someone as special as Kezang you find yourself rooting for his or her success. This is why Michelle and I approached Kezang about starting his own tour guide service. I am very excited to see where he will take this business, but the real winners will be those traveling to Bhutan who take the opportunity to use Tshoemen Bhutan Expeditions for their bookings and guide services. Let Kezang and his staff work with you to make all the necessary preparations and plan all the wonderful things you’ll get to see. Set off on the right foot before taking the first step on a most magnificent journey.