On the Wings of the Dragon…

…we flew to Bhutan, Druk Yul, Land of the Thunder Dragon. This is the country launching GNH – Gross National Happiness – instead of GNP. I asked people I met if they really were, Happy. And, they said yes, they were. I can understand why.

Through the windows I could see the Himalayas, snow capped mountains welcoming me a second time. In 1986 I went to Nepal and India, but haven’t been in these parts since. I fell in love with Nepal. And now I am passionate about Bhutan.

Paro, Buthan, is said to offer one of the three most dangerous approaches and landings in the world. You could almost reach out and touch the mountain houses…

It was difficult to take photos, but I had to try. Druk Air indeed has got some skilled pilots.

With surrounding peaks as high as 5,500 m (18,000 ft), Paro airport is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports, and only a select number of pilots are certified to land here. I heard they were 14.

Flights to and from Paro are allowed under visual meteorological conditions only and are restricted to daylight hours from sunrise to sunset. We flew early morning.

The spectacular and dangerous left turn in the valley before landing had us all holding our breath. And, in a way we never let that feeling go…

The most beautiful airport in the world?

We were of course met by the Royal Family – portraits of the King, or of his whole family, were present everywhere in Bhutan. Even as pins on the men’s Gho (national dress).

It may be small, but the arrival hall is exquisitely decorated. Finally we are at the entrance to the land of Happiness. The last Shang-ri-La.

25 reaktioner på ”On the Wings of the Dragon…

  1. Ping: Thursday Thoughts – The End of the Journey | Leya

  2. Äntligen ska jag ta mig tid att ”följa med” på din fantastiska resa där du börjar med att ge oss en väldigt spännande inledning och underbara bilder…

  3. As soon as I got to your statement about Paro being one of the most difficult airports to land at, I immediately remembered Toncontín Airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Sure enough, it’s included in this article about the world’s most dangerous airports:


    When I lived in Tegucigalpa I used to watch the planes come over the mountains and drop down into the valley to land at the airport.

    Did you find it difficult to breathe the thin air in Bhutan?

    • I have landed several times at Madeira Airport and there I also had my worst experience of a landing. The pilot succeeded only at the second trial. Narsarsuaq we landed at only once, but don’t remember it as a fright. I have not tried Tegucigalpa!
      Thin air, yes, but not difficult except when trekking. In Tibet though, I had head aches every night for a week, because it gets worse if you sleep above 3000 meters. No hotel was situated higher than that here. Bhutan, Tibet and Greenland has got the freshest air I have ever breathed. If I only could, I would bottle it and take it home!

  4. Hallo Ann-Christine. Ich werde wie immer deine Blog-Berichte schauen. Wenn du noch in Bhutan bist, so habe ich eine Frage. Kannst du mir von da, oder dort eine handvoll Sand mitbringen? Du weisst ja. Ein Sandsammler muss alle Reisenden ansprechen. Wenn es nicht geht, ist es kein Problem. Ich wünsche dir einen guten Aufenthalt dort. Grüße aus den Alpen.
    Hej Ann-Christine. Som alltid tittar jag på dina bloggrapporter. Om du fortfarande är i Buthan har jag en fråga. Kan du ta med mig en handfull sand därifrån eller där? Du vet. En sandkollektor måste vädja till alla resenärer. Om det inte fungerar är det inte ett problem. Jag önskar dig en bra vistelse där. Hälsningar från Alperna.
    Hello Ann-Christine. As always, I will be watching your blog reports. If you are still in Buthan, I have a question. Can you bring me a handful of sand from there, or there? You know. A sand collector has to appeal to all travelers. If it does not work, it is not a problem. I wish you a good stay there. Greetings from the Alps.

  5. Ohhh, my, what a surprise! 😮 Are you sure you didn’t just dream about it? 😉 Is it true that the entry to the country is limited for foreigners to a certain number a year? I wonder how you managed to land here, of all places. Looking forward to more since you probably went there for me too. 🙂

    • Well, foreigners are limited, yes. And now they cannot gain citizenship either. A Canadian lady who had done much good for the country for more than 30 years, finally got her Bhutanese citizenship now. A lovely country with so much good thinking and nature preserving laws and ideas.

  6. What a lovely airport. My husband used to do short working trips to Bhutan in the early 90s. He didn’t like the flights in and out of Bhutan, at all. How wonderful you were able to visit.

    • Yes, they opened up in the seventies only. And they don’t allow foreigners citizenship. A Canadian lady who has worked with education in Bhutan for more than 30 years, finally got her honourable citizenship some years ago.

      • Die schweiz. Hilfsorganisation Helvetas begann 1956 mit ihren Unterstützungen und dem Aufbau der Landwirtschaft (Milch, Käse) ihre Arbeit in Nepal. Heute ist die Organisation sehr aktiv im Wiederaufbau nach den schweren Beben.
        Die gleiche Organisation Helvetas begann schon früh mit ihrer Arbeit in Bhutan. Auf den Ruf des Königs hin ging der Schweizer Fritz Mauer 1969 als Käser nach Bhutan. Anfangs fehlt es sogar an der Milch. Immer mehr Schweizer Initiativen entstehen, sodass 1975 daraus ein Helvetas-Landesentwicklungs-Programm entstand.

    • Lucky duck? Haha, never heard that one…And yes, I am so grateful to have been able to get there. An absolutely super interesting country with wonderful people.

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