BHUTAN, the Land of the Dragon, is a magical kingdom in the deep folds of the high Himalaya. Today it still hides its face to the outside world behind an impenetrable veil of Himalayan mist. This paradise, known as Drukyul to its people, is one of the last such Buddhist places on earth. BHUTAN occupies with luxuriant jungles to high Himalayan summits over a length of 170km. These extreme geographical conditions partly explain why Bhutan remained self-isolated for so many centuries. Most of Bhutan's people, the Drukpas, who are of Tibeto-Mongolian origin, are farmers and animal breeders. And most of them live subsistent lives. Depending on the altitude, the forests may contain bamboo, magnolia, oak, poplar, ash, maple, cypress, pine, larch, fir or rhododendron. It is a land where every dzong (fortress), monastery, rock, valley, gorge, tree and mountain exists with a spirit of its own and each has its own story to tell. Every hilltop is with a monastery or a Chorten (stupa), and every cave has provided sanctuary for saints. It is a land where ubiquitous prayer flags give prayers wing, and where the Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, is believed to roam. Bhutan's dzongs house the civil and religious authorities of each province. Initially, they were defensive structures designed to withstand sieges, which could last for long periods. Water was channelled in through buried pipes from the nearest springs. The monastic community's quarters are traditionally on the upper floors, while the lower levels contain the administrative offices. Inside a dzong, a ceremonial scarf (kabney) must wear over Butan's national dress: gho (men) and kira (women). Our trip to Bhutan starts with a direct flight to Kathmandu, the capital city of the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, where you can take a day or two to sightsee and relax in its medieval villages. From Kathmandu we set off on a flight to Bhutan, featuring panoramic views of the Himalaya including Mt. Everest, the mother goddess of the earth. On arrival in Bhutan, we will spend several days sightseeing in its monasteries, dzongs, markets and towns and then perhaps do one of the best treks Bhutan has to offer.
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