Tine Raeymaekers and Cis Verbeeck, Belgium

Belgium

Our ten day trip through Bhutan was a truly amazing experience. Bhutan is a beautiful kingdom and thanks to our excellent guide Tsheten, we could explore it thoroughly. Tsheten took us to charming places, telling about the country and its people, and wonderfully survived our never relenting stream of questions :-) It was great to have someone around who knows so much about Bhutanese culture, religion and wildlife! It was fun traveling with him, and weappreciate how he managed to take into account our impulsive wishes and suggestions, making our journey even better. Journey To Discover Bhutan treated us as if we were princes, providing lodges in the best places, gorgeous Bhutanese meals, and, especially, doing everything they can to make our stay even more perfect. We would definitely recommend Journey to Discover Bhutan to everyone! Thank you Tsheten, for conveying the love for your country on us!

Lukas

I visited Bhutan in January/February 2007 for 11 days, and it was an incredible experience. Tsheten took very good care of me and introduced me at easy pace to Bhutan culture, customs, history and people. For those of you who plan a trip to Bhutan I strongly recommend Journey to Discover Bhutan for many reasons. They have excellent approach to customer - we changed our pre planned itinerary without any problem. On the other hand Tsheten was always very open about what was feasible and what was not in terms of time and distances we covered. Tsheten is well traveled himself so it is nice to be able to discuss Bhutan culture in context of other cultures, his English is perfect so you will not miss on any nuances in his explanations. As Bhutan has many winding roads the quality of the vehicle is very important especially if you tend to suffer from mild (sic!) motion sickness. And we traveled in brand new 4WD . In any Dzong or temple we visited I had an opportunity to learn about the history, symbolism, and customs.Finally wherever we went just about everyone seemed to know Tsheten. All the best for your trip to Bhutan. In the spring of 2006, I had the opportunity to do some extended travel through Asia, and selected Bhutan as one of my key destinations. Not only did many of my friends not even know where Bhutan was, but those who did, knew little of the mysteries locked within one of the world's more unusual destinations.

Hana Pika

It was clear that Bhutan had captured everyone's attention when my fellow taking photos the minute they stepped off the plane - and we hadn't even entered the airport yet! I was met at the airport by Tsheten himself, and from start to finish, he was organized, charming and attentive. I spent two weeks in Bhutan - one visiting Paro and Thimpu, and the other trekking the Jomolhari trek. During my visits of Paro and Thimpu, Tsheten not only showed me all of the sites and encouraged me up the long, hot, two hour climb to the Tiger's Nest Monestary but also provided great insight and anecdotes into daily Bhutan life and culture. During the trek, I was spoiled by Tsheten and his support crew (cook and horseman) as they carried an extra sleeping bag and hot water bottles to ensure my comfort on the forsty nights. I have never been so toasty in cold weather camping! Tsheten even carried a bottle of champagne to celebrate our arrival at Jomolhari base camp! A huge thank you for a trip that was so different and special, and will last in my memories for a long time to come.

Vijay Ramanavarapu

My trip to Bhutan was excellent, primarily due to the great service I received from Tsheten, he is my tour guide, was a pleasure to deal with from the start. After getting an idea of what I wanted to accomplish in Bhutan, he was able to craft an itinerary that served all my interests. What really distinguished Journey to Discover Bhutan from other tour operators is the fact that I didn't feel like I was being led around by a generic tour guide but was being shown around by a friend. Unlike other tour operators, our day together did not end at 5PM; Tsheten would gladly take me around towns to show some hidden gems. When I expressed I wanted to experience Bhutanese nightlife, Tsheten took me out to a local bar that no other foreigner would even know about. Also, instead of eating hotel food all the time, Tsheten took me out to local restaurants in Thimph0D Tsheten's knowledge about both religion and nature was above expectations. Namgay, our chef, who spent many hours slaving over a hot stove in the "kitchen tent", cooked an unbelievable variety of delicious food. Thank you also to Tshering, Drukpa and Dorfu and his eight horses who helped make this journey simply the best. We'll be back.

Ivon Pritchard

We enjoyed our trip to Bhutan very much, not only because it is such a beautiful and fascinating country but because of the excellent arrangements made by Journey to Discover Bhutan. Tsheten was an excellent guide, extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Talking to other tourists using other companies, it became clear that we were getting a bit extra for the same standard daily rate. We would highly recommend Journey to Discover Bhutan to anyone wishing to visit Bhutan.

Dr. Mansi Gandhi Shah

We have just returned from a spectacular journey through Bhutan. Words can not explain the beauty of both the country and its people. Breathtaking scenery, Kind and peaceful people and a history and culture so rich and unique that you can experience it in no other land but Bhutan. As for Journey to Discover Bhutan and our guide, Tsheten, I have only songs of praise to sing for them. They are knowledgeable, flexible and have a genuine desire to make your trip as memorable as they can. Nothing was too much for them and they will willing to cater to your every request. They gave us a deep and interesting guide to the country and I have no reservations in recommending them. I only hope we are lucky enough to be able to visit their very special country once again.

Fiona and Ian

We cannot recommend Journey to Discover Bhutan highly enough. The service offered was superb. A first class professional travel company that provided excellent accommodation, a knowledgeable guide and driver, and presented a fascinating insight into life in Bhutan. Absolutely brilliant!

Alexandra Claire Mackwoth Gee

"My experience of Journeys To Discover Bhutan was amazing. They made organising a trip to Bhutan pain free and organised a fantastic itinerary for us. The service Tsheten and his staff offered us was outstanding and nothing was ever too much trouble.I really cannot recommend the company or Bhutan enough - it's a once in a lifetime trip and I would love to go back!"

Joe & Angela

Our trip to Bhutan was a journey full of unforgettable memories. We met Tsheten, our guide, in the first instance when we got off the airplane in the Paro Airport. We felt our self just like VIPs. Tsheten is very knowledgeable, friendly and attentive; making our journey extremely fruitful, comfortable and unforgettable. With Tsheten's attentive arrangement, we even had the honor to meet the King on their National Day. Tsheten is no doubt an excellent guide. Thank you very much, Tsheten.

Rainer

Hi Tsheten, I arrived after my most wonderful tour to Bhutan. Once again I would like to thank you very much for your very professional as well as friendly management of my trip within you most wonderful country. I miss chesse and chili Be sure this trip has been my first, but not my last visit to the "land of the Thunder Dragon". Please give my regards to your assistant and to your driver who also did a marvellous job. With all my very best regards to you and your biz.

Kathy Cheng and Ivan Cheng

Tsheten, our guide, as well our four amazingly considerate colleagues of his, have made our journey an unforgettable experience.  From the initial flight in to Paro, the view from the sky, to the last of nine very special days, we left without any doubt that this is indeed the last Shangri-La.  The Druk Path trek took us across an array of nature and the views of eastern and western Himalayas were just incredible.  Tsheten's knowledge about both religion and nature was above expectations.  Namgay, our chef, who spent many hours slaving over a hot stove in the "kitchen tent", cooked an unbelievable variety of delicious food.  Thank you also to Tshering, Drukpa and Dorfu and his eight horses who helped make this journey simply the best.  We'll be back.

Kerr Family

Our family traveled for 12 wonderful days with Tsheten who wove the culture of Bhutan into our treks in a manner so enriching that each one of us felt we had seen and experienced something that could never be forgotten.  Whether it was the unique culture and customs of Bhutan, the fascinating architecture, the beautiful Himalayan flowers and trees, the breathtaking landscape or the all embracing history and practice of the Buddhist religion, all was drawn into our understanding by the wisdom and experience, patience and sensitivity of our guide.  We left Bhutan in awe and admiration of everything that the country and its people can offer the world.

Dr. Michelle Foltz

Montana, USA

Flying in the shadow of the giants: The flight from Katmandu, Nepal to Paro, Bhutan on a clear winter's day, skirting south of the majestic mountain expanse from Everest to Kanchenjunga, is the perfect introduction to the world's one remaining Buddhist kingdom. The looping final approach to the airport between forested mountains, accompanied by a rapid descent, reinforces the notion that one is entering a very different sort of place. Perhaps even dropping into a magical past, cut off from the rest of the world by more than four dimensions. Instead of saving our travel until the end of the volunteer month, Judy Forbes (friend and volunteer with the anesthesia department at the National Hospital) and I had made arrangements with Tsheten Lodey (www.bhutantouragent.com) to see some of the birds of Bhutan. Neither of us would consider ourselves die-hard twitchers or even moderately avid ones, though I admit to having kept a bird list in our travels and will gladly share it. So, why birds? Birding is simply a way to organize a trip, give context to the lay of the land, and provide delightful entertainment. Both Judy and I are more interested in "pretty birds" than rare ones, and find raptors far too difficult. But give us a foraging nuthatch in an erythrina tree or a busy fantail and we are enchanted. Birding is also quiet and slow--a legitimate excuse for a journey without too much sweat. By the end of our 6 days, the red vented bulbul and Hodgson's redstart had become familiar creatures in an increasingly familiar countryside. Journey to Discover Bhutan Tsheten Lodey's company, Journey to Discover Bhutan, organizes specialist tours for studying Bhutan's natural history; cultural endeavors, especially those centered on the exuberant Buddhist religious festivals, for which the country is famous; and trekking. Besides his knowledge of birds, he knows the habitats in which to find a particular species and the time of year to look for them. For example, one day he promised us a honeyguide. He stopped along the side of the road, in what I thought an inauspicious location, and sure enough, camouflaged on a bare branch of a shrub overhanging a rock face sat a yellow-rumped honeyguide. In a small country that ranges in altitude from 150 meters to 7500 meters in the space of less than 100 kms and varies in rainfall from monsoon fed sub-tropics to dry alpine scrub, a birder is offered an astonishing variety. The White Bellied Heron One of Bhutan's rarest birds, the white-bellied heron, winters in the rivers around Punakha in the western part of the country. During our first dinner, some Bhutanese discussed the delay in the bird's appearance. As of 24 Nov it had not been sighted and its return was questioned on TV news casts. Would it arrive? Of course we went looking, walking along the Pho Chhu ( Pho River) near the Punakha Dzong (a fortified monastery combining state administrative and religious functions) the afternoon of the 25th without luck. The next day we drove north into the Jigme Dorji National Park along the Mo Chhu almost to Damji. Two hours walking along the river, hearing from the school children and local adults that, yes, they had all seen the herons. A pair had flown by about noon, an adult and a juvenile had been seen in a place where they commonly fish. We followed bands of boys who showed where the day before or that morning they had seen the birds. Tsheten queried everyone and we followed all leads. But no luck. On the return drive to Punakha we stopped frequently to check the river. Just below the Dzong, near the area we had walked the day before, Tsheten pointed. To the lee of a gravel bar stood a most stately bird. Soft gray in color with an exaggeratedly long neck, he walked in the shallow waters with the purposefulness of royalty. After being admired he spread his wings and, capturing all the grace of his species in that one movement flew down river. ShatuOur driver, Shatu, is also a birder, as well as ex-champion light weight boxer in the army. In a country of one lane roads and inexperienced, young, male drivers Shatu's army-acquired driving skills were reassuring. Shatu knows birds by sounds and their habits, something for which I have no talent. He grew up in eastern Bhutan, west of Mongar, where the semi-tropical forests are home to the best birding in the country. He learned about birds while tending his family's cattle and spending time in cattle camps. While driving with his window open, he'd hear a bird song or call, tilt his head a few degrees, stop the car, and say its name, showing us the bird--usually one we could hardly identify with binoculars and a bird book. He reminded me of the endearing character, Benjamin, in the book, A Guide to the Birds of East Africa--A Novel. Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers During our tour winter flowering cherry trees in clouds of pink blossom studded the mixed deciduous temperate forests, breaking the green with unexpected spring-color. Our first day out we stopped to take a picture of one glorious specimen tree along the road and spent an hour observing sunbirds, flowerpeckers, warblers and tits who were making that curve in the road a vibrating, noisy aviary. Finding a cherry tree and parking ourselves at an easy viewing distance became our strategy for early morning independent bird watching. The Black-necked Crane Like most members of its family, the black-necked crane is globally threatened. In the late autumn hundreds leave their Tibetan breeding grounds and head to the extensive marshes of the Phobjikha valley in central Bhutan where they attract an array of tourists from unreconstructed twitchers to the casually curious. Like the white-bellied heron, this bird's preservation has become part of Bhutanese culture. Conservation and recognition of the endangered, threatened, vulnerable, or rare animals and their habitats is a governmental goal, taught in schools, and practiced by the citizens. We saw this when hunting for the white-bellied heron. The children knew this bird and its habits in a way I have rarely seen with American children or ever practiced myself. The extent and diversity of its forests set Bhutan apart from other Himalayan countries. Over 70% of the country remains forested and in turn, most of the birds are forest and scrub dependent species. Bhutan has birds similar to those I know from Africa, such as sunbirds, drongos, hornbills, and bulbuls, while others such as crossbills and grosbeaks look similar to North American regulars. Though the plumage of the spotted nutcracker looks nothing like that of the Clark's nutcracker I know in Montana, the body, the beak, the call and habits make them unmistakable cousins. But I knew nothing of minivets, fulvettas, or redstarts until seeing them here. Spring, the season of flowering for Bhutan's 47 varieties of spectacular rhododendrons and other seasonal blossoms is the best time for seeing birds. Ah, something to look forward to.