Why Bhutan? Called the Land of the Thunder Dragon, the Kingdom of Bhutan is the last intact, completely Buddhist nation and society in the Himalayas. Sunday, January 13, 2013 in a New York Times article called “The 46 Places to go in 2013,” Bhutan was featured as #5, titled: “A pristine Buddhist enclave opens, with care.” And on November 2, 2014, the New York Times featured a 9-page article on the Kingdom.
A pristine and serene land known for its profound Bhutanese hospitality, generosity, kindness and unique architecture, Bhutan only opened up to television and to the internet in 1999. Most Bhutanese speak four languages, including English, and so there is an ease, visiting and conversing with the locals, in markets, monasteries, and in the villages.
Three of Bhutan’s most important contributions for outsiders to experience are:
- Their Gross National Happiness (GNH) concept and initiatives, launched forty years ago, which is now being pollinated and embraced in the world: it is the filter through which the Bhutanese assess all development projects and opportunities. The Bhutanese have rejected offers from the Chinese and Japanese, for tens of millions of dollars, to open mountaineering to their highest peaks. No amount of dollars or gold can change this society’s commitment to honor the sacredness of the Bhutanese Himalaya. Climbers are simply not allowed to climb peaks where the deities have lived for eons.
- Bhutan’s very special and gentle “secular Buddhism” and approach to compassion and mindfulness, which has vast wisdom and applications for us Westerners, in finding The Middle Way. At the same time, Tibetan Buddhism is well preserved in Bhutan, has great strength and is practiced in all its full, rich complexity, and is available in an auspicious way, to all curious pilgrims and travelers to the Kingdom.
- Bhutan’s stunning landscapes (three zones: alpine; temperate; and sub-tropical) and vast national parks, are populated with lush, broad-leaf forests, cloud forests, immense bio-diversity: 300 species of medicinal plants, 5,400 plant species altogether; 46 species of rhododendrons; a great variety of birds, with 670 bird species recorded; and an abundance of protected mammals, including Bengal tigers, snow leopards, Himalayan Black bears, pandas, many varieties of primates, blue sheep, musk deer, water buffaloes, and yak. Yaks in the road … sitting and sunning themselves, on the “national highway.”
It has been said that “Bhutan could become just like any other country, but no other country could be like Bhutan.” Many of our past tour participants have characterized their experience with us in Bhutan as “transformational.”
How Much does it cost? The 14-day Tour costs $4,395.00 per person, with double occupancy, and this includes the 5-day Retreat with a $600 registration. Three of our Western presenters will be available to share their wisdom with tour participants throughout the 14 days. Having these three teachers traveling with us will provide a unique opportunity for continued dialogue, meditations, and instructions.
Pricing is driven by the official Bhutan visitor Tariff of $250.00 a day (which, in part, pays for universal healthcare and education). This is all-inclusive, and includes all meals and lodging, 35% government tax, and English speaking Bhutanese guides. The tour package price also includes all in-country ground transportation, fees to our Bhutanese tour-travel company, all presentations, museum and temple entry fees, stipends for the presenters, lamas, monks, and scholars; and donations to the host Monastery Tshokey Dorji Foundation, to Matthieu Ricard’s Foundation, and to a local nunnery and monastery.
Single occupancy add $630.00 For individuals traveling alone, who might prefer double occupancy, we will endeavor to find you a roommate. The price does not include $40.00 Bhutanese Visa, nor does it include airfare from the U.S. to Bangkok round-trip, nor does it include airfare from Bangkok to Paro, which is currently approximately $700.00. Nor does it include travel insurance, which is encouraged.
We encourage you to use frequent flyer miles, if you have them, to Bangkok. Currently U.S.-Bangkok airfare is between $1,000.00 and $1,300.00 per person, and fluctuates, depending upon your departure city and also the time you purchase your ticket. The sooner you can purchase your airline ticket, the less you will be paying. There are additional “gateway cities,” in addition to Bangkok, and these include Singapore, Kathmandu, Nepal, and Kolkata (and other India cities), India.
We encourage arriving early in Bangkok, preferably at least two days, to acclimate to the time zone changes. We will provide a list of self-touring spectacular and memorable Thai destinations, including several inexpensive small boutique Bangkok hotels beginning in February, for your review and planning. The counterpoint of Thai Buddhism and Bhutanese Buddhism is something to behold, and touring Bangkok and the outer regions, if you plan the time for it, is a thrill.
We plan to have all group participants fly Bangkok, Thailand to Paro, Bhutan, together, arriving in Paro on Thursday morning, October 13th.
Passports. Anyone considering this Tour must have a valid passport, and their passport needs to be valid for at least six months after date of return. Many international travelers choose to buy trip insurance, and we recommend doing so. This insurance, though very rarely needed or used, is for the possibility a traveler becoming ill during a tour. Any hospital and medical expenses are the traveler’s responsibility.
Bhutan Tourist Visa. Your Bhutan Tourist Visa will be applied for after final trip payment has been received, along with a color scanned copy of your passport details information page containing your photo.
5-Day Retreat: “Cultivating Dharma in Relationships”
A rare “conversation” dialogue between Western teachers Matthiew Ricard, Judy Lief, Dosho Port Roshi, and Lama Thupten Rinpoche and four highly respected English-speaking Bhutanese lamas, monks, and scholars.
The Retreat attendees and presenters will explore “Mindful Relationships with Self and Others,” “Caring for the Planet,” “Altruism and Intention.”
There will be deepening conversations about bring compassion, altruism and resilience into your professional and personal practice and conversations regarding Optimism, Gratitude and Mindfulness. Participants will gain insight into the Practice of the Boddhisattva and the Nine Domains of Gross National Happiness.
Payment Schedule. To reserve your place, a deposit of $1,500.00 is required, per person, double occupancy. For Single Occupancy, $1,800 deposit is required, to reserve your place. Please note that we will be competing for limited airline seat reservations, hotel reservations and payments, since October is very popular due to the sacred dance festival. Please see our Detailed Itinerary.
Accordingly, we will ask all deposits to be made no later than June 10, 2016 in order for us to reserve and purchase the airline seats. At the time of deposit we will need for you to also email a scan (hi-resolution) of your color passport page (in color), to us for visa application. The passport scan will be sent to the Royal government of Bhutan, along with payment deposits.
Final payment must be made by August 30, 2016. Final payment will be your balance due plus $40.00 for the Bhutanese Visa. Please note that the Retreat-Tour will have limited spots, due to airline and hotels at festival time.
We can guide you on the phone, as to your flight options U.S.–Bangkok, and assist matching up fellow travelers together where possible, leaving from their U.S. departure cities. Some tour participants wish to depart the U.S. together, wherever possible. The Bhutanese air tickets (Druk Air) and travel documents/Bhutan visa will be issued 45 days prior to departure from the U.S.
The Bangkok–Paro, Bhutan flight will be paid by you, and currently it is approximately $700 per person. We anticipate knowing the exact fare by March 1st. This will be paid by you before July 25 (in order to secure limited seats) in a separate check to: TwoTruths. This will enable us to make one wire bank transfer to the Bank of Bhutan, to cover everyone’s Bangkok-Paro, Bhutan airfares. No one is allowed to board the flight from Bangkok–Paro, Bhutan without having a Bhutanese Visa, to be issued as a group boarding, to Two Truths. These are the Bhutanese Royal government’s rules to enter the Kingdom.
Return Flight Information. For your return planning purposes, as you shop for roundtrip flights from U.S.–Bangkok–U.S., please note that we depart Paro, Bhutan Wednesday morning, October 26, 2016, and arrive in Bangkok between 4 and 4:50 p.m. You could schedule a night flight back to the U.S., if one is available, and if you have the stamina to do this. If so, please be sure to allow 3 hours for delays, baggage, and “immigration” back into the Bangkok airport. You could schedule your return flight to the U.S. for Thursday, October 27th, or a night flight Wed. night, after 8 p.m., Oct. 26th, since you will already be at the Bangkok airport.
- For any reason, tour payments will be 100% refundable with notice, up to 80 days prior to your departure date from the U.S.
- 79 days or less, prior to departure date, payments are 100% non-refundable, as we are required to purchase your Bangkok-Paro air tickets as soon as your deposit is made, and these tickets are non-refundable. Deposits to hotels, and ground transport will already have been committed by June 1st. Please note that airline seats and hotel rooms can be very limited in Bhutan at Festival time in October.
Clothing, Currency, and Special Needs. We recommend packing layered clothing, for comfort walking, touring, leisure time, and hiking. October day temperatures in western and central Bhutan ranges between 62–75 degrees, depending on location, and evenings from 5o to 60 degrees. Day temperatures in Bangkok can reach a humid 90 degrees and evenings, a balmy 75 degrees. We have enchanting self-guided Thai destination activities to share with you for the days before the beginning of the Pilgrimage Tour, starting October 13th.
The 20-seater Toyota Cruisers are very comfortable, and have been a great option for those not wanting to walk or hike short distances, or to nearby destinations. We will be in various temperature zones in October, briefly passing through mountain passes and much of the time in valleys and high valleys. Bhutan typically has only four days in October with light brief showers.
The Bhutanese currency is keyed to the Indian rupee, since India is their major trading partner. There are a few ATMs in-country and also Bhutanese currency can be bought at the Paro airport and re-sold back, also at the Paro airport, with no commissions or penalty. Numerous shops in Paro and also in the capital, Thimphu, accept credit cards.
We are sensitive to individual physical abilities, regarding walking and hiking. As mentioned, travel will be in a comfortable temperature-controlled modern vans, and we pride our tours in accommodating individual needs for resting, walking, diet, and special needs.
We shall provide a detailed list and narrative, as well as an elaborate bibliography and recommended reading list of Bhutanese and Himalayan culture, Buddhism, archeology, arts, and Bhutan travel information, to each tour participant, upon receipt of their deposit.
Wi-fi is prevalent and cell phones work surprisingly well in the Bhutanese Himalayas. There are no mandatory health requirements: No immunizations for Yellow Fever, Dengue, Hepatitis, etc., are needed for either Bangkok or Bhutan. See the Detailed Itinerary for specific days’ activities. Your days can be as filled, or as restful and contemplative, as you wish.
We will be sending additional information in May regarding what to expect with airline baggage allowances, electrical adapters for your devices, a list of hotels and contacts for your people at home, and shopping and cultural tips.
Many thanks and please don’t hesitate with your questions: charles@nulltwoTruths.org or (520) 331-8338 in Tucson, Arizona.