On the road in…Bhutan!

Where they measure their gross national happiness? lol. Gotta love it!

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Bhutan to be honest because I have never met anybody who’s actually been. A friend of mine had wanted to go, but in the end couldn’t afford it. In a way I was anticipating it would be a lot like Nepal.

Bhutan’s a slight pain in the ass for tourists. You can’t just go and do your own thing. You have to book on an organised tour to get a visa, and this requires spending a certain amount of money per day. Six days in Bhutan cost more than almost a month in Nepal. Insane, but it’s the price I had to pay to visit one of the places on my bucket list.

This blog entry is more like a summary of my food experiences in Bhutan, but if you want all the gritty details, you can read my extended trip report for Nepal and Bhutan here (Part 1; Part 2).

So, the thing is, when you book trips to Bhutan, the price includes meals. I figured that just meant picking stuff off a menu like I did in Nepal and just having to pay for my snacks and drinks. But in Bhutan, “meals included” means buffets and set menus, something I was not informed about in advance. Which turned out to be a nightmare.

The trip started out well in Thimpu, with the hotel restaurant and other places we ate at being accommodating of my dietary requirements. It was all buffet dining and I couldn’t eat most of it, but my guide got them to bring me something I could eat regardless. The food I got was basically just plain rice and plain steamed or grilled vegetables, with freshly diced chili for some flavour. Boring, but edible. And for breakfast, I got some baked beans and mushrooms. Simple, but ok.

It went rapidly downhill from there. In Punakha and Paro (maybe it’s a p-thing?) pretty much everywhere refused flat out to accommodate my dietary requirements. If it wasn’t in the buffet or on the set menu, the answer was “no”. This was totally unacceptable given that I had no option but to pay this all-inclusive price, and then basically had almost no food to eat. Bhutan is expensive, and given the price of the tour, the fact that all I could eat was plain rice was bullshit. So was the fact I had to literally go without breakfast because they refused to make me anything I could eat even though they had the ingredients to do so. They were making apple pancakes for people for breakfast, so clearly they had apples. But could I get a plain apple? Of course not – it wasn’t on the menu.

IMG_4563Yet another inedible meal I was served as part of a set meal in Bhutan – rice, egg noodles with vegetables, and steamed vegetables with some kind of indistinguishable gravy (nobody could tell me what was in it). I managed to eat the few spoonfuls of rice that hadn’t been covered in the gravy…

The tour company was notified well in advance of my dietary requirements, so they should have taken this into consideration when booking me into hotels or selecting where to eat every day. Given what I paid for this side trip to Bhutan, the food aspect of the trip was totally unacceptable. I said as much on the feedback form. I don’t expect much if any response.

IMG_4545I may have had ongoing problems with the food and the attitude in Bhutan, but there is no denying its natural beauty!

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