A decade ago I was invited to a Super Bowl party. While there I started chatting with the host about travel, and he said that he wanted to go to Bhutan. I told him that I’d heard wonderful things about the country, and that if he ever went I’d be interested in coming along.

Ten years later I had moved to Thailand and was enjoying life as an expat. One day a message arrived. James was heading to Bhutan… did I want to come along? I didn’t have to think about it. Yes!

We flew into Bhutan on 1 March 2020, and Ugyen met us at the airport. He was wearing a traditional men’s gho and a huge smile. (It quickly became apparent that this wasn’t a ‘costume’… The people of Bhutan take pride in their culture and wear their traditional clothing on a daily basis.)

As we traveled around Bhutan, it quickly became apparent that this is a special place, and one that lives up to its reputation. The country is beautiful. The people are happy. The children are cute.

Ugyen guided us with a deep knowledge not only of his country’s history, but also seemed to be on a first-name basis with most of the citizens. He had spent the first part of his life as a monk, and was still greeted warmly at the monasteries we visited. He introduced us to abbots and we were warmly welcomed wherever we went.

We stayed in a farmhouse and were served delicious dinner by the woman of the house. Afterwards we enjoyed a soak in a bath headed by red-hot stones dropped into the water. We trekked a mountain trail to the Hidden Monastery, where young monks sat laughing as a spring snowfall dusted their hair and robes. We watched black-neck cranes leaving Bhutan in their migration north, their cries echoing off the mountains. We attended a festival with dancers spinning in their brilliant colors. And on our last day we hiked up to Paro Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The hike was difficult and the air was thin. I arrived at the monastery sweating, exhausted from my climb, and proud of my accomplishment. Ugyen was by my side for the entire trek. (Ugyen generously carried my backpack on the descent.)

I feel extremely fortunate that my first exposure to Bhutan was with Gomo Adventures with Ugyen by my side. I know that I will return some day to this tranquil paradise, and I would not choose anyone else to be by my side.