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Cycling in Bhutan

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Cycling in Bhutan

Old 09-12-14, 07:36 AM
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Cycling in Bhutan

Every now and again, someone posts a message asking for information about cycling in Bhutan. Well I did it, so this is about my experience.

I dreamed about going to Bhutan all my life (a sort of Shangri La fantasy!). Also, I love cycling. Sometime at the beginning of summer last year, I mentioned to my wife my seemingly hopeless ambition of going to the Himalayas and seeing this dreamworld. She said "Why not cycle through Bhutan this summer?". After raising the inevitable objections (I'm sure they don't do cycling, it's too late already, at 68 I'm too old etc), I started googling - and had the whole thing arranged within a couple of weeks.

To summarize, the whole thing was a great success. It really did live up to my seemingly unreasonable expectations.

Now some details. There are MANY agents that organize cycling tours of Bhutan. Although I live in Canada, I picked an Australian one, Raw Travel out of Melbourne, because they were the only agency I could find that did a two-week tour across the whole country, west to east. Most other agencies do shorter tours in the west of the country. Raw organized the whole thing with a local agency, including visas, bikes, guest houses etc. They did a great job! No complaints whatsoever.

My itinerary was a flight from Toronto to Bangkok, 2 days there, a flight to Paro in the mountains of western Bhutan, cycling eastwards for 10 days staying overnight in hotels and guesthouses on the way, exiting into India, 2 days in Gawahati the capital of Assam, flight to Delhi, 2 hours in downtown Delhi, and the flight back to Toronto.

When I arrived in Paro, I was met by the local guide Rinzin Norbu with his minibus, and 3 superfit younger-than-me Australians. Rinzin turned out to be the prefect guide, an incredible cyclist and someone who could teach all of us here about customer service. My Australian colleagues were endowed with endurance, experience and, more importantly, with patience to put up with my slower pace. In fact I managed to stay with them most of the time. The weather, with the exception of the first day, was perfect, but with big temperature fluctuations (close to freezing on one of the passes, almost tropical down in the valleys). The hotels were of a remarkably high standards, although twice we had to stay in farm-type guest houses in the east of the country. Daily trips varied from 60 km to 150 km a day - all up or down (nothing flat in the Himalayas!). Obviously, the views were magnificent.

Some qualifiers: 1) You have little control over what bike you get. All the tour agencies rent bikes from the same one or two stores in Thimpu, the capital. More important than the bike is the tour guide. Ours knew everything there is to know about bikes and could deal with any situation. 2) You had better like rice, hot chilies and smashed chicken with bits of bone in it - because that's all you'll ever get. I didn't like it, but that's not what I came for.3) The west-east road varies from perfectly smooth asphalt to rubble and gravel. Mountain bikes only!

Once again, I'm retired, and 68 when I did it, I'm not an athlete, but reasonably fit for my age. Except for winter, I cycle about 100 km a week, although in the 2 months prior to the trip, I ramped uo to 100 km a day.

If you ever dreamed of doing anything like this, Just go ahead and Do IT!
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Old 09-12-14, 09:07 AM
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Thanks for the writeup. Bhutan looks magnificent from the photos I've seen. Any chance you can post some of your photos?

I'd love to go there, but the high cost will probably keep me away. Foreign tourists cannot organize their travel in Bhutan on their own. They are required to book travel with a Bhutanese tour operator or an international partner.

Travel Requirements | Tourism Council of Bhutan (Official Website)

Minimum costs:
Minimum Daily Package | Tourism Council of Bhutan (Official Website)
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Old 09-12-14, 09:49 AM
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Saw a Documentary film of a couple guys (+ a film crew) doing Bhutan on Unicycles..

google fu found this Watch "Into the Thunder Dragon" Full Movie Online | Snagfilms

not sure if there was a second one produced..

more : Around the world on a unicycle: Man takes sport to extreme lengths with incredible collection of pictures from across the globe | Mail Online

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-12-14 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 09-12-14, 01:17 PM
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Yes, it is more expensive than some. I understand the government doesn't want Bhutan to become a Mecca for student backpackers, or to encourage more tourists than can be reasonably managed. I don't have any photos, but you can see my amateurish video at https://drive.google.com/?tab=wo&authuser=0#all
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