Update on Eastern Bhutan and Southern Bhutan ––posted by Kathleen Zurich Fung, founder of Far Fung Places, LLC
Travel Update for Eastern and Southern Bhutan—January 2018
In November and December of 2017, Kathleen Fung and a select team traveled to regions of eastern and southern Bhutan to assess road conditions and to visit just-emerging regions.
While southern Bhutan is unquestionably stunning, the infrastructure remains quite fragile, with austere accommodations (a tented camp close to Manas offered very basic service and sleeping arrangements). Our survey team took nearly 11 hours to drive from Trongsa south through Zhemgang to Panbang, which borders Manas National Park. Sections of the national highway were unsurfaced for most of the way to Panbang because of the hydroelectric project. Due to a lack of proper hotel facilities in Panbang, and the current road and hydroelectric project that is expected to continue through 2018, Far Fung Places is not offering trips to southern Bhutan at this time.
However, eastern Bhutan, with its strong cultural traditions and improving hotel situation, offers compelling reasons to visit. Although the roads will take another two years to complete, we feel strongly that Trashigang and some other areas of the East will prove rewarding. Driving the full length of the country from western to eastern Bhutan can be slow going. Some stretches, especially from Bumthang to Mongar, may be on precipitous untarred roads. Where highway construction is still taking place, the width of the road is about a lane and a half, which means vehicles may come close to the road's edge, with a drop of several hundred feet or more. Further, travel may be restricted due to road timings posted by the Bhutan road project, permitting travel in one direction at certain times of the day.
Pemagatshel district is spectacularly scenic, with broadleaf and tropical forests that shelter many species of birds and black-capped langurs. This region has not been developed for tourism yet, but we feel it has potential in the years to come. Home stays are basic. We were told the only hotel in Pemagatshel was not as good as a home stay, but we found a family that had converted their home into a small hotel. Our rooms had to be cleaned by our drivers before we could occupy them. However, the incredible bird life, the union of Buddhism with nature, and the warmness of the locals are reasons to keep Pemagatshel on your wish list.
Pemagatshel is also known for its "treasures of the hand." Some of the finest craftsmen who make cane and bamboo works, and the long horns (dhungshub) that snake along the monastery floors, can be found here.
Because of these extreme road conditions we have moved our Comprehensive Bhutan Program––Eastern to Western Bhutan––to November 29 to December 15, 2019. For client comfort Far Fung Places is using four-wheel drives in the east.
Please contact our office to discuss your interest in our new program Eastern to Western Bhutan––November 29 to December 15, 2019. Should you have questions regarding a potential visit just to the East, Kathleen Fung would be pleased to speak with you.