Saturday, 11 April 2015

Visit Bhutan Year 2015, Royal Birthday Celebrations

Punakha Iconic Dzong, Bhutan ©Solange Hando

2015 has been designated Visit Bhutan Year to celebrate the 60th birthday of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan.
In 2008 His Majesty stepped down in favour of his son, placing on his head the crown which he had worn since 1974.

But before handing over to His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Fourth Dragon King had taken significant steps towards the modernisation of his country, cautiously opening the doors to sustainable tourism, coining the celebrated phrase of 'Gross National Happiness' as top priority and smoothly introducing the first democratic government before any pressure was put to bear.

Traditional Festivities ©Solange Hando

Birthday celebrations are already under way and scheduled to take place across the country and throughout the year to culminate in Thimphu on November 11th.

Celebration events include the unique Druk Wangyel to be performed in December near Thimphu and the Jomolhari Festival highlighting the local culture and natural wonders of Bhutan's second highest mountain.

Respect for Nature ©Solange Hando

As a Buddhist country, the Bhutanese take exemplary care of their environment and that begins with education as pictured above. One of the most important events will be the mass tree planting due to take place in the central valleys of Bumthang.

The goal is to plant 50 000 trees in one hour and there is no shortage of volunteers. This would beat the existing record in the Guinness Book but the true aim is to give nature a helping hand and reaffirm Bhutan's commitment to its pristine environment.

Archery, the National Sport ©Solange Hando

The 2015 festivities will  range from traditional festivals with sacred and lay dances to cultural events
 provided by the people and for the people, all equally colourful and breathtaking.

As the national sport, archery is certain to feature, as seen here in 2008 when the newly-crowned King (centre) performed the victory dance with his team.

Just Landed, Paro Airport ©Solange Hando

So if you have been planning to visit Bhutan one day, this is the year to do it and discover what makes this tiny Himalayan kingdom so special,
Hope to see you there... 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Kathmandu Tibetan Boutique Hotel

View from the Terrace, Hotel Tibet International Kathmandu ©Solange Hando

In the Tibetan district of Kathmandu, Hotel Tibet International claims a convenient location, just a 10 minute drive from the airport and close to the fabulous heritage sites of Bodhnath and Pashupatinath.

Views from the rooftop terrace are superb, taking in much of the city, the iconic stupa of Bodhnath, the gilded roofs of Tibetan monasteries, the hills and by clear weather, usually in the early morning, the snowy tops of the Langtang range.

Authentic Tibetan Ambience ©Solange Hando

This luxury boutique hotel lives up to its name the minute you reach the entrance framed by guardian statues, prayer wheels, Buddhist flags, auspicious symbols and intricate wood carvings. Staff at reception greet you with warm Tibetan hospitality and service is efficient and discreet throughout.

Hotel Tibet International opened in autumn 2011, after a seven year restoration programme by skilled Tibetan craftsmen and artists. It has been a trip advisor award winner for the past three years.

A Touch of Luxury in Kathmandu, Hotel Tibet International, Bodhnath ©Solange Hando

The hotel has 68 luxury rooms and suites with all mod.con. including free WiFi and tea and coffee making facilities. Rooms are spacious, with beautiful Tibetan textiles contrasting with black and white photographs on the walls.

Suites have a relaxing living area and on the top executive floor, a private terrace with stupa views. Inside are carved wooden panels, delicate white coving, rugs on parquet floor, genuine antiques and traditional Tibetan thangkas.

Tea Garden at Hotel Tibet International ©Solange Hando

Beyond the courtyard and its majestic Himalayan pine, a quiet tea garden leads to the Shambala Spa where guests can book a Tibetan or trekkers' massage, wraps, scrubs and beauty treatments.

Other facilities include the Shangri-La Kitchen, offering Chinese and Tibetan dishes with a continental touch, based on seasonal produce. Breakfast is served on the top floor, in a dining room hung in Tibetan drapes or on the terrace overlooking the stupa.

Guests will also find a meditation room, a Tibetan boutique selling carpets, antiques and pashmina, a travel desk and currency exchange at reception.

Bodhnath Stupa, Kathmandu ©Solange Hando

This magnificent Buddhist stupa is just a two minute walk from the hotel and a convenient place to pick up a taxi to the city centre.