Erik & Marion Meershoek
Bhutan is a unique country in every way
The Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan is a mysterious country in the middle of the Himalayas, where relatively few people travel. Bhutan’s relative seclusion made Erik and Marion Meershoek curious to see the country with their own eyes. They travelled from the Indian state of Assam to Bhutan, passing from east to west in two weeks.
Erik and Marion love unknown destinations and prefer to venture off the beaten track. That is why Bhutan was an ideal destination to explore. “We really wanted to visit the Himalayas,” says Erik. “I had been to Nepal before, but we were looking for a destination that was new to both us. We found Better Places online and were put in contact with the local travel specialist. We loved the concept of booking with someone who lives in the area and knows the country well.
Combining Bhutan and Assam
Many travellers combine their trip to Bhutan with the Indian province of Sikkim. Erik and Marion chose Assam, another Indian state with beautiful nature. “Sikkim’s landscape resembles that of Bhutan whereas Assam is totally different,” says Marion. “In Assam, we visited a beautiful natural park, Kaziranga, where we saw elephants and rhinos. We viewed Hindu temples, visited the beautiful Majuli Island and walked through tea plantations. After a week, we crossed the border to Bhutan. It seemed like two different worlds: from the hustle and bustle of India to the peaceful and clean Bhutan.”
Erik and Marion entered Bhutan from the east. Here you’ll find countryside and small villages where you can observe ordinary life in Bhutan. In the west, you will find the famous sights, such as the Tiger’s Nest and the great Dzongs, or monastery fortresses. “We found it beautiful to see how the Bhutanese live,” says Erik. “One Sunday morning, we were in a village where the inhabitants were playing some kind of dart game. The whole village came out to watch. In Bumthang, we also experienced a multi-day festival with traditional dance and music. That was amazing and the highlight of our trip. Our climb to the Tiger’s Nest, the monastery built high up on a mountain top, was simply unforgettable.”
You can only visit Bhutan if you book a fully organized trip. Erik and Marion travelled with their own driver and guide with everything arranged in advance. “We had to get used to that,” admits Marion. “We are used to discovering places by ourselves, but in Bhutan your guide is usually with you. In the end, I found the guide to be of great value. He told us a lot about his culture, Buddhism and the rituals of the Bhutanese. We could ask him anything and we learned many things from him. He also arranged a traditional hot stone bath for us at a local family’s home. We stayed over for dinner and had a great experience.”
A Bhutan vacation is unique
Erik and Marion highly recommend going to Bhutan. The beautiful nature, the simple, traditional way of life and the serene atmosphere make Bhutan very special. “There is no other country in the world that resembles Bhutan,” says Marion. “The food, the building style, the rituals: everything is unique. It’s beautiful to see how Buddhism has so much influence on daily life – it creates a harmonious and peaceful atmosphere. Bhutan is likely to change a lot in the coming years, but I hope the unique traditions will live on.”