Thailand and Bhutan
September 23 - October 17, 2019

Bob and Alan
with Gareth and Peggy in Bhutan

Assisted in Bangkok by TJ (our tour guide) and
Assisted on the Snowman Trek in the Himalayas by Lhab (our guide), Pema, Yeshi, and Draba






[Camera notes: You can click on many of the photos to bring up the high resolution version and then click on the high resolution version to zoom in.]

Thailand - September 23 - 28, 2019
Assisted by Personal Tour Guide TJ (Teerasak Tankapanich, email tjthaitourguide@gmail.com)


Fun video - As we were at the airport preparing to leave Thailand the Korean Boy7 band members apparently were arriving at different doors and hundreds of young girls ran from door to door screaming and yelling. Girls screaming and running video

Day 1, September 23/24, Monday/Tuesday

Bob flew from San Francisco (SFO) to Seoul to Bangkok, crossing the dateline in the process. Alan flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Bangkok, arriving about an hour before Bob, gets Thai currency, and actually picks up Bob's luggage - a duffel bag. Together we took a "limousine" (a Toyota sedan) to downtown Bangkok where Alan had arranged for a very nice, two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with kitchen and living room. We competed to see who could make his room look messiest the fastest.



Alan demonstrates how safe the safe in Bob's room actually is.


Day 2, September 25, Wednesday

In mid-morning after snacking (a lot) on dried apples and bananas which Alan had prepared and dried blueberries which Bob bought at Costco before leaving, Bob and Alan wander nearby streets and alleys.

Nice, elevated cross-walks are over the main road outside the apartment. There is a huge contrast between the modern, commercial buildings/stores on the main roads and the obviously poor, small residences and vendors in the alley ways.

Bob and Alan look for a bank/ATM to get Thai currency:

  1. At first open bank the guard at the entrance refuses to let us in;
  2. Nearby ATM begins to turn itself on when Bob tries it, but never actually gets started;
  3. Bank of China lets us in and gives us a wait number. then tells us it will be a long wait and we should go to nearby bank;
  4. Nearby bank tells us we should go to another nearby bank;
  5. That nearby bank actually converts some of our US currency to Thai currency, but rejects several bills because they are too old or have tears or pin pricks;
  6. Bob also tries ATM, but card is rejected, while ATM accepts Alan's card.

We return to apartment and then Alan goes out for Thai massage at parlor a friend had recommended, while Bob writes this diary. Upon his return, Alan has some muscle soreness - Thai massages are not like others. Then off we go to find a restaurant.



As we walk by one restaurant, Seafood & Thaifood Restaurant, a guy sitting outside jumps up and encourages us to go in, which we do, and have a good meal with grilled salmon, shrimp soup, etc. Then we walk to an ice cream shop, get cones, and toast Alan's Mom. As is so often the case, there are lots of motorcycles zooming by.



We had noticed palm trees on top of our apartment building, so we took the elevator to the top floor - 7 - then walked up a flight of stairs to a locked, glass door, which we could unlock, walking out on an upper deck with nice views of the city at night. Then we walked up more steps to a little upper deck with machinery to get even nicer views. There was a Buddhist shrine on the main upper deck (we saw many, many shrines, both large and small, in Thailand).





We went back in, going down the stairs and noticing many, many shoes just outside the one apartment on floor 7 and on floor 6, perhaps hostels? Once back in our own apartment we ate more fruit, both fresh and dried and went to bed after using Alan's pulsometer (Bob at 65 bpm with SpO2 97% oxygen). Also, we practiced juggling and Alan played his harmonica briefly while Bob complained.

Day 3, September 26, Thursday

Videos:
Maeklong Railway Market - C0044
Bangkok lizard along floating market - C0046
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Ride - C0047

Bangkok Tour Day 1 highlights

In the morning we left apartment and went downstairs at 6:55 AM, where the driver and guide were waiting. We took a long drive, about 50 miles, to see the train market (Maeklong Railway Market in Damnern Saduak), then taking a river market rowing boat ride. After these we went to 1/2 hour play at a theater in Bangkok. Then we visited a mall with lots of silk clothing stores and a gun shop.

We visited a Buddhist shrine, Wat Trimit, which has the world's largest golden (pure, solid gold) Buddha. We ended the day visiting Bangkok's Chinatown Sampeng Market.





















Day 4, September 27, Friday

Videos:
Bangkok River Tour - C0048
Bangkok River Tour - C0049
Bangkok River Tour - C0050
Bangkok River Tour - C0051
Bangkok River Tour - C0052
Bangkok Traffic - C0055

We met TJ at 7 am and toured north of Bangkok, visiting historic ruins and temples [Wat means temple in Thai]:









































After tours and nap, Alan identified a wonderful restaurant - both food and service were very good: Paii Restaurant (email: thehouseonsathorm@whotelsworldwide.com). It has agreement with Marriott Hotels, of which Bob has membership, so we also got a discount.

Bob had River Shrimp which had long claws.



The Assistant Manager who directed our service, a woman named Waan, was very pleasant and was curious about various adventures we had had. Waan offered us each a free alcoholic beverage drink, which we declined. We took pictures of Waan and waitresses in front of restaurant.


Day 5, September 28, Saturday

Videos:
Girl fans screaming and running, Bangkok Airport - C0061

Getting a purposefully late start, we wander the streets awhile occasionally asking directions until we finally get on a subway which takes us the long way around to a very nice botanical garden. We chose the long route on purpose assuming we would get more views of Bangkok, not realizing it was an underground subway. However, it was a fun, very crowded ride with a chance to see lots of people of all ages.

We walked around the botanical garden park for some time, crossing bridges, seeing a couple of large fish jump out of the muddy river. Very enjoyable.













Exiting the park we walked through a well known, large outdoor market before working our way back to the subway/train station. With help from very nice strangers we boarded an above ground train and headed home. We met 3 missionaries who confirmed we were going in the right direction. One of them happened to get off where we needed to change trains and got us on the right one to get home. On that train, a guy got us off at the right stop. So we got home successfully.

We re-packed our baggage preparing for the plane flight to Bhutan, then wandered around around the neighborhood until we found a Thai restaurant/bar with mural of 3 women on back wall. Ordered a reasonably good meal.


We returned home, arranged for a taxi to the airport (actually in the end the guard at the apartment complex gate flagged a taxi down, who did not set the meter but bargained the price and got us to the airport by 11 pm for a 5 am flight with a check-in at 2 am.

Bob leaves his international cell phone in the taxi, so from then on has no communication back to the US except with Alan's and our guide's phones.

As taxi leaves we hear screaming in the airport. Turns out a boy rock band (BOY7 from Korea) is arriving piecemeal at the airport. As each member arrives, hundreds of screaming teenage girls mob a door and the police gets the bandmember through. This occurs several times and at one point girls run screaming from one door to another down most the length of the terminal.



Bhutan - September 29 - October 16, 2019 [When Bob returns to Bangkok on way home, Gareth and Peggy continue on Snowman Trek]

[The Bhutan part of our trip was Bob's planning responsibility. He says: I contacted Michael Dudeck who is Vice President & Operations Manager, CANADIAN HIMALAYAN EXPEDITIONS LTD. (E-mail: info@HimalayanExpeditions.com http://HimalayanExpeditions.com) and I could not have been more pleased with how he handled the planning for this trip. Everything worked out very smoothly. At the end, when I had to be evacuated from the Himalayas, his assistance in working with the insurance company also was very helpful in settling my claims, including $5,177 for helicopter rescue costs and additional payment for trip interruption. I used Allianz Travel insurance (https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com/) and recommend them if you are traveling. As the evacuation was taking place, Himalayan Expeditions was working with Nyima Om of Namsay Tours & Adventures in Thimphu, Bhutan, and she was so, so helpful in coordinating with the helicopter company, my wife, and others to make all of this go smoothly. If you want a fabulous trek through the Himalayas, contact Michael!]


Day 6, September 29, Sunday

Videos:
Successful archery dance, Bhutan - C0065

At 2 am we check in to Drukair, go through immigration and look for restrooms. Three restrooms are being cleaned, but we finally find a 4th one open.

Then we search for coffee and food. The third coffee place is actually open, Alan gets his coffee and we sit down at a nearby small restaurant.

Alan sees a couple who he guesses are the Canadians going on our trek, walks over, and they are! Gareth and Peggy. They, like Alan, are also coffee drinkers and we are together from then on. A few hours later we board our Drukair flight which goes smoothly. We land in Bhutan, our Himalayas Trek destination!



We pick up our baggage, go through immigration, go outside and learn currency exchange is back inside before going through immigration, but there is no problem going in and out and getting Bhutanese currency. Driver and guide Lhab then take us to our resort hotel, where we check in, rest for a bit in very comfortable rooms.









Bob wanders around the dirt road leading up to the hotel taking some photos of flowers and landscape.





Then Lhab and the driver pick us up and we get a tour of the area, starting with a Buddhist temple where Lhab explains some of Buddhism as practiced in Bhutan: Bhuddha is God; there are both monks and nuns (if one leaves, they must pay back the state); there are female Daemons; and much more.







We visit an ancient castle, a market, and archery event. In the market a little girl sings "rain, rain, go away, come again some other day" in perfect English. Also, one woman holding a large wooden penis is joking with another, then both see Bob looking and they become so embarrassed one holds cloth over her face to hide while other puts penis under clothes on her back, both laughing. Artistic representations of penises, whether as carved objects or painted on doors and walls, are common in Bhutan, though more so in rural areas than metropolises. This goes back for hundreds of years.




Dogs are walking and laying everywhere. Lhab explains no animals are killed in Bhutan and all are taken care of.

We ate lunch in town and dinner at the resort we stayed in overnight. However, Peggy misses dinner because she is not feeling well. Dinner was good with lots of conversation with Gareth.

Day 7, September 30, Monday

Videos:
Waterfall in Bhutan on Tiger's Nest - C0071

Peggy makes it to breakfast, still recovering from her cold. Lhab and the driver take us to the beginning of the trail which leads up to the Tiger's Nest temple. The temple is near a beautiful waterfall. Up and back is about 4 miles with an elevation gain of 1,700 feet, with highest elevation being 10,232 feet. Much of the trail is through forest where trees have "old man's beard" lichen and ferns growing from them. The trail was very, very muddy, so much so that coming down Bob, who almost never uses hiking poles, borrowed one from Peggy. [Bob had brought such poles himself and would end up using one for most of the trek.]







The temple was built right into a huge vertical rock wall and was so interesting to see. As we approached we had to first go down 750 steps, then back up 750 steps, getting a very nice view of the waterfall as we crossed bridge over the stream. Entering the temple required taking off our shoes and hats and no picture taking was allowed.




On the way down Gareth gets ahead of everyone, but no one realizes it. So the rest of us stop and wait for him to show up. Meanwhile, Gareth descends to lunch stop while Lhab goes back up to find him. Bob, Peggy and Alan sit at rest stop and wait. Eventually we all continue down and meet Gareth at the lunch spot, where we eat the buffet.




As we then continue down we see an Indian woman having trouble on the trail, so Gareth lends her one of his poles which she agrees to return at the trailhead. We also meet a monk going up who has a large bag of popcorn which he gives out to others on the trail. At the trailhead there is a considerable wait for the Indian lady, but there are also many vendors and Bob and Alan buy gifts for their wives. It turns out the Indian woman was in a group with a man who had an injured leg and he is using Gareth's pole when they arrive.

We drove back to town where Alan bought ice cream for everyone and we toasted his deceased mother who loved ice cream and had urged Alan to see the world.




While driving back to the resort we had to make way for cows wandering on the road, which is common in Bhutan. Back at the resort we tipped the driver for his two days of driving, then took a break for napping, bathing, washing clothes (and writing in the diary). At 7 pm we met for dinner.

(NOTE: If Alan, Gareth, Peggy, Lhab and/or Pema appear in a video below during the Snowman Trek, their names are shown in parentheses.)

Day 8, October 1, Tuesday [Day 1 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Riding to Snowman Trek trailhead (1) - C0073
Riding to Snowman Trek trailhead (2) - C0074 (Lhab)
Riding to Snowman Trek trailhead (3) - C0075
Riding to Snowman Trek trailhead (4) - C0076
Hiking through stream in Himalayas - C0078 (Gareth, Peggy)
Pack Horses on Himalayan Trail - C0079
Crossing Bridge Over Himalayan Stream - C0081 (Peggy, Alan)
Spinning Prayer Wheel on Himalayan River - C0082
Himalayan River and Landscape in Bhutan on Snowman Trek - C0083
Himalayan River and Bridge on Snowman Trek in Bhutan - C0084 (Gareth, Peggy, Alan)
Hiking on Muddy Snowman Trek in Himalayas in Bhutan - C0086 (Peggy, Gareth)
Campsite, Himalayas, Bhutan - C0087
Junction of 2 Himalayan Rivers in Bhutan - C0088
Himalayan River and Landscape in Bhutan - C0089 (Gareth)
Himalayan River and Bridge on Snowman Trek in Bhutan - C0091
Himalayan Stream and Bridge on Snowman Trek (2) - C0092 (Pema)
Alan throws dart - C0095 (Alan)
Alan throws 2 darts - C0096 (Alan)


We packed our belongings including duffel bags and backpacks into the back of a pickup truck and Lhab sat on those belongings while the rest of us filled up the seats in the truck - Bob, Alan and Gareth in back seats, Peggy in front seat. We visited a temple where we go through a blessing and each receive a white, blessed scarf cloth. Lhab cannot go in temple because he is Bhutanese and not dressed properly for such a visit (dress code does not apply to we foreigners, only locals), but the driver is dressed properly.




After the temple visit, we drive to the trek trail head over very, very rough, dirt, puddled road. We passed through a military gate after registering at an office. Toilet was a hole in the ground (actually, the toilet in the picture is more advanced than many, which are literally a hole dug in the ground and nothing else).



We eventually arrived at the trail head where there were lots of horses and packs to load on them. The toilet there was another hole in the ground.

We began trekking through a beautiful forest with a fast flowing river of rapids beside us. As throughout the trip, there were lots of flowers. Bob goes off trail and mud comes up over his boots. Then at entrance to our first campground Bob falls into mud after another mud step.







At the campground we each have a large tent set up already with the duffel bag inside. This would be the case at every campground - the horses with packs would get there ahead of us and the tents would all get set up. Lots of horses were wandering around. The toilet would be a standing tent with a hole dug in the dirt. Soon after we arrived we were served tea and cookies in the dining tent, then given a chance to rest, followed by dinner in the dining tent. We were very, very well taken care of throughout the trek.

Day 9, October 2, Wednesday [Day 2 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Barking dog most of night - C0097
Morning campsite view, Himalayas - C0098



Hiked about 12 miles, climbing perhaps 2,000 feet. The weather was good: overcast alternating with blue skies and puffy white clouds. We traveled next to a roaring river with heavily forested peaks and ridges rising above us. The trail sucked, a mixture of mud and rocks for the most part, but pretty easily traveled. We arrived at our base camp after about 7 hours of hiking. Lhab's assistant Pema hiked with us and lagged behind with Bob (sometimes Alan) to ensure all were doing fine. He carried a full backpack of food - snacks and lunch. There were many horses on the trail, some with our tents and duffel bags. During the hike, Bob and Alan each retrieved a horseshoe along the trail.




We arrived at our base camp to find several dogs, which was not uncommon. Unfortunately one of the dogs barked through Wednesday night into Thursday morning non-stop for hours. It did not seem possible. The video above which is black records the barking as heard from inside Bob's tent for one minute of the several hours.

Day 10, October 3, Thursday [Day 3 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Morning view from Camp in Himalayas - C0100 (Pema)
Ruins, campsite, landscape with mountains in the Himalayas - C0101 (Peggy, Gareth)




Today was a relatively easy hike in terms of elevation and the path was less muddy. We might have gone 10 miles.

We saw yaks on the trail. Our lunch was very good - tuna fish, sliced potatos, etc. As usual, the weather continued good with just a few light sprinkles during the day. Bob collected a few flowers for Shirley.







We stopped at one school in a village where we gave presents (small bags of trail mix) to 8 school kids and Bob tried juggling 3 balls Alan had brought along, after which we gave the balls to the kids.







The campsite was one of the prettiest of the trip with its beautiful scenery, including snow covered peaks in the distance. Plus a rainbow! The horsemen who had been accompanying us were leaving, so we figured out what the tips should be and distributed them. There were two kids living near the camp and we gave them the small trail mix bags. A bit of rain at night, which was not unusual.






Day 11, October 4, Friday [Day 4 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Himalayan Lakes, Waterfall, Landscape and Yaks - C0102 (Alan, Gareth, Peggy, Lhab)
Himalayan Yaks On The Trail in Bhutan - C0103 (Peggy, Gareth, Alan)
Yak head butting in Himalayas - C0104

We got up early in the morning to get more pictures of this beautifully located campsite both before and after breakfast. This was a "rest" day - we stayed at the same camp last night and tonight.














After breakfast and picture taking in camp we began a great hike to a couple of lakes at an elevation over 14,000 feet and an elevation gain of perhaps about 1,500 feet. Saw lots of yaks and collected a yak jaw for David (and a slate rock for Shirley). It also seemed like spring time with so many pretty flowers of different colors.



As we first started we saw a nice looking house (Bhutan houses so often were pretty, looking well built no matter how deep in the mountains) with many gardens built around it. Note all the plants (maybe peppers?) hanging down from the highest part of the roof to dry out.










We got back to camp after the hike around three thirty and had a lunch of chicken pizza, vegetable noodles and baked potatoes. Peggy now mostly cured of cold, but Gareth hit hard by the cold and misses dinner and does not want either the hot soup or tea brought to his tent.




Day 12, October 5, Saturday [Day 5 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Yaks Being Herded Along The Himalayan Trail - C0105 (Lhab, Pema, Gareth, Alan, Peggy)
Himalayan Snowman Trail View - C0107 (Peggy, Gareth, Alan)
Crossing a Himalayan Stream - C0108 (Peggy, Gareth, Alan)
Trail view & waterfall - C0109
Snowman Trek Trail View in Himalayas - C0110 (Peggy, Gareth, Alan)
Himalaya Waterfall Closeup and Landscape (1) - C0111 (Gareth)
Himalaya Waterfall Closeup (2) - C0112 (Peggy, Alan)
Himalaya Waterfall Closeup (3) - C0113
Waterfall closeup in Himalayas (4) - C0114
Harvesting in the HImalayas - C0115




After breakfast and taking more pictures from the campsite, we hike to our first pass, this one about 16,200 feet.




After the pass as we start down, Bob actually runs down part of the descent going faster than the rest of the group (Bob was very slow going up as usual, catching breath every few steps). Going down was a blast, but Bob later comes to conclusion it was a really dumb thing to do. Bob and Alan are both reminded of Malchin Peak in Mongolia because of the shape of one ridge line.




As we were descending we saw for the first time herders guiding a large group of yaks up the trail. When one yak would not move quickly enough, a herder threw a small pebble at it. [Click on photo to bring up video from which it was taken]


It was a long hike from the pass down to the next camp, but pretty easy: 3 - 4 hours. We hiked a total of perhaps about 12 miles.

Peggy provides Bob with a book she no longer needs so he can collect and begin drying flowers. He both picks flowers and collects another small stone for Shirley.





During the descent Lhab, Pema and Bob stop for a while waiting for the rest of group, so Bob walks over to a cliff edge looking down into a canyon. He sees a hawk in the far distance gliding, then stopping and hovering in mid-air with wings fluttering. Bob actually gets a good zoom-in photo of the hawk.


We heard marmots, but never saw them. There was no rain all day until we settled in camp - our luck continues. At camp, Bob shows Alan how to Steripen water to ensure it is drinkable. However, there was never a need for the Steripen because the water was always boiled or bottled.

The camp is right near a prison labor camp.

Day 13, October 6, Sunday [Day 6 of Snowman Trek]




We hiked about 5 hours, perhaps 6 miles, with mostly gradual uphills, downhills and flat paths. Weather was good with no rain and scenery was wonderful as always. We stopped at two villages, first for morning tea break where our horse guide lived (gave presents to two kids), then for our campsite at village where Pema's uncle and cousins lived.












Once we arrived at our campsite in the early afternoon, Peggy suggests that the 4 of us, unguided, hike to beautiful nearby waterfall, which guide agrees is ok. We follow along the river, then cross it at Peggy's suggestion. Bob thinks this is a mistake, but it works out perfectly. While we are hiking to falls, 2 horses suddenly bolt, one chasing the other, right past Alan, Peggy, and Gareth (Bob is further behind). We go over some cross-country to get right next to the falls, which are beautiful.




Day 14, October 7, Monday [Day 7 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Himalayan Avalanche - C0116
Blue Sheep in the Himalayas - C0117 (Gareth, Alan, Lhab)


We covered about 9 - 10 miles, starting out in the morning by going up about 1,700 feet in elevation in the first two hours. Perhaps the most exciting part of the day was hearing the loud rumble in the distance of an enormous snow avalanche, which we then saw clearly as it came down in the far distance. It stopped just short of a cliff. If it had gone over the cliff, Lhab said it might have endangered a village below.

We came near a flock of blue sheep, which are called blue because even though at this time of year their tails are black, in the spring the tails turn blue.








As was often the case, in the late morning we stopped for a tea and cookie break. We saw hillsides covered with rhododendron, which in the spring when they are in bloom are supposed to be amazing to see, however, for us it was the fall.



As we hiked we came upon a wall of rock salt, where we took pictures of Alan actually licking the salt and the rest of us pretending to. Because Bhutan is far from the sea, sources of salt are valuable.


In the early afternoon we stopped for lunch with magnificent views in the distance of snow covered peaks. Then we continued trekking, which of course included crossing streams. By three o'clock we could see our new campsite in the distance.








After dinner Gareth, Alan and Lhab each took one shot of brandy. Alan stated that he was then drunk and later went to the wrong tent and had a hangover headache in the morning. We were going to have a campfire, but it got rained out.

Day 15, October 8, Tuesday [Day 8 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Crossing Himalayan Stream on Snowman Trek - C0002 (Peggy, Gareth)
Crossing Himalayan Stream on Snowman Trek - C0003 (Alan, Gareth)
Ravens feeding in Himalayas - C0004
Himalaya Log Bridge Crossing - C0005 (Alan, Lhab, Gareth, Peggy, Pema)

After watching the pack horses get loaded down, we began our hike and climbed to another pass in the morning, this one at about 15,500 feet. Throughout most of the day we had light/drizzle and sometimes light snow off and on.





As we came down from the pass we entered a pleasant forest with the path running alongside a stream.





Once in the valley, at one point we crossed a fast flowing river on shaky logs - Alan got video of me and vice versa. Gareth looked like he almost fell off. I look old in the video - how can that be!




Tonight we were able to have a large campfire after dinner.

Day 16, October 9, Wednesday [Day 9 of Snowman Trek]

Video:
Waterfall and Landscape in Himalayas in Bhutan - C0007 (Pema, Gareth)

This is the day that Alan realized he needed to be evacuated from the trek because of severe pain in his chest.

The day begins with all of us heading up to our highest pass to date: ~16,600 feet. It is the one day Bob actually got ahead of the rest of us tourists going up hill.


As Bob and Lhab were approaching the pass, with Lhab leading a horse, Gareth, Peggy and Alan were a ways back. So Bob and Lhab decided to wait for them. Peggy, Gareth and Pema then arrived, but Alan did not.



After waiting a bit, Lhab asked Pema to go down and check on Alan. When Pema returned running, he and Lhab headed down to see Alan. Lhab asked Bob to hold the horse while he went with Pema back down to Alan. Alan was having severe chest pains. Gareth, Peggy and Bob waited and it got so cold we put on all the clothing layers we had, including ponchos. Lhab stayed with Alan, Pema returned, again running and the four of us and the horse hiked over the pass and down to the camp, skipping lunch, in order to send more help back.




It took about 3 hours to get to camp and send back help.



That afternoon Lhab took Alan back on a horse to a campsite where a helicopter would be able to land the next day and evacuate Alan.

Day 17, October 10, Thursday [Day 10 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Campsite View on Himalayan Snowman Trek - C0008 (Gareth, Peggy)
Himalayan Landscape/river from Snowman Trek Trail - C0009 (Gareth, Peggy)
Himalayan Landscape from Snowman Trek Trail - C0010 (Pema, Gareth, Peggy)
Himalayan Waterfall and Bridge Crossing - C0011 (Peggy, Gareth)
Dancing At Arrival at Himalayan Campsite on Snowman Trek in Laya, Bhutan - C0012 (Pema, Gareth, Peggy)
Himalaya Campsite in Laya, Bhutan - C0013 Peggy, Gareth)
School Dance Preparation for Bhutan Festival - C0014 (Pema)

An emergency evacuation helicopter takes Alan to Thimphu, capital of Bhutan, where he is examined at a hospital and it is determined that he has no permanent injuries.

The rest of us of have breakfast outdoors at our campsite under sunny, blue skies with snow covered peaks in the distance.




For the rest of the day we have perfect weather with no rain or snow and lots of sunshine. And of course beautiful Himalayan scenery.














We arrive at Laya village where our new camp is located, eat lunch, change clothes. The views and village are wonderful. The camp of course does not include Alan's tent, which hits hard. There had been a bit of hope for internet, but none in Laya. I had wanted to email Shirley, whom I miss so much. Without Alan, I am no longer able to contact Shirley and feel lonely. Tried to phone/text Shirley on Lhab's phone, but no luck.

We visited a school in Laya where many children performed dances in a large square, practicing for an upcoming festival.





Day 18, October 11, Friday [Day 11 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Hot stone bath in Himalayas - C0015

Pema very kindly washed all our dirty clothes. I, Gareth and Peggie each got to take a very nice hot rock bath. The bath was in the backyard of a village house with a canvas sheet hanging from a rope to provide privacy (see photo below). There was a pit fire filled with rocks. The guy providing the bath carried one rock at a time from the fire pit to the bath tub into which he dropped the rock. There was also a large pan filled with water next to the tub, which also got heated with rocks. The rocks were removed, I got undressed standing next to the tub and the guy took a small pan and dumped hot water on me as I soaped down. After I was cleaned off, he insisted I get into the hot tub, which I did and which in fact was quite pleasant. I got out, dried off and dressed. Then Gareth took a bath and then Peggy. I understand the guy watched Peggy undress most of the way.






Lhab bought a string of hardened chunks of cheese. He gave me one, which I put in my mouth. It was really, really hard, but I was determined to eat it and after about only an hour I was actually able to chew it down into chunks and swallow it piecemeal. Lhab said one piece was normally supposed to last several hours.

With Lhab's help I was able to send two texts to Shirley, although I received no replies. I spoke with Alan, who is ok, and he agreed to tell Shirley about moving flight back one day. He will cancel the Bangkok apartment, tell Shirley I am texting and leave my stuff in a bag at the hotel in Paro.

An 8 person group of tourists also camped in the village and an Irish guy, Steve, came over and talked quite a bit. He has photo of helicopter that took Alan and which he said he would email [Note: I have not received such email]. Another guy from England took video of helicopter arriving and will work out how I can get I can get that [no luck on that yet, either]. Alan was excited about the helicopter trip.

Peggy, Gareth, Lhab and I walked into the village and visited a small medical clinic. The photos below are of posters hung on the walls of medical clinic.





Day 19, October 12, Saturday [Day 12 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Ravens Going After Left Over Food in Himalayas - C0016
Yaks on the Himalayan Trail - C0017

We wake to another beautiful day. After breakfast and of course feeding the crows, we begin hiking.






As we are hiking, Lhab points out wild tomato plants and shows they can be eaten.



Bob has difficulty with uphill climbs and begins to think about cutting trip short.

Day 20, October 13, Sunday [Day 13 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Pack horses on trail in Himalayas - C0018





We hike up to a 16,025 foot pass. Along the way Peggy and Gareth, who are in the lead, see a flock of Tibetan Peacocks. Bob has tough going whenever he is heading uphill and decides he wants to cut trip short if possible. He discusses this with Lhab. Both Peggy and Gareth hope he does not choose to do that.






Day 21, October 14, Monday [Day 14 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Snowman Race Practice Runner, Bhutan, Himalayas - C0019 (Peggy)
Snowman Race Practice Runners, Bhutan, Himalayas - C0020 (Lhab, Pema)
Marathoners Testing For Snowman Race in 2020 in Himalayas - C0021 (Peggy)
Trail view after Himalaya high pass - C0022 (Peggy)
Waterfall in the Himalayas - C0024
Another [More Interesting ;-)]Waterfall in the Himalayas - C0025





We wake up to light snow on tents, with flakes still coming down and a dusting of snow on the ground.






One destination today is a 17,200 foot pass. As we approach the pass, marathon runners in the Snowman Race pass us - this is a Bhutanese Race. In October, 2020, there will be an international Snowman Run, which will cover 300 km (186 miles), reach an altitude of 5,320 meters (17,454 feet) and take about 5 days - as opposed to the 25 days our tourist trek is taking to cover it.



We reach the pass



then descend for miles, getting a beautiful view of two very pretty lakes far below. We reach the river flowing from these lakes, then hike for 3 hours downstream before reaching camp.





I decide that slightly hurting knee, tired legs, trouble balancing and hard breathing are reasons to stop trek and be evacuated by helicopter. Our campsite is one with sufficient room for a helicopter to land the next morning.

Day 22, October 15, Tuesday [Day 15 of Snowman Trek]

Videos:
Himalayan Helicopter lands at campsite to evacuate hikers - C0026 (Garth, Peggy, Pema)
Himalayan Helicopter Rescue - C0028
Himalayas Viewed From Helicopter - C0029
Himalayas Viewed From Helicopter - C0030
Himalayan Helicopter Ride - C0031
Himalaya Helicopter Rescue in Bhutan During Snowman Trek - C0032



A rescue helicopter lands at camp, picks me up. The flight across the Himalayas is absolutely spectacular and it is fun talking with the pilot Steve, who was born in New Zealand and hence calls himself a Kiwi, but currently lives in Australia and is in Bhutan to teach Bhutanese how to fly helicopters. Steve flies to Paro and lands at the airport where, as in so many places, there is a nice picture of the royal family. A driver picks me up and drives me to the major hospital in Thimphu. I go through a thorough medical checkup including several x-rays of leg and chest, along with an EKG. They show I have no serious injuries or other health problems.

I am then taken to a hotel with internet access, so I contact Shirley, get a new airline ticket, and reserve a room in a Bangkok hotel near the airport.




Day 23, October 16, Wednesday

I send an email to Shirley, then go out to find some breakfast fruit. Almost all shops are closed, but I do find 3 bananas to buy. Guide picks me up and we go to Helicopter Office in Paro. Driving on the highway we see various small stands selling fruits and vegetables, and of course we see cows wandering around the roads. At the helicopter office all my debit/credit cards are rejected. The guide and the office worker agree that I will have 1 week to send the payment of around $5,200 to Michael of Canadian Himalayan Expeditions, who will pass it on to the Paro office which in turn will pass it on to the helicopter company.

The guide and I have a pizza lunch (veggie for me, chicken for him, and then we both share). I am then dropped off at the airport. There is no record of my having a flight, until they look at my cancelled flight and see it has been changed.




I fly Royal Bhutan Airlines to Bangkok, get a "limousine" (a car) to Lilac Hotel. Walking around I find a small park devoted to Buddha with a sign outside honoring the King of Thailand




Day 24, October 17, Thursday

I flew from Bangkok to the airport near Seoul to San Francisco. At the Seoul airport as I was required to check my backpack again, they found my very small pocket knife (smaller than my thumb) and took it. This same knife had been in the backpack as I went through the check at San Francisco, Seoul, Bangkok, Paro, and Bangkok again, but had apparently transformed into a dangerous weapon during the flight from Bangkok to Seoul. Ah well, I hope someone in Korea is enjoying it, maybe the baggage checker's son.

The best part of the flight across the Pacific was seeing the movie Yesterday, which I enjoyed so much I watched it twice during the flight. I also watched Finding Steve McQueen - twice. I highly recommend both of them. I have since watched them more times. Shirley likes Finding Steve McQueen more than Yesterday.

Contact/Website Author:
Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
April, 2015

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