“You Are Our Guest” – My First Experience with Bhutanese Hospitality

"You Are Our Guest" - My First Experience with Bhutanese Hospitality

After leaving Pokhara, spending a night at a cheap roadside hotel in Kathmandu, and taking a short flight to Paro, I finally reached Bhutan. From the moment I arrived at the Paro airport, I experienced great hospitality from everyone I met along.

With the help of a police officer at the airport, I hired a nice taxi driver. Along the way, he told me a few things about Bhutan and their traditions. He also suggested some places I should visit in Paro.

“You should find many hotels around,” the taxi driver said before dropping me near the beginning of the Paro town. “You can also talk to some shop owners who might help you arrange a homestay.”

Before leaving, he gave me his cell number and asked me to call him if I needed any help.

I started walking around the town to find a place to stay. I came across many hotels but my conscience didn’t make me enter any.

My Intuition Leads Me to a Shop

After walking around for a while, I entered a souvenir shop. I didn’t know what led me there, but I ended up entering the shop somehow.

As I entered the shop, I saw two ladies and a few young girls who were working there. One lady was feeding her child while talking to another lady.

They welcomed me inside as I introduced my self. Those girls who were sitting in a corner chatting joined us as the lady asked me to have a seat. I told them who I was and why was I at their shop.

“I am looking for a place to stay. A homestay to be particular. I am not sure what brought me to your shop, but I am hoping that you could help me,” I said.

Mountain Cafe, Paro, Bhutan

Both ladies discussed something in their language while I took a look around the shop. Then a lady named Sonam – the shop-owner – turned to me and told me she knew a place and would call them to ask if they had a room available.

She made a couple of calls and left some voice messages on Line messenger. I patiently observed her as she did that. A few minutes later, she turned to me and told me that her husband was a tour operator. He will be there to pick me up soon and take me to a homestay.

“Did you eat something?” asked Sonam. “No, nothing yet, but I’m fine,” I replied. Upon hearing this, she asked a young girl to bring me a cup of tea from the neighbouring cafe.

The Paro Town, Bhutan
The Paro Town, Bhutan

The girl came back with a cup of tea and a pack of cookies. “Enjoy,” said Sonam. As I was having my tea, another girl brought some chilli pakoras.

“Do you know what is this? Would you like to try one?” asked Sonam, offering me a pakora. “I know this. It’s pretty common in India, too. But I’m not a fan. Thank you,” I replied. “You don’t like chilli? Asked Sonam. “How are you going to survive Bhutanese food, then?”

“I am dying to try the spicy Bhutanese cuisine I have heard about. But these ‘pakora’ things are not really what I would prefer,” I said.

Everyone present in the shop was giggling over this chilli pakora discussion. They were talking in their language, having a glance at me as I enjoyed my tea.

Lhap Arrives

After I finished my tea, I had a walk around the shop. They had many items – big and small, small and tiny – available for tourists to buy. A family of tourists liked something and were bargaining for it. Something didn’t work out and they left the shop.

I took my seat again and talked with Sonam for a while. I talked about my work, my journey, and why I was in Bhutan. She gave me a few tips about nearby places and called her husband again.

On My Way to Paro Countryside
On my way to Paro countryside

A few minutes later, her husband arrived. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” he said. He was Lhap Thsering – an authorized tour operator who owns Why Not Bhutan Tours and Treks.

It was time for me to leave the place and reach the homestay. As I picked my luggage, I asked Sonam about the cost of the snacks. “Don’t worry about that. You are our guest. It’s on us,” replied Sonam with a smile. “Do come back while you are still here.”

“I definitely will. Thank you very much for your hospitality,” I said and left the shop with Lhap.

A black SUV was waiting for me outside. I didn’t know these people. They didn’t know me either. For a split second, I thought I was part of an undercover operation as they show in the movies.

I got in as the person driving the car welcomed me with a grin. On our way, Lhap gave me a few tips about Bhutan, their tradition, and places of interest etc.

I Reach My Homestay

Passing through the beautiful landscape, we reached a huge house a few minutes later. It was Tsering Homestay. The owner of the place welcomed us and took me on a tour around the house.

The huge wooden house was pretty simple, basic. In each room, they had two or three mattresses on the floor with a blanket. There was a prayer room where some oil lamps were burning. Opposite the house was an open area with a majestic view. I couldn’t take my eyes off the scenery for a while.

“Do you like the place?” Lhap asked me. “Yes, I definitely like it here,” I said. “It’s a beautiful place.”

The owner didn’t speak English. Lhap talked about something with the owner as I observed the place.

A View from My Homestay in Paro, Bhutan
A view from my homestay in Paro

“We should leave now,” said Lhap a few moments later. “I have told him (the house owner) about you and he will make sure of your comfort. If you have any problem, let us know. Here’s my card. Call me if you need help.”

“Thank you very much for everything,” I said. “I appreciate your help. You have been wonderful, Lhap.”

Before leaving, Lhap told me that the house owners had two daughters and two sons. The elder daughter was out of town and she was the one who managed the place. He told me to talk to her when she came back if I needed to know something about the place.

First Experience with Bhutanese Hospitality: Summary

The next day, I woke up early and took a walk to the town. I went to Sonam’s shop and met her and Lhap. They were leaving to watch an archery competition with their kids.

They asked me if I liked the homestay and if I was comfortable with it. I said I was and thanked them both for being so nice. “We hope you like Paro and Bhutan and we were able to serve you a good experience,” said Sonam and Lhap before leaving.

Since the moment I had arrived in Paro town, Sonam and Lhap had played wonderful hosts to me. It wasn’t about offering me some snacks and dropping me to a homestay. But they chose to help me without any expectation when I was a little lost in their town. In doing this, they blessed me with a memory about Bhutan which I was taking with me.

There was no money that changed hands. No business talks, either. There was nothing that was expected in return. Just an ideal relationship between a guest and his hosts. I couldn’t ask for more.

After a wonderful example of Bhutanese hospitality from Sonam and Lhap, I was sure other similar experiences were waiting for me in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

What about you? Do you follow your inner voice to make decisions while travelling? What are your experiences about the hospitality of Bhutan and the rest of the world? Do share your experiences with me.

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