I looked after a tour from a German Tour Organizer for a while, but it definitely had to be a date in December. However, this date usually never came about with this provider due to the minimum number of participants. Since I was too unsure, as I never knew whether the tour would work, I looked around for alternatives and luckily came across Asia Odyssey Tours. I wanted to travel in December primarily because of the temperatures as I don't like too much heat and I thought December would be a perfect month for me in Nepal and Bhutan. Attending a festival in Bhutan wasn't important to me either, so I wasn't tied to a specific month or time.
Before I came across AOT, I was only interested in Nepal and Bhutan. When I took a closer look at the trips at AOT, I suddenly saw interesting combination options. The one I asked for first, a 20-day group tour with China, Lhasa, Nepal and Bhutan was not possible because the Lhasa-Kathmandu flights had not yet resumed after the Covid-19 pandemic. That's why Isaac, the travel consultant, suggested two options to me, but I immediately decided on the longer option, i.e. a group tour with Beijing, Xian, Chengdu and Lhasa and then afterwards a private tour with Kathmandu and Bhutan. It was the best decision I could have made and I'm so glad the trip didn't happen through the other portal because I was able to spend so much more time in so many more great places and for not that much more money . For me as a polar bear and zoo fan, Chengdu was a particularly great place.
I have never felt as well looked after on a trip as I did through the organization und management from Isaac. From the first contact to the end of the trip, he was always available; questions, whether by email or WhatsApp, were always answered extremely quickly. The whole organization was professional and very efficient. And i first booked the trip in September, so the time until the trip with that many destinations and flights and the special requiremients regarding the visas etc. wasn't that long. During the trip I was always kept up to date about everything, be it the respective tour guide at the respective location and their telephone number, the sign upon arrival, etc. At Christmas there were Christmas wishes and at New Year's there were New Year's wishes. Especially when you're traveling solo, it's nice to be able to rely on having a contact person at all times and by combining the travel consultant with the guides on site, you always have a good feeling and a lot of security and don't have to worry.
All the guides at the respective locations and the drivers were great. In Beijing, Kitty was our guide. The driver upon arrival had such a nice sign written VIP Manuela Stadler. That was very funny. It was very cold and icy in Beijing and there were fears that the Mutianyu Great Wall would likely be closed on the scheduled day. That's why Kitty was so flexible and, together with the driver, made it possible for us to visit the Wall the day before after visiting the Forbidden City. That was really great. So we were able to experience the wall in the snow and we were so happy! But we couldn't make a long walk at the wall because it was really slippery. But we were there! All the sights in Beijing in snow and ice were so magical. Due to the change of plans, we even had time the following day for the Temple of Heaven, a Hutong tour and an acrobatic Show - here too we were very happy that Kitty made all of this possible.
In Chengdu we also had a great guide, Jack, who took great care of everything. So I urgently needed an ATM and he went with me to a shopping center, where luckily there was an ATM that also accepted VISA cards. A member of our group was injured and Jack got him a heat patch. At the airport before the onward flight, Jack took me to the airport hotel, which I was supposed to get to three days later, so I didn't have to worry about it anymore and I knew straight away where the hotel was.
After Chengdu we continued to Lhasa. Here, too, the good communication between the people from the AOT office and the local agency was evident.
I was called right at the airport and asked if I had landed and that the driver was waiting for me at exit 5. Regarding Lhasa, I was a bit nervous because of the altitude, but other than a slight headache on the second day, I had no problems.
In Lhasa I had two different guides: Lobsang on one day, on this day we saw the Potala Palace and in the afternoon we visited a local craft center where we made incense and tried out block printing and had our names written in Tibetan. On the second day, Lobney was the guide and with him I visited the Sera and Gelug Monastery and the Jokhang Temple. Both guides had such immense knowledge and reported so much about the history and religion and they were very considerate of the different group members and everyone was able to do everything in own pace and time. I was particularly amazed when we took a taxi to the different locations on the second day. The taxi was ordered and arrived shortly afterwards. I don't know anything like that in Germany. Here you have to wait much longer. It all went so smoothly. Both Lobsang and Lobney always dealt with problems and concerns quickly and efficiently. I received an immediate response to messages. So it was cold in the hotel during the day and I asked both of them if they could ask at reception about the heating. The first time, a housekeeper was immediately sent to me to turn on the air conditioning (this was at after 8 p.m. so I didn´t know that the airconditiong works at this time anyway), the second time it was in the afternoon and it really was cold in the room – after Lobney told the reception staff about my problem I was immediately given a portable heater in the room, which helped a lot, as the automatic heating in the rooms was only turned on in the evening at 8 p.m. All questions and concerns were responded to promptly and quickly and remedied.
Then I went back to Chengdu because the onward flight to Kathmandu took place from there. The change of plan from the agency, not to drive back to a city hotel (as it would have been about 1 hour to the city) but to stay overnight at the airport hotel, was perfect. Unfortunately, the stay in this great hotel was only for a few hours - unfortunately, because the hotel was so great, I would have liked to have spent a little more time there. As we were in Chengdu with the group a few days earlier I got an Email from the Airline that my flight from Chengdu to Kathmandu is cancelled. I was very concerned and worried because this could have jeopardized my entire itinerary. Luckily there was a flight from another airline at almost exactly the same time, which I then booked. I booked the flight from Chengdu to Kathmandu by myself because it was the transition from the group tour to the private tour. The travel consulted Isaac had offered to book the flight during the organisation of the trip for me, but it was a little cheaper from Germany, so I booked it myself. In hindsight, I wouldn't do that anymore because I was sweating a lot over the new booking in the evening at 8 p.m. to make sure I got the other flight. I was worried that several people would rebook on the other flight. I didn´t get the confirmation for the new booking immediately, only the next day so there was a long uncertainty. Next time I woould book all flights through the agency. But luckily everything worked out.
Yes and then there were the days in Nepal or rather in Kathmandu. Here too I was greeted very friendly with a scarf, just like in Lhasa, and taken to the hotel. Dipen, who picked me up from the airport, gave me a few suggestions and tips for sightseeing and shopping in my free time. The next morning I met Sandy, my guide and driver Bijay. Sandy was just amazing!! Of all the guides, she was my highlight, simply because we got along really well. In addition to all her knowledge and her humor, I had such a great time with her, which unfortunately went by far too quickly. She asked me on both days what I would like to eat for lunch. So on the second day we went to a restaurant that served Dal Bhat because I really wanted to try it.
There were different variations of Dal Bhat and the special thing there was that you paid once and then they kept going around and you could have more of each individual ingredient. There was a lot going on in the restaurant and the concept is very popular with locals too and it was a great lunch there. Kathmandu was my personal highlight, perhaps that's why Sandy was also my highlight as a guide. I fell in love with this lively, colorful place with the great world heritage sites, even though it is really loud and turbulent in the city. But the places visited, the 3 Durbar Places, the Boudhanath Stupa and the Monkey Temple and the Pashupatinath Temple were all so impressive and magical. But Kathmandu was also my biggest dream place, where I always wanted to be and that has been confirmed. Some places you have a special connection to. Unfortunately i was only there for 3 nights and then i went on to Bhutan.
I think the flight from Kathmandu to Paro in Bhutan is the most beautiful flight in the world and if you ask for a window seat at the counter and it's off-season like December, that's possible without any problems. So you can see the Himalayan ranges and Mount Everest. The airport in Paro is simply a gem and it continues like this in Bhutan. The landscapes, the houses and beautiful dhzongs and monasteries, the roads and lack of traffic signs and the peace - all of this was the complete contrast to Kathmandu and for me a perfect ending. I don't want to do it in reverse order because it allows you to relax after so many flights.
For Bhutan, everything was well organized and prepared; here you had an all-inclusive, worry-free package, as you can only travel to Bhutan with a guide. All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were included here. 2 meals would have been enough, because if you have enough for breakfast dinner would be enough. The food, especially the vegetables and the Ema Datshi, were super tasty at all places. The hotels in which I stayed were particularly great. Before the trip I had read in a November review of one of the hotels that it was very cold in the room and based on my experiences in the other hotels where I always needed help with the heating or had to ask, I was curious as to how it would be in Bhutan. And I was so surprised. In the first hotel it was warm enough in the room, in the second hotel there was already a small additional heater in the room that was turned on as soon as the room was shown, and in the last hotel, the Hotel Tenzinling, the highlight was that the heating had already been turned on beforehand and there was an electric heating mattress in the bed. That was extremely great! The hospitality in Bhutan was exceptional. The guide Ugyen was also always concerned about my well-being and he took care of everything. I had some concerns about the strenuous hike to the Tiger's Nest because I don't usually hike. I knew that I would be able to do the hike because I had also done a longer hike in New Zealand a few years ago - but I felt sorry for the guide beforehand because I was sure that I would take a lot of breaks. At first I thought that I would rather do the hike alone without having someone constantly waiting for me. I wanted to make it to the top in any case and rather cut out something from the rest of the day's program if necessary. Ugyen was kind enough to carry my backpack and jacket and give me water whenever I needed it. And he said no matter how many breaks I need, as long as I'm happy he's happy too. So nice! And I did it and we were able to carry out the rest of the day's program. The Tiger's Nest was also one of the absolute highlights. Nepal and Bhutan were on my bucket list of travel destinations and thanks to Isaac and AOT I was able to realize a wonderful, extraordinary trip and I am so glad that I chose exactly this combination.
All the places were unique and beautiful in their own way and the timing of the trip in December was ideal for me. I couldn't imagine visiting the Forbidden City or the Great Wall when there were so many crowds and standing in line for ages. And the weather in Kathmandu and Bhutan was ideal, even really warm. And the cold in Chengdu was bearable, but in Beijing it was really very cold. But things got worse as we traveled on to Chendu, so we escaped the cold of Beijing. In addition to the great organization and the great support from Isaac and the guides and drivers, I also made a great friendship with one of the group participants on the trip, which also means a lot to me. After I landed in Munich at the end of the trip, there were tears in my eyes because I can look back on such a magical time with so many great moments, events and people and I'm also happy that everything went so smoothly! A bit of tension was relieved when we landed, because with so many places and flights you can never be sure whether the process will work. Thank you so much for this unique vacation!