We’re here: 14 months of serious planning, shopping and training has landed us in the international terminal at SFO. We’ve got our passports, visas and rabies shots, ready for the little country of Bhutan, with many great unknowns for us. You can only read guide books and travel blogs for so long, or ask only so many questions…and still not really have a clue what is ahead.
Our next 24+ hours will be in the netherworld of air travel: a little over 11 hours from San Francisco to Tokyo, about 3 hours layover, then about 7 1/2 hours from Tokyo to Bangkok. Then it’s 8 hours in the Bangkok airport before we take off for Paro, via Daka: another 4 1/2 hours or so, depending on the length of the stopover. For our daughter, leaving from Newark will add another three hours to her travel time.
Because DrukAir does not have arrangements with other airlines, we must collect our bags in Bangkok and transit through immigration, to circle back into the airport in search of food and a quiet bench for napping. We managed to minimize our checked bags to one duffle, by carrying our sleeping bags and boots with the rest of our clothing and toiletries in our carry-on luggage. In the one checked duffle we have crammed in the other two empty duffles, a month’s supply of granola bars for three (or more) people, 3 Thermarest pads, our travel pharmacy, spare batteries, and other miscellaneous items frowned upon by TSA. Like Swiss army knives.
Checking in at DrukAir also meant checking in all but our small carry-on bags. We had to trust that they would not get lost between Bangkok and Paro since adequate sleeping bags and our broken-in boots would not be replaceable in Bhutan. Miraculously, we were still within the DrukAir baggage weight limits. And, we were able to get seats on the left side of the plane, with views of Everest above the clouds.