It was my last night in Paro, Bhutan and was relaxing with my K5 whiskey in hand when I met this gentleman. When I mentioned I was going to fly Druk airlines (Bhutan’s only Airline) the next day, he laughed and said, “If you google Druk airlines, you might get keywords like DruNk airlines, ha ha! (*evil laugh)”.
I have no idea what his joke meant or if it even was a joke. But I did google Druk Airline.
What google threw up, threw me off guard.
“Taking off or landing at Paro Airport can feel like a flight simulation video game where players must dodge natural hazards in their way.”
“When ascending or descending, aircraft has to avoid hitting the jagged Himalayan Mountains through a complicated series of dips and turns”
“Tucked into a tightly cropped valley and surrounded by 4900-metre-high Himalayan peaks, Bhutan’s only airport is forbidding to fly into.” etc…etc..
My flight was from Paro, Bhutan to Delhi in India. So it seemed like Paro airport is, if not the most, one of the scariest airports in the world. I wish I could unread all this but now I was lying in bed waiting for my D.O.O.M! You see, I hate flying. I hate turbulence. I hate those air pockets. I rather take the road or train instead of a flight, anyday. But now I had no option.
I was going to need paper bags, loads of them and probably something strong to steady the nerves! *I missed my K5 so much*
You see, this tiny airport nestled among the steep mountains of the Himalayas is considered as one of the most dangerous airport in the world.
Paro Airport in Bhutan has the most treacherous landing and take-offs. So treacherous is this airport, that only eight pilots (or maybe 10) in the world are qualified to land there!! (I know that sounds so unbelievable but I did check this with multiple sources)
The runway is short and the strong winds in the valley can cause some major turbulence. My worst nightmare.
With no option but to go ahead, I seated myself in the nearly empty aircraft. Scary or not, I have to admit, this airport nested at the lap of magnificent mountains, is one of the most beautiful airports I have ever seen. Strapped in and ready, the take-off made me break into heavy sweat, as we took some really tight turns around the mountains. The planes glided through the valley above the houses scattered across the mountainside. At one moment it felt like we were going to clip the roof of some houses at least. *shudders*
But a few minutes in the air, I realized, it is not all that scary, just a little over-rated!
45 minutes into the flight, all seemed peaceful as I smiled and thanked all my Gods. (At times like these I am pretty religious!). I was eating my breakfast when the Captain made an announcement, “Ladies and Gentlemen, in another 5 minutes, we will be flying past the World’s highest peak, Mount Everest!!”
Wait….WHAT? Are you kidding me? Seriously?
Now this was something google did not tell me.
As I sat for the next 5 minutes, pressing my nose against the aircraft window loomed into view, the Himalayan range with its snow-capped peaks.
There are so many peaks that, at first you wouldn’t know which one was ‘IT’, but soon came into view, the magnificent Mount Everest.
So if I could, would I take this flight again?
A HUNDRED TIMES YES!
PS*- K5 is a Himalayan Whisky which is the first whisky blended and bottled in Bhutan. It is named “K5” after the 5th king of Bhutan, HM King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck.
And if you ask me, it is one of the best whiskey I have ever tasted and you must not leave Bhutan without tasting it!