TRAVEL EXTENSION | CAMBODIA

Triple gems of Cambodia: Ancient Angkor, beautiful Battambang, and burgeoning Phnom Penh

 

As each year draws a growing number of travelers to the breathtaking Cambodian temples and monuments, including the must-see Angkor Wat, such quiet moments as this Cambodian monk contemplating the landscape are fast becoming a rarity.

PHOTOGRAPH FROM ARCHIVES

This introduction to the triple gems of the ancient Khmer civilization include the magnificent ruins of Angkor Wat; Battambang, with its fast modernizing core surrounded by rural countryside and dotted by its historic ruins; and the capital Phnom Penh, on the banks of the mighty Mekong, where French colonial collides with modernist high-rise, and the country's rich history brushes up against the tragic legacy of the Cambodian genocide. 

 

While Ancient Angkorian temples are indisputably the major draw to Cambodia, the sudden beauty of the countryside and the daily lives of the people—such as this inland fisherman going about his business—glimpsed during transfers between the major cities and towns can surprise and delight. 

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

BEGIN YOUR CAMBODIAN JOURNEY with a flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap, home to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. After settling in, enjoy a romantic dinner prepared by a local chef at a beautiful pavilion in Treak village before retiring to your Bungalow Suite at the elegant Heritage Suites Hotel. The following day, drive the short distance to the pier for the transfer by boat to the flooded forest and fishing village of Kompong Phhluk. Explore this rural outskirts of rapidly modernizing Siem Reap and visit some of the area's best preserved ruins dating to the 10th century before a taking in a beautiful sunset from the steps of the temple ruins.

An ancient carving of a temple-guardian on the front steps of one of the lesser-known temples surrounding the famous ruins of Angkor Wat

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

Next take an excursion to see the exquisite red sandstone ruins of the Banteay Srei, which are smaller in contrast to the large-scale, monumental temple complexes that are common here. The (Hindu) temples at the Banteay Srei have been praised as a “jewel of Khmer art.” Later, visit the intriguing ruins along the Kbal Spean river with stone carvings in the likenesses of the Hindu deities Shiva and Vishnu, as well as Lingas, stone symbols associated with Hindu notions of male sexuality and fertility. 

A temple caretaker adjusts the flower garland offered by devotees to Vishnu, the Hindu preceptor of the Universe. The shrine is housed in one of the many temples inside the incredible maze-like ruins of the Angkor Wat.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

On your fourth day in Cambodia, prepare to take in a bewildering amount of history, art and  architecture as you immerse yourself within the ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat. Built in the 12th century, the temple complex began its life as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu—represented in statues and carvings across its vast spaces and buildings—and eventually became a Buddhist monument in accordance with the vagaries and changing fortunes of the time. “...these temples, a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo,” said the French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouhot who is credited with rediscovering the ruins in 1860, “...might take an honorable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.” Later, in the afternoon visit the sprawling Angkor Thom, a complex of nearly 9 square kms and home to the famous temple of Bayon that travelers from around the world come to see.

A smiling Cambodian farmer takes his young pigs to sell at a local market. In a country where a car costs a small fortune, the more affordable two-wheeler is pressed into service as farm transport, conveyances for entire families, "food-trucks" and everything in between.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

Drive through the Cambodian countryside, passing small towns, tiny villages, farmland, open spaces, and all manner of transportation on the road, ranging from the bizarre to the unbelievable, carrying passengers and riders that often seem beyond their capacity to carry. Take a rest-stop to explore the Phnom Sampeau caves, halfway up a mountain, its entrance framed by low vines and dense green foliage, and gradually opening into a large cave with a huge golden Buddha in its interior, an incongruous coda to its awful history as a “Killing Cave” of the Khmer Rouge. The remains of their victims and a glass monument are all that remain of the cave's chilling past. 

Even though the famous ruins of Angkor Wat are inundated by an increasing number of visitors each year, the incredible scope and size of the temple complex (actually a series of interconnected temples and shrines) makes it a worthwhile visit and deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage status.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

Explore Battambang, with its up-and-coming bohemian atmosphere, where the faded glory of a house built in the French colonial style occasionally peeks out between the newer, more modern buildings and the decaying grandeur of ancient Angkorian temples surrounded by their lotus pools. As a great number of the visitors to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh never make it this far, the city still retains an air of authentic charm, as well as a vibrant arts and culture, and culinary, scene. There is also a new revitalization movement underway that has resulted in the re-emergence of the city's often charming historic buildings as art galleries, boutique hotels and restaurants, and the Maisons Wat Kor where you will stay while in Battambang is one such. The Wat Kor area where you will be based is essentially a heritage village built around an ancient temple of the same name; a wonderful place to explore or relax in the evening, especially when the setting sun begins to cast a glow on the nearby Sangker river and the temple roofs.

Such vehicular curiosities as this impossibly laden lorry carrying food, crafts and handmade pottery, pulled by nothing more impressive than a modestly powered motorcycle, speak of an ingenuity powered by necessity.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

Drive from Battambang to the capital Phnom Penh, stopping in the quiet village of Ondong Rossey where the famous regional red clay pottery is a household industry with the pots being made under every stilt-raised home. Gold-hued mounds of the local mud from the nearby quarries at Phnom Krang Dai Meas are coaxed, shaped and fired until it acquires a telltale shade of pink. The province of Kompong Chhnang (a name that means Clay Pot Port) is a relatively prosperous area dominated by fishing and agriculture and favored by its proximity to the capital. The main town of Kompong Chhnang (same name as the province) boasts a bustling dock on the Tonle Sap inland lake where locals and tourists alike take boat rides to a pair of local floating villages. Arrive and check in at the Iroha Garden Resort where you have a room with a balcony overlooking the pool. 

Dead-skin-eating fish and other Southeast Asian tourism novelties have sadly made their way to the major cities of Cambodia, such as Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, where the ever larger number of travelers each year turn these ancient places into curious, busy and sometimes frenetic melting pots of the east and the west.

PHOTOGRAPH KARMA DORJI

Explore the city once known as the “Pearl of Asia.” Cambodia's capital can be frenetic with motorcycles whizzing dangerously through its narrow lanes, the general din of buyers and sellers and hawking on the streets, the pungent smells emanating from its open markets and the often overwhelming chaos that is the hallmark of any major metropolis in Southeast Asia. And yet, one can still stumble upon the romance and the beauty that many travelers dream about when they think about Asia from afar. The shining beauty of the Royal Palace with its golden spires, the sedate flow of the mighty Mekong as it wends its way past the city, the serene grace in the lift of a saffron-robe as a monk emerges from a temple. All these and more are part of the enigma of Cambodia's premier city as it shrugs off its turbulent past and reinvents itself as another hip capital of the region, filled with trendy bars, a classy café culture, and a vibrant and interesting food scene.

A busy market scene in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city, where traffic noise, urban bustle and the din of commerce is relieved by pockets of peace, the graceful architecture of some of its magnificent monuments and several scenic spots along the banks of the Mekong River.

PHOTOGRAPH FROM ARCHIVES

HIGHLIGHTS

Fly from Bangkok to the ancient city of Siem Reap and enjoy a romantic dinner for two on a raised pavilion | Explore the vast temple complex of Angkor Wat as well as surrounding monuments like Angkor Thom and the beautiful Preah Vihar | Visit a traditional Cambodian floating village by boat | Explore the more relaxed pace of Battambang and stay at the beautiful Maisons Wat Kor, where Hollywood personalities Anjelina Jolie and Brad Pitt stayed on their visit to the area | Take a road-trip to Phnom Penh and stop at a tarditional village famous for its red clay pottery  | Explore Phnom Penh and its museums, temples and palaces as well as (optional) its dark history of atrocities & finish your Cambodian sojourn at the city's sprawling Central or Russian Market | Fly to Bangkok and overnight in Bangkok before flying to Bhutan (if you choose a pre-trip extension) or prepare for your return flight home (if you choose a post-trip extension.) 

 

The driver of a motorized trishaw rests between trips ferrying passengers to-and-fro from popular tourist attractions that include ancient rock temples, bustling local markets, handicrafts villages, and bars, galleries, museums and restaurants, all part of the draw that Cambodia offers travelers to the region.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

COUNTRY MAP

ITINERARY

Your journey in Cambodia links the triple gems of Siem Reap, home to the world-famous ruins of Angkor Wat, bohemian Battambang where arts and culture blends with a relatively rural atmosphere, and the bustling capital of Phnom Penh where the modern collides with the old and the traditional in surprising and unexpected ways. Along the way, learn about the tremendously rich heritage of the Khmer civilization, try local restaurants, visit a village where the ancient art of pottery breathes new life to the local economy and confront the troubled legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime.  A trio of relaxed and elegant properties—The Heritage Suites Hotel in Siem Reap, the Maisons Wat Kor Boutique in Battambang, and the Iroha Garden Resort in Phnom Penh—are your base for this exploration the three main cities of Cambodia and the rural countryside that surrounds them.

DAY 1: SIEM REAP


Arrival in Siem Reap

Upon clearing Customs and Immigration, your guide will present you with a welcome packet including all necessary documentation and vouchers and all contact information for your guide and local offices.

Transfer by air-conditioned vehicle (6 kms)

Sightseeing in Siem Reap

Visit Angkor National Museum
Located on the main road to Angkor, the Angkor National Museum displays artefacts and sculptures from the Angkorian period as well as multi-media exhibitions.

A Unique Dining Experience
Transfer by airconditioned vehicle from your hotel to a beautiful dining pavilion in Treak village, where you are welcomed by a local host who will lead you to a private bamboo pavilion for a welcome drink while a private chef prepares your meal to your specifications. Relax and enjoy a delicious 3-course meal in this candle-lit, peaceful and serene environment. Transfer back to your hotel after dinner.

Restaurant : Meals included in itinerary – Dinner | Breakfast and Lunch on your own

Overnight in Siem Reap




DAY 2: SIEM REAP


Excursion by boat to Kompong Phhluk (6 hours)
Drive this morning from the hotel to the pier, from where we take the boat to a flooded forest and floating village in the middle of the lake, located farther than the more frequented Chong Kneas floating village. The settlement of Kompong Phhluk has a unique culture that relies on fishing and animal husbandry, mainly consisting of rearing pigs.
Visit Neak Pean Temple
Neak Pean was built by King Jayavarman VII who ruled Cambodia from 1181 to 1201. Today, it is a Buddhist temple consisting of a square pool with four smaller square pools arranged on each axis of the compound. In the middle of the large central pool is a circular island encircled by a large statue showing two nagas, giant mythical serpents, with intertwined tails.

Visit Ta Prohm temple
Ta Prohm is one of the most popular attractions of Angkor as much of the jungle around it has still not been cleared and it remains mostly undisturbed, which makes it possible for visitors to imagine how the great Angkor monuments must have appeared to the first European explorers who stumbled across them.

Visit Pre Rup at sunset
Pre Rup was built by King Rajendravarman II, who ruled Cambodia from 944 to 968 AD. It consists of a pyramid shaped temple with the uppermost of the three tiers carrying five square shrines arranged as a quincunx, a geometric pattern where five points are arranged in a cross, with four of them forming a square or rectangle, and a fifth, its center. Pre Rup, the name of the temple, means “turning the body” and refers to the traditional Cambodian method of cremation.

Overnight in Siem Reap




DAY 3: SIEM REAP


Excursion to Banteay Srei and Kbal Spean
Banteay Srei, built in the late 10th century, is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva, considered the creator and destroyer of the universe. The temple is a square with entrances on the east and the west. Of primary interest are the three central towers of the temple, which are decorated with carvings depicting male and female divinities, as well as other exquisite filigree relief work.

At Kbal Spean, also known as the River of 1000 Lingas, see the stone carvings of Hindu gods and deities in the riverbed and on rocks along the banks of the river. Despite some looting of the ancient artefacts over the years, it is still incredible to contemplate the history of the carvings. A visit to a nearby waterfall, which is 2 kms further uphill, can also be arranged if you choose.

Included: Lunch at a local restaurant | Breakfast and Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Siem Reap




DAY 4: SIEM REAP


Sightseeing in Angkor by Tuk Tuk
Visit Angkor Wat
The crown jewel of Khmer architecture, Angkor Wat is a national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia. The largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples, it impresses visitors by its sheer scale and its beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate artistry of its carvings.

We enter the temple by first crossing a vast moat and continuing along a broad causeway lined with naga (giant carved serpents) balustrades. Upon entering the main structure, we ascend through a series of galleries and courtyard before reaching the central sanctuary, which offers beautiful views back over the causeway and across to the surrounding countryside. On the way, stop to enjoy the intricate stone carvings that adorn nearly every surface of the temple, with some 1,700 Apsaras, or celestial dancers, sculpted along the walls. Along the outer gallery walls run the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, illustrating stories from Hindu mythology, including the famous “Churning of the Ocean of Milk,” in which the gods and demons made the nectar of immortality using the king of the Nagas or giant serpents and promptly fell to fighting once the nectar was made. Angkor Wat is stunning at any time of the day, but sunrise and sunsets are the best times to watch the play of light over the ruins.

Visit Angkor Thom
The fortified city of Angkor Thom covers an area of 10 square kms. Enclosed by a wall and wide moats, the city includes many of Angkor’s most popular sights. We enter via the monumental South Gate over a causeway lined on either side by statues of demons and gods, each carrying a giant naga serpent. Continuing from there we explore the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper Kings, former spaces for public ceremonies, both adorned with dramatic bas reliefs. Finally, we stop by the the ruined Baphuon Royal Enclosure and Phimeanakas, a temple in the ancient Khleang style, before continuing to the mysterious Bayon. Inside Bayon, one of the most popular and compelling temples in Angkor, explore the galleries of beautifully preserved bas reliefs and ascend narrow stairs to reach the central sanctuary where giant stone faces of ancient Angkorian gods smile enigmatically down from every visible angle.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner on your own

Overnight in Siem Reap




DAY 5: SIEM REAP - BATTAMBANG


Excursion to Phnom Sampeau
Phnom Sampeau is a sacred mountain dotted with interesting pagodas and stupas. There is also a moving memorial to Khmer Rouge victims who were thrown into one of the many caves that pepper this holy mountain.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner on your own

Overnight in Battambang




DAY 6: BATTAMBANG


Sightseeing in Battambang by Tuk Tuk A bustling provincial capital in northwestern Cambodia, Battambang is located on the banks of the Sangker River. Explore the town center to get a feel for the modern-day city, strolling past old French shop houses, and visiting the Battambang Museum and Wat Piphit, a temple of fairly recent vintage with wall paintings depicting the story of the Buddha’s life. Continue outside the city to see the region's Angkorian past, exploring the hill temples of Wat Ek Phnom, Wat Phnom Banon, and Wat Phnom Sampeau before stopping for lunch and a local restaurant at your guide’s recommendation. Near Wat Sampeau, you may choose to see the caves of Laan Thom and Laan Kirirum, which house Buddhist shrines and the mass graves of victims of the Pol Pot Regime.
Meals : Lunch at a local Cambodian restaurant | Breakfast and Dinner on your own.

Overnight in Battambang




DAY 7: BATTAMBANG - PHNOM PENH


Today, transfer in an air-conditioned car from Battambang to Phnom Penh with a visit to a village in Kampong Chhnang (291 kms) where pottery is part of the local tradition and a regional cottage industry.

The quiet village of Ondong Rossey is where the area's famous red clay pottery originates. Almost every household in this region of serene rice fields dotted with sugar palms is involved in producing some form of pottery. The pots, mostly unpainted but decorated with etched or appliqué designs, are either made with a foot-spun wheel (smaller pieces) or slapped into their respective shapes using a heavy wooden spatula (larger ones), an intricate process that is fascinating to watch. This afternoon we stop at another popular local restaurant serving Cambodian fare.

Arriving in Phnom Penh you check in at the hotel with some leisure time in the evening before dinner on your own, or an exploration of the city on your own.

Meals: Lunch at a local restaurant | Breakfast and Dinner on your own

Overnight in Phnom Penh




DAY 8: PHNOM PENH


Sightseeing in Phnom Penh
Explore Phnom Penh, a chaotic, energetic and always fascinating city. Graceful tree-lined boulevards and riverfront promenades are reminders of its beautiful past as “The Pearl of Asia.” Today the city teems with life and activity as motorcycles weave in and out of traffic, vendors hawk their wares, and pedestrians crowd the walks. Start your tour at Wat Phnom, the birthplace of the capital where, according to legend, the city was birthed when a woman named Penh found four Buddha statues and built the temple around them. Afterwards, see the splendor of Cambodia's royal heritage by visiting the Royal Palace, still the official residence of King Norodom Sihamoni, the adjacent Silver Pagoda, also known as the Pagoda of the Emerald Buddha, and the elegant National Museum, which contains a comprehensive collection of Khmer art.

In the afternoon, learn about a chapter from Cambodia's more recent, tragic past at the Tuol Sleng Museum (Museum of Genocide). Formerly the Tuol Svay Prey High School, in 1975, it was turned into the interrogation and torture facility for the Khmer Rouge regime (at the time known as Security Prison 21, or simply S-21. Kept largely unchanged, this prison now showcases photographs and exhibits about the thousands of victims that passed through these doors, only seven of whom came out alive.

Finally, explore the modern-day city, visiting one of Phnom Penh's two great markets, the Central Market, located in a distinctive domed Art Deco building or the sprawling Russian Market, a labyrinth of stalls selling everything from CDs and DVDs to silks, crafts, jewelry. Finally, enjoy a private dinner on your own, either at the hotel or a popular modern restaurant, closing out your Cambodian adventure in style.

Overnight in Phnom Penh




DAY 9: PHNOM PENH - BANGKOK


Transfer by air conditioned vehicle

Flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok ™





Please inquire about details if you have time to add a 3-day extension to Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains from Phnom Penh, featuring stay at a unique tented camp on a river (see picture below)
 
 

Young Cambodian boys cool off in the furious summer heat by jumping into a local stream in the countryside surrounding Siem Reap. The city services the record numbers of visitors each year who come to see what remains of the once fabulous Khmer civilization.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARMA DORJI

FEATURED LODGES

We have selected a trio of hotels for your Cambodian experience that evoke the hospitality of a bygone age without compromising on modern luxuries. These smaller heritage and boutique properties offer the same uncompromising service and facilities as the bigger hotels in the region at much more comfortable and intimate scale.

*Please click on the gallery images of the featured lodges below for more on the main lodges on this itinerary.

 

An aerial view of the Maisons Wat Kor, the base for this Cambodian triple gem in Battambang. It is a matter of pride for the establishment that the Hollywood actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt once stayed here during a visit to Battambang.

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE HOTELS

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RELATED DISCLOSURES

Accommodation is subject to availability. If the listed properties are fully booked, alternatives will be offered. Occasionally guest numbers, the time or season of booking, renovations & repair and/or other unforeseen circumstances beyond our control may make them unavailable. In such circumstances, we always rebook our confirmed guests at resorts, hotels and lodges of equal or comparable value. Therefore, please take the Featured List of Lodges & Accommodations for your trip to mean either the establishments named in this document “or resorts, hotels or lodges of equal or comparable standard and/or value."

 

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EXTENSION COSTS & DETAILS

TRIP TITLE

 

Triple Gems of Cambodia

DURATION

 

9 days Round-trip from Bangkok, Thailand includes flights shown on itinerary)

DATES

 

Can be arranged before or after your Bhutan journey

TRIP PRICE


US$2,950/- per person, double occupancy

Includes: round-trip flights from Bangkok and any domestic flights or inter-country regional flights and transfers, all taxes, surcharges, accommodations, guides, transportation services, entrances and land costs*

 

*DETAILED INCLUSIONS:

 

Included Services
•    English-speaking guide.
•    Accommodation in hotels as mentioned above or equivalent.
•    Meals according to itinerary / Breakfast box in lieu of ABF when early morning flight
•    Boat ticket(s) according to the itinerary.
•    Ground transportation in private A/C vehicle.
•    1 complimentary bottle of drinking water and 1 cold towel per person per half day tour/ 2 bottles of water and 2 cold towels per person per full day tour.
•    Sightseeing incl. admission fees according to itinerary.

Excluded Services
•    Visa fees, drinks, personal expenses.

Local visa costs, where applicable, are not covered and are the responsibility of the trip member; not all meals are included in order to let guests explore and try some local restaurants on their own - please consult your extension itinerary to see which meals are included and which ones are not.

Cancellation Policy

Please see our Trip Cancellation & Refund Policy in print copy (downloadable above) or ask for it by email.

FLIGHTS

 

Round-trip flights from Bangkok, Thailand, and any inter-country regional flights as well as domestic internal flights are included

 
 

GETTING THERE

Depart your home city for Bangkok, Thailand. Thai visas are automatically granted to US citizens and EU citizens on arrival for up to 15 days per entry.

 

For regional travel between Bangkok and our travel extension destinations all logistical arrangements, including round-trip flights from Bangkok, will covered under the trip cost. The flights and transfers and tour logistics in each country will be handled through our regional partners, and extension tour activities and highlights as described on our extension itineraries will be guided by experienced local guides who are licensed and government-approved in each country where our travel extensions are offered.

In some cases, you may have to prearrange your own visas to the countries listed on the extension journey (such as Myanmar).  Other countries like Laos and Cambodia will grant visas on arrival at all the major airports where you land, for a nominal fee ranging approximately between US$30 to US$50.


Bhutan Himalaya Expeditions is responsible for all your flights, hotels and other logistical arrangements for Bhutan. Please let us know at the time of booking your travel extension journey whether you would like to take the travel extension before or after your trip to Bhutan with us. Please note we do not require that you participate in our Travel Extensions in order to be eligible for our Bhutan journeys. Regional Travel Extensions and our featured journeys in Bhutan are priced separately.


Your Bhutan journey with us begins with your arrival in Paro and closes with your departure from the Paro Airport. Passports should be valid up to 6 months after the last date of your travel in the region. If you need to renew or request a new passport, please let us know in advance so we can send you the proper reminders and resource information.

The national airline, Druk Air, offers flights daily from Bangkok to Bhutan, and less frequently from major Indian cities Delhi and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Bhutan Himalaya staff will make your round trip flight arrangements to Bhutan from Bangkok, Thailand, or India.

FINAL NOTES & DISCLAIMERS

Please note that while we design our travel extension itineraries with our regional partners to complement our Bhutan journeys, travel extensions are not operated or guided by Bhutan Himalaya Expeditions. All regional travel between Bangkok and our travel extension destinations, all logistical arrangements for the extensions, including round-trip flights from Bangkok, regional flights and domestic flights and transport, airport transfers as well as tour logistics in each country are handled by our regional partners. Travel extension tour activities and highlights as described on our extension itineraries are guided by experienced local guides who are licensed and government-approved in each country where our travel extensions are offered.

PROGRAM ACCURACY DISCLAIMER: While this is an accurate representation of this travel extension journey at the time of printing actual activities and arrangements during your journey may vary due to unexpected weather and/or changes in local conditions beyond our control. We may also change or modify the journey to best serve the needs of the journey and in response to space availability at our featured hotels and resorts, or the spaces available on regional flights. When modifications are made we will make our best efforts to distribute an updated itinerary prior to your arrival with all the changes. Please note, however, that this may not always be possible for a variety of reasons. In all instances we strive to always improve the quality of the featured journey through such changes if any are deemed necessary.

QUESTIONS?

If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to send us a message, or call us at 1.805.534.9224 during normal business hours. We look forward to sharing the happiness of the Bhutan Himalaya with you soon!