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The long way round to Gaya

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SINGAPORE, 8 December 2023: Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines is confident it can persuade Thai Buddhist pilgrims to take a detour to Paro on the way to Bodh Gaya in India.

It’s a long shot, but the Bhutan Department of Tourism is spicing up the offer with a free two-hour guide to the capital city’s ancient Kyichu Lhakhang an ancient Bhutanese temple dating back to the 7th century, located in the picturesque Paro valley.

Drukair passengers booked on the Bangkok-Paro-Gaya package can engage in meditation and light butter lamps during their temple visit while waiting for the connecting flight to Gaya. DOT also throws in a transit visa and promises to resolve red tape to make it a seamless travel experience to Gaya. 

Drukair flies daily to Bangkok, but the travel package to Gaya is an option only on Wednesday and Sunday when a one-hour and 10-minute flight leaves Paro at 1130 and arrives in Gaya at 1210, twice weekly. 

From Bangkok, Thai pilgrims board the flight to Paro at 0500 on a Wednesday or Sunday and arrive in Bhutan at 0715 (flight time three hours and 15 minutes). That leaves ample time to explore Paro’s heritage and catch the flight to Gaya. The stop in Paro adds a new dimension for Buddhist pilgrims heading for Bodh Gaya in India, and the Department of Tourism hopes it will encourage more Thai travellers to return to Bhutan for a more extended stay in the future.

The guessing game begins when you search for a package price or even a Bangkok-Paro-Gaya fare. They are not jumping off the web page. The airline doesn’t identify an option for website browsers to fly through to Gaya with a transit stop in Paro (change of planes). You are left guessing that the diversion to Paro could raise the USD300 fare quoted for a direct BKK-GAY flight to USD400 or more. The Paro-Gaya Transit sidetrip is available from December 2023 to 31 January, 2024.

We give top marks to the Drukair team for creativity but not for clarity on price or how to book. If you are ready to make a diversion to enjoy a temple tour in Paro, Bhutan, and get a free transit visa to boot, the Drukair website is short of bottom-line details — how much will it cost?TTR Weekly asked the airline’s anonymous sales team about the package price without success. 

Drukair, Royal Bhutan Airlines, describes the experience as a “spiritual journey, a unique pilgrimage package, guiding Thai pilgrims from Thailand to India (Bodh Gaya) via the enchanting destination of Paro, Bhutan.” 

Its Facebook page clearly announces the “offer covers the Immigration Transit Visa and associated fees, facilitated by Drukair as an all-in package, for passengers opting for the complimentary tour. Grab your chance to glimpse Bhutan on your Journey to Bodh Gaya, the cradle of Buddhism.”  OK, share with us the price?

Photo credit: Drukair. 

Gaya
Gaya attracts thousands of international visitors annually, especially during the peak season for pilgrimage tours from December to February. Surrounded by hills, Gaya is the second largest city of Bihar and is home to religious heritage monuments revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

Transit visa
A transit visa is mandatory to participate in the tour at Paro, valued at NU5,000 per person (transit visa fee). Drukair pays the transit visa fee and will facilitate the application for the transit visa, requiring a minimum of six working days before travel to Paro.

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