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The Boston Globe

Travel

Essay

Shangri-la or not, Bhutan leaves you smiling

PARO, Bhutan — When I told my three boys, ages 14, 12, and 9, that we were going to the tiny Asian nation of Bhutan last summer, my eldest looked at me earnestly, and said, “Mom, no offense, but I’m just not a developing world kind of kid.” I understood his alarm. Summer is hard-won downtime, a period when lounging, video games, and milkshakes take priority. His idea of kicking back did not include traveling halfway around the world to a country with yaks, weird food, and little in the way of Internet connectivity.

But two months later we were craning for our first glimpse of the Himalayas as our Drukair flight began its descent. Landing in Paro, the site of Bhutan’s only international airport and until last year its only airport, is breathtaking and heart stopping. Pilots follow a tight line, swooping between towering, pine-covered ranges before dropping onto the tiny airstrip. It looked impossible, yet minutes later we were on the tarmac. Standing under cornflower blue skies and feeling the sear of the sun, I looked over at my eldest and caught him grinning.

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