Bhutan & India

Date: 12–27 Apr 2019

Ship: MV Mahabaahu

Save! Bhutan Plus Brahmaputra Indian River Cruise

 

Outside Balcony Suite
AU $12,695 AU $13,160 AU $13,965

 

SAVE OVER $930 per person with these reduced prices!

 

PRICES - per person in AUD twin share from:

Twin Superior cabin without balcony from AUD $12,695*pp

Twin Superior cabin with balcony from AUD $13,160*pp

Twin Suite cabin from AUD $13,965*pp

Single Superior cabin without balcony from AUD $18,785*

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BHUTAN PLUS CRUISE Cruise-Tour prices include:

  • One way transfer from Kolkata airport to hotel
  • 2 nights pre-cruise accommodation at The Oberoi Grand Hotel, Kolkata including breakfast
  • Kolkata City tour with visit to the Victoria Memorial, Mother Teresa`s House/Shishu Bhawan and visit to an Indian Coffee House
  • One way transfer from Kolkata hotel to airport
  • Economy class airfare from Kolkata to Guwahati
  • Arrival transfer from Guwahati airport to port including packed lunch and sightseeing at the Kamakhya Temple enroute
  • 7 night Brahmaputra River cruise from Guwahati to Neamati Ghat aboard MV Mahabaahu
  • Buffet breakfast, buffet lunch and ala carte dinner onboard
  • 1 cocktail drink with each dinner onboard
  • Arrival welcome glass of Champagne for cruise
  • 2 glasses of domestic beer/wine during your welcome dinner on Mahabaahu
  • 1 cocktail and 2 glasses of domestic beer/wine with farewell dinner from Mahabaahu
  • Tea/coffee maker in all cabins plus complimentary cookies
  • Entrance fees/National Park permits
  • All excursions, performances & activities (see day to day itinerary below)
  • English-speaking guides- Complimentary towels and juice after each excursion
  • Complimentary shoe cleaning after each excursion
  • Services of English speaking Naturalist/ Destination Manager during sightseeing
  • Services of a tailor onboard
  • Assistance on all Arrival & Departure transfers
  • Departure transfer from Neamati Ghat - Jorhat including lunch at a tea estate
  • Port/govt taxes
  • One way economy class airfare from Jorhat to Kolkata inc tax
  • Return airport - hotel - airport transfers, Kolkata
  • 1 nights accommodation post-cruise accommodation at The Oberoi Grand Hotel, Kolkata including breakfast
  • One way economy class airfare from Kolkata to Paro inc tax
  • One way transfer from Paro to Thimphu
  • 2 nights accommodation at the Taj Tashi Hotel Thimphu with all meals
  • Sightseeing in Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Transfer from Thimphu to Punakha including sightseeing
  • 1 nights accommodation at the Dhensa Boutique Resort, Punakha with all meals
  • Transfer from Punakha to Paro with sighsteeing enroute
  • 2 nights accommodation at The Hotel Zhiwaling Hotel, Paro with all meals
  • Transfer from Paro hotel to airport
  • One way economy class flight from Paro to Bangkok inc tax

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DAY TO DAY IN-DEPTH ITINERARY:

(subject to weather and tidal conditions)

Day 1 (Friday): Arrive Kolkata

After clearing immigration and customs, we step into the receiving area where we will be met by our representative and transferred to the hotel. Arrive and check-in to the hotel.

Overnight at the hotel - no meals

The Oberoi Grand - Deluxe Room

Day 2 (Saturday): Kolkata

Kolkata, also known as the City of Joy, name comes from the lively and friendly and loving behavior of all the citizens all over the places making the city more lively and enjoyable. Today we will visit the Howrah Bridge, this amazing feat of engineering is similar in size to Australia`s Sydney Harbour bridge. It is considered the busiest bridge in the world and everything from pedestrians to bullock carts to push carts to automobiles to bicycles cross every day and the eastern India`s largest flower market with hundreds of stalls and vendors sitting on the ground. Approximately 2000 flower growers from the surrounding areas come daily to sell their flowers and during the wedding season and festivals, that number probably doubles. Thereafter, visit the Victoria Memorial (Closed on Monday). This marble-white monument is one of the most fascinating landmarks of Kolkata. Here, we will come face to face with miniature paintings and images of Queen Mary, King George V and Queen Victoria. Of special importance are the Queen's dresses, the famous Rosewood piano, the Whispering Gallery in the dome and numerous artillery weapons used in the Battle of Plassey.

Thereafter visit the Mother Teresa`s House, called `Nirmal Hriday,` and also visit Shishu Bhawan, located near her house. Mother Teresa`s great work of caring for abandoned children on the streets of Kolkata is carried out at this center. Watch the children`s face light up with just one smile of yours.

Wrap up your day with the visit of Indian Coffee House. Situated in the academic hub of Kolkata, the College Street, the Indian Coffee House has become a favourite destination for hangouts not only for the students of nearby schools and colleges but also the office goers and intellectuals of Kolkata. The history of Coffee House dates back to around 300 years when it was the residence of the great Bengali Philosopher and social reformer Shri Keshab Chandra Sen. Later this place was dedicated to Prince Albert Victor of Wales and was named `Albert hall`. During the freedom struggle many swadeshi meetings were held here. In the year 1942, the Coffee Board decided to start a coffee joint from the Albert Hall, and after independence in 1947, the Central Government changed the name to `Indian Coffee House`. In 1958 the management decided to shut down the Coffee House, but the workers association decided to run this place on their own and since then the `Indian Coffee House` is being run by the `India Coffee Board Worker`s Co-operative Society Ltd`. In the year 1994 The Supreme Court of India recognized Coffee House as a cultural center of India and declared it a Heritage building.

Overnight at the hotel (B)

The Oberoi Grand - Deluxe Room

Day 3 (Sunday): Kolkata - Guwahati flight & board M.V. Mahabaahu

Arrive at the Guwahati International Airport and with packed lunch, we drive through the busy streets to the Kamakhya Temple. This Temple is devoted to Kamakhya, the eternal Feminine - the goddess of desire. After the Temple visit, we drive towards Pandu Port and check into the Cruise and gather on the open deck to enjoy the first sail! A quick orientation and we deboard for a short visit of the picturesque Peacock Island, the smallest island on the Brahmaputra (flight time permitting) famous for the highly endangered Golden Langur. It would be a good idea to have one`s binoculars and cameras at hand. Proceed into the evening with a talk on `Kamakhya and the occult in Assam`. Soon MV Mahabaahu drops anchor and the evening follows into the welcome dinner.

Overnight onboard MV Mahabaahu (Packed L, D)

Day 4 (Monday): Village visit/Full day Sail

MV Mahabaahu lifts anchor early. We enjoy Yoga on the deck for an hour and move on for breakfast. We enjoy a talk on `Assam, its geographical location in the national and international context and how it is acclaiming recognition`. MV Mahabaahu heads on towards an island that is occupied predominantly by a `Bangla` speaking Muslim community who are involved in extensive farming. After visiting this village, we return to the ship for lunch and sail towards the Orang Point. Evening sets in and over a cup of tea, we enjoy a talk on `The River Brahmaputra and the tribal life`. We anchor at a deserted island for the evening and enjoy a bonfire and a barbeque.

NOTE: (Bonfire may be avoided if a suitable sandbank cannot be found or if we experience inclement weather conditions)

Overnight onboard MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 5 (Tuesday): Sail to Silghat / Visit Tea Estate AND/OR Jute Mill

MV Mahabaahu sails early and we enjoy Yoga on the deck and move on for breakfast and for a talk on `Wild life in Kaziranga with an overview of the wild life in India`. We sail on for the next couple of hours and enjoy a relaxed lunch as we reach Silghat. After a talk on `Tea, Jute & Silk in Assam`, we take a short drive to Kaliabore Tea Estate which is a vast undulating expanse. We proceed to the tea factory to see the processing of the Assam Tea and getting an insight into all that goes into preparing a good brewed relishing cup-of-tea. (The tea factory is not operational from mid-December to mid-February as it is time for pruning the tea bushes). While returning to the ship, we visit a co-operative Jute Mill which is an interesting place to understand how the Jute fibre takes the form of very eco-friendly gunny bags. We enjoy a cultural evening on the ship followed by an early dinner.

Overnight onboard MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 6 (Wednesday): Kaziranga National Park / Weaver`s Village at Bishwanath Ghat

An early wake- up call with Tea/coffee and we set out towards the Kaziranga National Park. The most prized inhabitant of Kaziranga is the Greater One-Horned Indian Rhinoceros, but the Park is home to as many as 180 different mammals including wild elephant, tiger, deer, Asiatic wild buffalo and a rich variety of birds. We reach the Kohora Mihimukh range of the National Park and are ready to start our morning adventure. An elephant-back safari is an experience, to search for the elusive rhinoceros, tigers, swamp deer, hog deer and more besides a large number of very interesting birds. The park never ceases to surprise its visitors!

After breakfast at a resort in Kaziranga, we drive on to Bagori, the Western Range of Kaziranga and get into the open jeeps for some more wildlife adventure and an extensive coverage of this magnificent park. We return to MV Mahabaahu to enjoy a leisurely lunch and as we start sailing towards Bishwanath Ghat. We get into the excursion boats to reach the shores of Bishwanath Ghat. We walk through the village and are struck by the simplicity of life while the weaver women surround us with their silk and cotton weaves. We enjoy some happy interaction with them. We return to the ship to enjoy an evening on a deserted island and then proceed for dinner onboard.

NOTE - Bonfire may be avoided if a suitable sandbank cannot be found or if we experience inclement weather conditions.

NOTE - Kaziranga National Park is open from 1st November until the 30th of April. During October and May, the Park has a `Partially Open` status which means that the Park will be open but that not all roads may be navigable as they work to restore them to pre-monsoon standards.

Overnight onboard MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 7 (Thursday): Boat Safari

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast over a talk on `The River Brahmaputra and the life that exists alongside`. We proceed for the boat safari, viewing roof turtles on protruding drift wood, water lizards, otters, elephants, wild buffaloes, rhinos, darters, herons, pied kingfishers, white throated kingfishers, serpent eagles and many more. (The sightings are determined by the weather conditions). We return to the ship for hot lunch. This evening, we enjoy the Chef`s Cooking Demonstration and sample the snacks. The evening on a deserted island with bonfire is always exclusive! We enjoy dinner onboard.

NOTE: Bonfire may be avoided if a suitable sandbank cannot be found or if we experience inclement weather conditions

Overnight onboard MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 8 (Friday): Mishing Village Visit

After Yoga and breakfast, we enjoy the sail towards the Mishing Village. The Mishings live on the bank of river in `Chang Ghars` - houses with raised platforms. All Mishing women are expert weavers. We can buy the ethnic colorful cotton weaves and indulge in a dhoti tying and Mekhela Chaadar wearing demonstration. We return to the ship to enjoy a talk on `Sibsagar and the Ahom civilization` and proceed to get ready for a Traditional Assamese evening followed by a sumptuous dinner.

Overnight onboard MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 9 (Saturday): Majuli Visit / Neamati Ghat / Sibsagar

After breakfast, we enjoy a talk on `Majuli the seat of Neo –Vaishnav Culture` and then proceed in our excursion boats to the mainland. Here on, a drive takes us to a scenic corner of a Satra (Monastery) for an interesting cultural performance by Satriya singers and dancers. Next, we proceed to Kamlabari Satra to witness the Vaishnavite priests dancing to the rhythm of cymbals, drums and chanting in the temple premise. The humble dwellings of the monks are a revelation of utmost simplicity. We enjoy lunch on MV Mahabaahu as we sail towards Neamati Ghat. Post lunch, we drive through the countryside to reach Sibsagar, the ancient city, built around a huge man made water tank ordered by the Ahom queen. A town that literally means `the ocean of Lord Shiva`. We notice the district is strewn with the tell-tale ruins of a powerful empire of the Ahoms. Sibsagar was the capital of the Tai-speaking Ahoms who came in the 13th Century AD to the area from the north-east and were essentially of Tibeto-Burman origin. The Shiva Dol, constructed in the year 1734 is believed to be one of the highest Shiva temple in India. We visit Talatal or Kareng Ghar which was the palace of the Ahom Kings and after a leisurely stroll in and around the monument, we go on to Rang Ghar which was a place for hosting wrestling bouts and buffalo fights and other entertainment or important meetings of the Royals and their guests.

We return to MV Mahabaahu by sunset for the farewell dinner.

Overnight onboard MV Mahabaahu (B, L, D)

Day 10 (Sunday): Disembark & flight to Kolkata

Morning is at leisure to enjoy, Yoga/ bird-watching or perhaps an early morning indulgence in the spa. A relaxed breakfast awaits all (Baggage down prior to breakfast is requested for easy de-boarding) We drive to the Jorhat airport en-route stopping at a tea Estate to enjoy a traditional Assamese early lunch.

On arrival, check-in to the hotel and rest of the day is free at leisure.

Overnight at the hotel (B)

The Oberoi Grand Hotel

Day 11 (Monday): Kolkata / Paro flight

After early breakfast, transfer to Kolkata airport to connect with flight to Paro.

Fly into Himalayas with Druk Air, Bhutan's National Air Carrier. The green walls of the hills known as dooars or gateways, in to Bhutan from the plains of India rise ever higher as the plane flies north towards the Tibetan border. Silvery rivers rush along the valleys, waterfalls plunge down the forested mountainsides, and to the north, the great snowcapped peaks of the inner Himalayas rise up to the heavens. Farm houses dot the hillsides on either side of the plane. As the aircraft enters the Paro valley, look down and you will see the Paro Dzong on the hillside overlooking Paro Chu (river) with Ta Dzong, formerly a watchtower and now the National Museum, above it. Received by our representative at the airport and transfer to Thimphu, the moden capital town of Bhutan. Thimphu, earlier a small settlement was developed in to a town and became the new capital of Bhutan. The city sprawls across the western slopes of the Wang Chuu river valley, with several government offices located around Trashichoe dzong, the 17th Century fortress monastery is today the seat of Bhutanese

government. The main thoroughfare is lined with shops, restaurants, retail arcades and public buildings. With the population of about 90,000 it is perhaps still the world`s only capital city without a traffic light. Visit Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). Located at a short drive from Thimphu city centre, visitors can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.

Overnight at the Hotel (B, L, D)

Taj Tashi Hotel Thimphu

Day 12 (Tuesday): Thimphu

After breakfast, start with a visit of National Library (closed on Sat & Sun ) , which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion. Also visit nearby Institute for Zorig Chusum: Commonly known as Arts & Crafts School or Painting School (closed on Saturday & Sunday) , the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. On a visit, one can see students learning the various skills taught at the school. Also visit the Textile (closed on Sunday) and Folk heritage Musuem – both of which opened in 2001, provide fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life Simply Bhutan - an exclusive project under the Bhutan Youth Development Fund. It is a living Museum and Studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. The infrastructure portrays ancient Bhutanese architecture which is being lost to modernization. King`s Memorial Chorten continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan`s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (`the father of modern Bhutan`) who has wished to erect monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace. Trashichhodzong: This impressive fortress/monastery houses Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.

Overnight at the Hotel (B, L, D)

Taj Tashi Hotel Thimphu

Day 13 (Wednesday): Thimphu – Punakha (approx. 80 km / 3.5 hours) (Altitude 1300 m)

Today morning drive to Punakha across Dochu La (3,088m/ 10,130 ft) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m ), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7, 060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana - finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until and still it is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits. En-route, take a short excursion to Chimi Lakhang, situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley, is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behaviour to dramatise his teachings and due to this also known as `Divine Madman`. This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children and wanting one, if they pray at this temple, they are usually blessed with a child very soon. It is about 30 minute walk across field from the road to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning `field`. It then follows a tiny stream downhill to Yoaka and across more fields before making a short climb to Chimi Lhakhang. Thereafter visit the majestic Punakha Dzong built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region, Punakha Dzong has played an important role

in Bhutan`s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by the present King.

Overnight at the Hotel (B, L, D)

Dhensa Boutique Resort - Suite

Day 14 (Thursday): Punakha – Paro (approx. 125km/4.5 hour drive) (Altitude 2200m)

Breakfast at the Hotel , then drive back to Paro descending back down from Dochu La, follow the way back up the dramatic Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys, before crossing through Paro Town towards the north end of the valley. The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan`s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and country`s only airport. Mount. Chomolhari (7,314m) reigns in white glory at the northern end of the valley and its glacial water plunge through deep gorges to form Pa Chhu (Paro river). Paro is also one of the most fertile valley in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields. Later in the afternoon proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armour, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. After the visit walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (`fortress of the heap of jewels`), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount. Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala.

Overnight at the Hotel (B, L, D)

Hotel Zhiwaling Hotel Paro - Junior Suite

Day 15 (Friday): Paro

Morning after breakfast - proceed for an excursion to Taktshang Lakhang ( 5hrs hike total) perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro Valley floor , it is undoubtedly one of the most famous of Bhutan`s monasteries. Lore has it that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery thus the name `Tiger`s Nest`. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendor. Later on the drive back to Paro, visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

Overnight at the Hotel (B, L, D)

Hotel Zhiwaling Hotel Paro - Junior Suite

Day 16 (Saturday): Departure

After breakfast transfer to Paro airport to board your flight to Bangkok.

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*Conditions Apply: All prices shown here are per person share twin in AUD, based on best available cruise fare at time of publication (12Jan18). All prices based on cash/direct deposit payment - credit card fees may apply. Cruise deposit, amendment and cancellation conditions apply. Travel agent service fees may apply. Special conditions apply - please ask for full details at time of enquiry. All passports, vaccinations and visas are the responsibility of the travelling guest to secure prior to departure from Australia. International airfares/taxes are not included. Prices converted to AUD from current Indian Rupee/USD rates and include current 5% government taxes (subject to change or increase without notice by the Indian Govt.). Offer subject to availability at time of booking. Travel insurance is not included but highly recommended. Cruise does not include gratuities, beverages or any other expenses not mentioned in the inclusions. A good level of fitness and mobility is required to participate in this cruise. Offer ends 30Jan19 or sold out/withdrawn.

15 nights $12695