Eighty per cent of this sovereign nation lies more than 2,000m above sea level, making the air noticeably thinner, so it helps to take deeper breaths. In fact, your body may take a couple of days to acclimatise itself to the new altitude, so you might want to keep the sensible pace of your guide. The goal of a trek is not to walk ahead of everyone else or reach the pass first, but to enjoy the walk and scenery.
You’ll be higher and closer to the sun, and that means stronger UV rays. The air is also a lot drier than back home. So, although you may not feel it on cloudy, cool days, you can get sunburnt. Slather on a liberal amount of moisturising cream or lotion with UV protection.
Some of the most scenic and historical places take hours to get to by car or van, so plan your itinerary and route well in advance. And, as you will most likely be traveling along winding roads, be prepared for the possibility of motion sickness by getting pills for that before your trip. On a brighter note, every journey I’ve taken has allowed me to peek into the lives of the Bhutanese people as I rolled past farms and villages.
There’s nothing subtle about the buildings and scenery in Bhutan, so make sure the gowns you’re packing for your shoot complement the spectacular backdrops you’ll be shooting against. Embellished wedding gowns with long trains and dresses in rich jewel hues will make you stand out beautifully.
Another tip: The weather can be chilly, even during summer, so bring along a blanket to wrap yourself in between shots. Also, most places in Bhutan don’t have ideal spaces for changing outfits, so unless you’re travelling in a van with drapes, pack a lightweight, portable changing tent you can easily buy online.
If you’re planning to shoot at or near temples, monasteries or dzongs, your wedding wardrobe should not be too revealing. Check with your guide for where you can and cannot take pictures as not every spot in a building or at a site is open for photography.
The Bhutanese are proud of their traditional dress, which often doubles as work wear. We managed to photograpgh some, as well as several monks, with Jesseca Liu and Jeremy Chan for their pre-wedding shoot. Of course, you should ask their permission first. Most are happy to oblige.
You want amazing views for your wedding album? Be prepared to climb. Except for Buddha Point, most of the best mountain or hilltop views are not accessible by car, and the paths upwards are usually rocky and muddy. Pack trekking shoes, a sturdy hiking stick and lots of drinking water. Most treks are quite lovely, too, so take your time to enjoy the experience.
The light in Bhutan is almost always picture-perfect, so your photographer shouldn’t worry about packing too much lighting equipment. Every shoot I’ve been a part of has had clear blue skies.
Here’s a short guide to what you can expect from the different cities in Bhutan, and some of the best places for postcard-perfect images.
The capital and largest, most modern city of Bhutan is home to over 100,000 residents, including the Royal Family, and serves as the main centre for government and religion. While it has an abundance of restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs and shopping centres, one of its most curious features is that it is the only capital city in the world that does not use traffic lights.
Thimphu is also where you will find the massive Buddha Dordenma statue that sits atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and oversees Thimphu Valley. At 51.5m and made of bronze and gilded in gold, it is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. Inside it are 125,000 smaller Buddha statues that have also been cast in bronze and gilded. Accessible by car, it is a must-visit for Buddhists.
Above: Kuenselphodrang Nature Park
This valley town west of Thimphu is home to the country’s only international airport, and is also known for sacred sites – 155 to be exact. They include Bhutan’s most iconic landmark, the Taktsang Palphug (Tiger’s Nest, above) monastery that clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley, and the remains of a defensive 17th century fortress, Drukgyel Dzong that sits northwest of Paro.
It also has many picturesque and impressive traditional buildings that photographers will love. And, lodged between many souvenir shops selling traditional items, outfits and handcrafted knick-knacks, are modern cafes and even an ice cream parlour.