We’re on Our Way to Bhutan

May 13, 2013 at 8:54 am Leave a comment


Right about now, the Penn Staters who are signed up for the Alumni Association’s “Bhutan: The Hidden Kingdom” trip are making their way to airports in order to begin their journey. Some are flying out of Dallas; others out of JFK; and I’m at Dulles. Regardless of the gateway city, we all have the same itinerary, and it’s probably not one that you’d expect.

We’re all flying on Emirates Air, and our first stop is in Dubai. It’s the easternmost green dot on the map above, on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Why that’s our hub, I don’t know—I only wish we had a longer layover there. I hear the airport is very cool and upscale, and the downtown is even more fascinating; among other things, it’s the home of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa (remember Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol?). But we only change planes there, and then it’s off to Delhi, India. By the time we get to Delhi, it’ll be late afternoon on Tuesday, local time—and from checking the weather forecast, I see that it’ll be 102 degrees. Much better than the highs of 111 I see predicted for next weekend.

Anyway, after spending the night in Delhi, we’ll head back to the airport in the morning, this time to board our flight on Druk Air—the Bhutanese national airline—to the city of Paro, home of Bhutan’s only airport.

Oh, and I’m told the plane makes a stop in Kathmandu en route to Bhutan. So let’s just recap: Dubai, Delhi, Kathmandu, Paro—pretty cosmopolitan, huh?

The thing I find interesting in the map above (click on it to see an enlarged version) is our flight path. It takes us pretty far north before dropping down across Europe and into Dubai. That’s because that’s the shortest distance between the two points. It has to do with the shape of the Earth and with geometry, trigonometry, and something called “Great Circle navigation.” And that’s pretty much everything I know on the subject.

When I fly, I’m always torn about whether to choose a window or aisle seat. The flight from Dulles to Dubai is 13 hours (!!!), so I requested an aisle seat—I like the freedom to get up regularly and stretch my legs, and just the thought of 13 hours pinned against the window makes me claustrophobic. But I hate to think what scenery I might be missing by not being near the window. Often there’s a window in the very back of the big planes that I can go peek out of from time to time.

But on the flight from Delhi to Paro, I’m hoping for a window seat. It’s a fairly short flight, 90 minutes I think, and I can’t begin to imagine how gorgeous those Himalayas will look from the air.

Incidentally, Paro is one of the more difficult landing approaches in the world. The pilot has to make a couple of relatively quick turns and then, after the last left turn, has to straighten out in a hurry to hit the runway. There are lots of videos on YouTube showing how it looks from the pilot’s perspective; the one below was shot by someone standing on a nearby hillside, and it’s fun to watch.

Depending on the Internet access in Bhutan—some of the hotels do have wi-fi, for example—I’m planning to Tweet a lot of updates and photos throughout the trip. Follow me on Twitter (@tinahay) or “like” our Facebook page to hear about our adventures.

Tina Hay, editor

Entry filed under: Alumni Association. Tags: , , , , , .

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