You cannot travel to Bhutan without tour guides - Featuring Mr Tobgay, experienced senior guide from Druk Asia.
In this series, Dailybhutan speaks to licensed tour guide Mr Tobgay who is one of the most senior and experienced tour guides working for DrukAsia in Bhutan.
There was a tourist who met his tour guide for the first time at the Paro International Airport who asked him which lipstick he has applied when the guide greeted him with a bright red smile. The tour guide explained that his red lips were the effects of chewing too much betel nuts, popularly known as doma locally. Such is the lighthearted stories and exchanges that will send you into fits of laughter when you are in Bhutan.
Unless you are a citizen from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives, tourists cannot travel to Bhutan without going through a licensed tour operator. You will be provided with a tour guide throughout your trip. Guides are truly the unsung heroes and unofficial ambassadors of Bhutan. Tour guides in Bhutan are also amongst the first Bhutanese faces that you see when you arrive as a tourist. They also carry many other identities such being your personal chaperone, luggage handler, concierge, historian, trekking guide and companion all lumped into one.
In this series, Dailybhutan speaks to licensed tour guide Mr Tobgay who is one of the most senior and experienced tour guides working for Druk Asia in Bhutan.
Q. Tell us about yourself.
A. I’m Tobgay, 42 years old currently working as a guide in Druk Asia. Both my parents are farmers, my mother is from Trongsa (Simphu) and my father is from Haa (Wangtsa). Although they are originally from different districts, they settled down in Paro and hence I was born and raised in a small village called Wangthangkha. It is situated just below Paro town and it is a good place to get the perfect view of the Paro Dzong.
I got my primary education from Rimpung Primary School, Gaypel Lower Secondary School and Drukgyel Higher Secondary School for my higher education. In my high school days, I liked playing basketball and competed in a few regional and national level matches as well.
I enjoy interacting with people and exploring different places, so, I decided to become a tour guide for my profession.
Q. When did you become a tour guide and how long have you been working with Druk Asia?
A. I joined this profession in 2001 and worked as a freelance guide. I joined Druk Asia right after the company started in Bhutan as a permanent cultural and trekking guide and have been working there ever since.
Q. What inspired you to be a tourist guide?
A. My inspiration for this profession came from one of my uncles who was also a professional guide. Back then, I often see him meeting people from all around the world and having plenty of opportunities to travel across the country as well as outside the country. So I decided to follow in the footsteps of my uncle. I can't imagine being in any other profession other than guiding.
Q. What are you passionate about?
A; I’m really passionate about travelling, going to different places and meeting new people!
Q. What is your greatest strength? How does it help you as a tour guide?
A. My greatest strength is my dedication to my job. It really keeps me focused on what I’m doing and I always ensure that I give my 100% when I’m with my guests.
Q. Where is your favourite destination/landmark in Bhutan and why?
A. I like all the places I’ve been to so far but I’m mostly drawn towards the central part of the country. Central Bhutan is also spiritually rich and is the heart of religion in Bhutan.
Q. How do you engage a group comprising diverse individuals?
A. Well it’s not always a piece of cake to engage a group comprising diverse individuals but when I’m assigned to such a group, the first thing I do is make them introduce themselves to the group. I will then try to know them individually and get to know their interests, likes and dislikes. Through the rapport, it becomes easier for me to coordinate different activities during their stay here in Bhutan.
Q. During the pandemic, how are you leading your life?
A. As we all know that this pandemic has affected a lot of people around the world especially the ones working in tourism. Many people have lost their jobs globally, but in our country, we are not met with such a situation, thanks to our compassionate king. Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB) and the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) have provided us with job opportunities where we still get paid.
But there is a famous saying ’ask what you can do for your country and not what your country can do for you, during this pandemic time when our country is in need, I find this as a great opportunity to serve my country. Moreover, I was really touched and moved by the speech delivered by our king two months ago, so I decided to join the desuung family and I’m currently doing my volunteer duty in the hospital.
Q. How are you financially coping during such times since there are no tourists in Bhutan?
A. Since I’m back in my village, we are able to make a living by selling vegetables and fruits from our garden. It also helps us in being self-sufficient. But I’m a bit worried about when the schools and colleges reopen and my children have to go back to school.
Q. Share with us your thoughts on COVID-19 and its impact on you and your family.
A. Well, I think this COVID-19 situation has both good and bad effects. Good because since the start of this pandemic, families started coming together and spend more time together, which was otherwise impossible with our busy schedules. Now all my children are back home and we are staying in the village, it is a good time to reconnect with them. It is bad because due to this pandemic, many people are affected financially as they don’t have a job, especially the ones working in the tourism sector.