British royals, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrive in Bhutan
GAUHATI, INDIA // Greeted by a Bhutanese girl and boy with bouquets of flowers, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived on a windy Thursday morning in Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan for a day-long visit at the invitation of its king and queen.
Prince William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, stepped from their jet onto the airport tarmac in the picturesque hilltop resort town of Paro and a red-carpet welcome led by Princess Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, sister to the Bhutanese king. A vehicle stood waiting to drive them about 40 minutes to their hotel in the capital of Thimphu.
The British royals are expected to spend the day watching an archery match and later dining with Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema. They will also meet the Bhutanese royal couple’s one year old baby.
On Friday, they plan to hike to a Buddhist monastery perched at an altitude of 3,000 meters, though there will be ponies on standby to help carry them should they tire on the trek.
The two young couples have much in common. Both were married in 2011, and both Kate and Jetson Pema did not come from royal families. The Bhutanese queen’s father is a pilot, though her mother has royal lineage.
“There is a lot of excitement among the Bhutanese about the visit of the British royals,” said Kunzang Wangdi, a member Bhutan’s Royal Advisory Council. “Flags, buntings and banners have been put up all over the capital Thimphu to welcome them.”
The British royals are on a week-long tour of India and Bhutan. They have already visited Mumbai, New Delhi and the wildlife reserve of Kaziranga National Park in Assam, where they hoped to raise awareness of the plight of endangered rhinos and other animals threatened by poaching and habitat loss.
On Friday, they head back to India to visit to the Taj Mahal, retracing the steps of a 1992 visit to the monument of love by William’s mother, the late Princess Diana.
The couple are travelling without their two children — 2 1/2-year-old Prince George and 11-month-old Princess Charlotte. They had taken George to Australia with them in 2014 on their last royal tour.
* Associated Press