Our active adventure through the isolated Kingdom of Bhutan offers glimpses of a sacred heritage and distinctive identity that for centuries has remained shrouded by high peaks.
Bhutan Trip Overview
This tour is a guaranteed departure regardless of group size, and is also available as a private trip year-round.
Along the lofty ridges of the Himalayas lies the Kingdom of Bhutan, a place that has remained blissfully untouched by the rest of the world. With very few visitors entering the country, Bhutan's landscape has remained pristine, its rivers pure, and its mountains magical. Bhutan's people are gracious, the culture is rich, and spirituality is prevalent. On our active tour into this last remaining Shangri-La, we meet welcoming local people, red-robed lamas, and nomadic yak herders as we learn about the Bhutanese way of life. We hike to remote gold-roofed temples and monasteries, and through peaceful villages in emerald valleys surrounded by spectacular Himalayan scenery.
Itinerary at a Glance
Days 1-3: Our adventure begins as we fly from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan. Visit the national museum and the Paro Dzong (fortress-monastery) before transferring to Thimpu. Explore the many interesting sights in Thimphu and its surroundings. We hike to a remote hillside temple, and visit a craft school that provides free skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to children.
Days 4-5: We make an early departure for our travel to Punakha, viewing 20,000-foot mountains along the way. Visit the Punakha Dzong, Bhutan’s most impressive fortress. Our local guide spins tales of the unorthodox teachings of the legendary Divine Madman. Spend time hiking to remote villages and learn about the traditional shamanism that villagers still practice.
Days 6-8: Travel a winding route to Trongsa. Visit the sprawling Trongsa Dzong. Continue to the town of Jakar, our base for the coming days. Discover the sites of the Bumthang Valley as we hike through villages to hidden temples. Enjoy local culinary delicacies and take part in an evening of traditional song and dance.
Days 9-11: Retrace our route to Paro and explore the surrounding valley with a hike to Kila Gompa and Tiger’s Nest monastery. Perhaps watch an archery tournament, Bhutan’s national sport, or stroll the market of downtown Paro. Enjoy a visit to a farmhouse, local hot-stone bath therapy, and traditional Bhutanese meal.
Day 12: Our adventure ends with an early morning return flight to Bangkok.
One of the 50 Tours of a Lifetime
With many choices in the world of travel today, we are very happy that National Geographic Traveler recently named our Bhutan: Hiking in The Peaceful Kingdom trip as one of their "50 Tours of a Lifetime." Please join us and you will learn why.
THE BOUNDLESS JOURNEYS ADVANTAGE
- A passion for travel. Simply put, we love to travel, and that is woven into every one of our journeys.
- Unique, award-winning itineraries. Our flexible, hand-crafted journeys have received accolades from the world’s most revered travel publications.
- Insider connections. There is simply no substitute for traveling with a knowledgeable insider.
- Small groups. We tread softly, and our average group size is just 6-8 guests.
- Flexibility to suit your travel style. We offer both small-group departures and Private Collection trips.
- Customer service that goes the extra mile. There is no request that is too big – or too small.
- Sustainability. We are committed to traveling responsibly.
Our tours often fill months in advance, and our maximum group size is smaller than most tour operators. It's very quick and easy to reserve a trip. Give us a call at 800-941-8010 or complete the online Reserve a Trip form. We will confirm your reservation with a $500 per person deposit, payable by check or credit card.
Trip Rating (1 Easiest - 5 Most Strenuous)
Traveling to and From
Most Convenient Airport:
Bangkok International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand (airport code BKK)
Meeting Place and Time:
Your Boundless Journeys guide will meet you at the Paro, Bhutan airport upon the arrival of your flight from Bangkok.
Departure Place and Time:
Paro, Bhutan; in time for the departure of your flight to Bangkok.
What to Expect
Boundless Journeys’ trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Hiking in the Peaceful Kingdom is rated 2+, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The walks and hikes on this trip are easy to moderate day hikes. Hikes generally are from 2-5 hours in length with minimal vehicle support. A few days involve some long drives on narrow, winding roads.
It is very important that you realistically assess your physical condition with regard to the demands of this trip. The more well prepared you are for the activities on this trip, the more you will enjoy yourself! Please engage in moderate aerobic activities (hiking, jogging, or cycling) for at least 30-45 minutes several times a week for 4-6 weeks before the trip. If you live in a flat area, try to incorporate some stairs into your workout, or use a treadmill with varying incline capability. Consult your doctor before undertaking any new fitness program.
Our trip begins and ends in Paro, which is situated at 7,300 feet, in the foothills of the Himalayas. After our first three nights here we move to the Punakha Valley which offers a relatively low elevation of approximately 4,300 feet. Our third hotel, in Jakar in the Bhumthang Valley, is located at about 8,500 feet, and our fourth hotel in Thimphu is at approximately 7,500 feet. Our walks and hikes will take place at elevations from 4,300 feet to 9,000 feet. There is time to move at a comfortable pace, allowing ourselves to adjust to the mountain air. Keeping well hydrated, avoiding excessive alcohol, eating frequent, light meals, and getting plenty of rest will help with any effects of altitude that you may feel.
The mountainous areas of Bhutan have pronounced rainy and dry seasons. The dry season lasts from October through May. Days tend to be warm with nighttime temperatures dropping significantly. Any time of year, dressing in layers is a good strategy, so that you can shed or add clothes as the day heats and cools. See the chart below for monthly average temperatures. You may obtain more detailed weather information at www.weatherbase.com.
The following are average temperatures in Paro:
March: 58°F 33°F
April: 64°F 40°F
May: 74°F 51°F
September: 74°F 53°F
October: 66°F 45°F
November: 57°F 34°F
When to Go
Bhutan is generally delightful for hiking in the spring and fall. The driest weather and clearest skies are typically in late September, October and November. In the months of March, April and May, beautiful flowers are in bloom, and you will encounter fewer travelers.
When to Reserve
It is important to reserve your trip early, as the Bhutanese national airline has a new ticketing policy and will only accept reservations with the full payment of the ticket. Therefore we are unable to hold group seats in advance of reservations. At this time, seats are available for all of our departures, but they can only be confirmed upon receipt of your deposit, as well as the payment of $950 for these flights. Please contact our office with any questions regarding these important new policies.
Trip participants have certain responsibilities to both Boundless Journeys and your fellow travelers. This includes understanding the conditions described in the trip itinerary and making sure it is appropriate for your interests and abilities, based on a review of the trip ratings, consultation with Boundless Journeys’ staff, and perhaps your doctor. In addition, trip participants are responsible for preparing for a trip by undertaking the proper fitness training. At the guide’s discretion, a participant may be asked to leave the trip if the guide feels that the person’s further participation may be detrimental to the individual or to other trip participants. If you have any questions about the difficulty level of the trip you have chosen, please contact Boundless Journeys to speak with one of our Destination Managers.
Overview: Accommodations in Bhutan are somewhat rustic but charming, and we’ve chosen some of the country’s most comfortable and beautifully situated hotels for this journey. All with private bath.
Nights 1, 2 & 3: Hotel Druk
Nights 4 & 5: Hotel Punatsangchu
Nights 6, 7 & 8: Karma Tobden Mountain Lodge
Nights 9, 10 & 11: Janka Resort
Bhutan Detailed Itinerary
Arrival in Paro, Bhutan; visit to Bhutan’s National Museum, Paro Dzong, and Drukgyel Dzong.
Walk – easy to moderate, 1-3 hours.
Our flight from Bangkok, Thailand into Bhutan provides spectacular views of Bhutan’s landscape as we approach the airport in the Paro Valley. The valley is a green bowl surrounded by jagged Himalayan mountains and forested hillsides, crossed by beautiful rivers, and dotted with medieval fortresses. The first thing that we notice as we disembark in Bhutan is the absence of noise, and a feeling of peacefulness that is rare in most other Asian cities. The Paro Valley has kept its bucolic nature and is one of the most scenic valleys in Bhutan. The houses are considered to be among the most beautiful in the country, and Paro is believed to be one of the first valleys to have received the imprint of Buddhism.
Our guide will begin our introduction to Bhutan with a visit to the National Museum (closed on weekends and holidays), housed in the round, multi-storied Ta Dzong, built in 1775. The Ta Dzong was once the watchtower for the massive Paro Dzong, built in the 17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The museum’s collection includes ancient artifacts, weapons, a collection of antique thangkha (painted or embroidered religious pictures), textiles, and stamps. We walk from the museum to the Paro Dzong, the religious and secular center of Paro, and certainly the most dominant feature in the valley. The dzong was first conceived in the 15th century, and finally consecrated in 1646.
Next we complete a short walk to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. This dzong was built in 1649 to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders, and sits at the point where the trail from Tibet enters the Paro valley. Bhutan’s dzongs are perhaps the most visibly striking aspect of the kingdom, and these huge citadels dominate the landscape of the major towns and act as the administrative headquarters for their respective regions. If we are lucky and the weather is clear, we may have the opportunity to view the sacred Mt. Chomolhari (23,977’), which lies along the border of Tibet and Bhutan.
After enjoying a light lunch and afternoon tea, we transfer to the capital city of Thimpu (aproximately 1 hour). Before becoming Bhutan’s official national capital in 1961, Thimphu was simply a rural farming valley. Small and secluded, Thimphu is unlike any other capital in the world. The city is quiet and there are still only a few streets, no traffic lights, and none of the traffic problems that can be common to other Asian cities.
We are greeted with a warm Bhutanese reception this evening as we enjoy a welcome dinner together.
Hotel Druk, Thimphu
Thimphu is a city ideally explored on foot, and our walk today takes us to many interesting sights. Before the day is through, we may visit the newly built National Textile Museum, the Thimphu Dzong (seat of the government and main monk body), the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts, the Heritage Museum (closed on weekends and holidays), and the Handicrafts Emporium, displaying the rich traditional crafts of the kingdom.
During the afternoon there is time for walking, relaxing, or searching for the perfect traditional weaving in a Thimphu handicraft shop. Beautiful weavings in wool, silk and cotton, basketwork, silver jewelry, thangkas, and other traditional crafts of the Kingdom are available in various shops.
We conclude our day with a dinner at a favorite restaurant in Thimpu.
Hotel Druk, Thimphu
Cheri Goemba and the Choki School of Arts.
Hike – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours on dirt roads and trails.
Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena. The trail starts by crossing a covered bridge over the Wang Chu, and climbs steadily on switchback trails to Cheri Goemba, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view of the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred, as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints.
After our visit to the monastery, we descend on the same route, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs nearby. Back at the village of Dodena, we follow a riverside trail via Begana to Cabesa, home to the Choki School of Arts (closed on weekends and holidays). The Choki School is private and provides free, skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to complete their formal education. After visiting the school, we continue along the riverside trail, passing through small rural villages before returning to Thimphu.
Hotel Druk, Thimphu
Transfer to Punakha (approximately 4 hrs*); Temple of the Divine Madman.
Walk – easy, 1-2 hours on local paths.
This morning, after an early breakfast, we say goodbye to Thimpu and transfer to the Punakha Valley, our home for the next two nights. The road to Punakha crosses the Dochula Pass (10,230’), offering a great view of the eastern Himalayan mountains. From the pass, our road descends through magnificent pine and rhododendron forests, and wanders through some of Bhutan’s most picturesque countryside.
On the road to Punakha we stop in a small village where a short walk brings us to Chime Lhakang, a temple dedicated to the Lama Drukpa Kunley. Drukpa Kunley is one of Bhutan’s favorite saints, and is more commonly known as the “Divine Madman.” He traveled throughout Bhutan and Tibet using songs, humor, and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings, believing that the stiffness of the clergy and social conventions were keeping people from learning true Buddhism. This site is still believed to hold fertility powers for women wanting to conceive.
Hotel Punatsangchu, Wangduephodrang
Khamsung Yuely Namgyel Temple to Punakha Dzong.
Hike – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours on dirt roads and trails.
Following breakfast and a drive through the Punakha Valley, we begin our walk by first ascending a series of switchbacks to the Khamsung Yuely Namgyel Temple. From this modern temple, we are afforded grand views of the Mo Chu River Valley below. We then descend from the temple and follow a well-worn path down the valley through rice fields and small villages. Along the way we are rewarded with stunning views – the terraced rice paddies providing an exotic backdrop to the river below. After enjoying a picnic lunch alongside the river, we continue our walk to the Punakha Dzong. Constructed in 1637, the Punakha Dzong was the second of Bhutan’s dzongs and for many years it served as the seat of the government. Today it is the home to Bhutan’s spiritual leader, the Chief Abbot Je Khempo, who resides here with 1,000 monks during the winter months due to Punakha’s relatively low altitude by Himalayan standards (4,000’). From this spectacular dzong we can look back to see the Khamsung Yuely Namgyel Temple perched on the hillside far in the distance.
A short walk from the dzong takes us to our waiting transportation to bring us back to our hotel for the evening.
Hotel Punatsangchu, Wangduephodrang
Transfer to Jakar (approximately 7 hrs*); visit to the Trongsa Dzong and Yathra weaving studios.
Our road to the east, and the district of Bumthang, is an incredible feat of engineering which follows Himalayan ridges and valleys towards the cultural heartland of Bhutan. A winding and twisting route via the Pele La brings us to Trongsa, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s current royal dynasty, the Wangchuks. We visit the sprawling Trongsa Dzong, perhaps the most impressive dzong in the kingdom. It is one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture. Given its strategic location high above the Mande Chhu, it is often described as being perched so high on a mountain that clouds float below it.
After lunch and our visit to the dzong, we continue along the road over Yotung La to the Bumthang Dzongkag (district) and the town of Jakar, our base for the coming days. Along the way, we visit Yathra weaving studios where hand-spun, hand-woven wool strips with patterns specific to the Bumthang region are created. These strips were once used as shawls and raincoats to protect against the winter cold of Bumthang, but today they are more often fashioned into short jackets that women wear. The Bumthang region encompasses four major valleys: Choskhor, Tang, Ura, and Chhume. The dzongs and the most important temples are in the large Choskhor Valley, commonly referred to as the Bumthang Valley. Different from most other valleys in Bhutan, Bumthang is broad and ideal for walkers and hikers. There are numerous Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites to explore, making it the cultural and historic center of the country. It would be difficult to find as many important temples and monasteries in such a small area anywhere else in Bhutan, and almost every little valley or hill has its own background of interesting myths and legends about kings, Buddhist masters, and serpents.
Karma Tobden Mountain Lodge, Jakar
DAYS 7 & 8
Bumthang Valley sites.
While in Bumthang we visit many of the valley’s significant sites. Among them is Jampa Lhakhang, which according to legend, was one of 108 temples built in a day by Tibetan King Songsten Gampo to pin down an evil ogress (Jampa holds down the left knee). In keeping with Bhutan’s significant historical figures, we also visit Kurjey Lakhang, where Guru Rimpoche came in the 8th century to settle issues with feuding local rulers. With a flash of his magic, the guru resolved the conflict and converted everyone to Buddhism, leaving his body imprint on the rock for which Kurjey Lhakhang is named. The Kurjey Lhakhang temple complex is made up of three buildings, and the body imprint of the guru can be seen in the first and oldest of the temples, built in 1652.
In the evenings we sample local specialties such as buckwheat noodles and pancakes, locally produced Swiss cheese, fresh apple juice, and a delicious home-made wheat beer. If you choose, you can take part in traditional songs and dances.
Karma Tobden Mountain Lodge, Jakar
Transfer to Paro (approximately 10 hrs*).
Today we retrace our route to Paro, where our journey began. There will be plenty of time to stretch our legs along the way, including stops for both tea breaks and lunch. We have another chance for some spectacular views of the Himalayas as we drive over the Dochu La and Yotung La passes. Following a Bhutanese tradition, we will have the opportunity to spread our own prayer flags at the top of one of these passes, granting us blessings for a long life.
Upon arrival in Paro, we stretch our legs with a stroll through the market before enjoying dinner.
Janka Resort, Paro
*Estimated based on actual driving times. The total transfer time is longer when taking rest stops into account. We will book guests on a domestic flight for this day if there is availability. We encourage you to reserve early to guarantee a seat on this flight. The group may have to split up, with some flying and some driving, but we meet up in the evening in Paro.
Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery.
Hike – moderate, 4-5 hours on hiking trails; approximate elevation gain of 1,650 feet.
This evening, we’ll visit a local farmhouse to relax our muscles while enjoying a traditional hot-stone bath therapy. Mineral-laden stones are fired and then immersed in a tub of water. As it cools, another heated stone is added to maintain a comfortable temperature. (Please note that the facilities are basic, and the therapy is done the customary Bhutanese style. If you prefer a spa version of this therapy, you may do so at an additional expense).
Cheli La Pass to Kila Gompa.
Hike - moderate, 2-3 hours on hiking trails and dirt roads; approximate elevation loss of 1,300 feet.
Leaving the prayer-flag-swathed col and our vehicle behind, we strike off along the ridge, passing through meadows, before re-entering forests of larch, spruce, hemlock, fir and rhododendron. After a little under two hours, we see the Kila Gompa, seemingly suspended in rock crags. Home to approximately 30 nuns, this place has served as a retreat for meditation since the 9th century. Kila means “spiritual dagger,” and a visit to the temple is often thought to tame the negative emotions of anger, ignorance, and greed.
Departure from Paro.
An early morning departure from Paro returns us to Bangkok, where we say farewell before our journey home or continue on to other exciting destinations.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary to take advantage of weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these should the need arise.
- Apr 16–27, 2014
- May 05–16, 2014
- Sep 22–Oct 03, 2014
- Oct 06–17, 2014
- Oct 31–Nov 11, 2014
2014 Land Cost
$5,195 per person, No Single Supplement*
Single Supplements: (Free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.)
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement may be charged to participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. We have made every effort to eliminate or greatly reduce this cost for most of our scheduled small-group departures; however, these savings are limited to two single supplements per departure. Therefore, the first two single participants to reserve will receive the savings. This is not applicable to our Private Collection journeys.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 90 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary).* Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands. Please see these trip pages for more details.
Bangkok, Thailand to Paro, Bhutan (RT)
- All accommodations
- All meals
- All transportation during the tour (including a domestic flight on Day 9, if available)
- All activities as noted in the itinerary
- Bhutanese visa fees and departure taxes
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Sangay Wangchuk: Sangay spent almost two decades in the tourism business and has trekked many of Bhutan’s trails and climbed some Himalayan mountains. He completed practical mountain management courses in Chamonix, France, forming a basis for his guiding background. His pride and passion for Bhutan’s culture and ecology is evident, and he always willing to share is knowledge with others. He is a published author of: Seeing with the Third Eye: Growing up with Grandma in Rural Bhutan, depicting his interest in preserving local beliefs and traditions.
Dawa Tashi (on right): Dawa has led a variety of Boundless Journeys tours, from treks in the mountains to festival celebrations in the valleys. His local knowledge and amicable personality make him a real treasure to have on the trail. Whether hiking at high altitude or exploring local towns in the lowlands, Dawa ensures that our guests come away with an outstanding experience, providing them with a a deep appreciation of his country and culture.
Kinley Tshering (on left): Kinley (or Kelly, as he is known among his Bhutanese coworkers) joined our local staff of guides after completing extensive training in 2006, and has led many tours for Boundless Journeys, becoming a favorite among our guests. Very friendly and down to earth, Kinley is extremely knowledgeable and always determined to make your trip special.
Leki Phuntsho: Leki is a well-educated local guide who has lived his whole life in Bhutan and who currently resides just outside of Thimphu. He completed his extensive Guide Training from the Tourism Council of Bhutan in 2006, and enjoys trekking when not leading guests on cultural tours of his homeland. With his infectious love and passion for the country, Leki carries the adventurous spirit of a true Bhutanese guide. Very friendly and down to earth, Leki is always determined to make your trip special.
What other guests have said about our guides in Bhutan:
“It is truly impossible for me to express in words my gratitude and appreciation for the professionalism, dedication, and hard work of your team in Bhutan. Dawa was so accommodating and flexible throughout the entire tour. He certainly went out of his way to make sure the experience in Bhutan was both memorable and enjoyable for everyone in the group.” – S.G., East Rochester, NY
“Dawa was excellent, especially on the walks and hikes; very helpful. He was also extremely knowledgeable about Buddhism. We were very fortunate to have Dawa!” – S. M., Cambridge, MA
“It was an honor to be guided by someone I would consider to be Bhutan’s first-class ambassador, Sangay Wangchuk. Sangay was always imparting great knowledge, wit and wisdom with all members of our group. He became our Buddha.” – V. A., Playa del Rey, CA
“Sangay was such a pleasure to have on the trek – friendly, knowledgeable, open, and upbeat! He was amazing, sharing stories of his culture and the promise of things to come.” – K. L., Englewood, NJ
“Kinley Tshering was the most amazing guide. I have traveled to many places around the globe and been around a lot of guides. Kinley is truly outstanding. His patience, knowledge and good humor made every day special for us. He never tired to explain details to us or find a cup of tea. He is full of life and his love for his country showed greatly.” – G.M., Baltimore, MA
“Kinley was amazing in his knowledge and command of English in order to pass along information. If someone mentioned one thing or asked a question about something, he incorporated that into the next day’s activity or found it for us. For example, we had read about how incense is made and about momos in the DrukAir magazine on the flight over. We mentioned those things to Kinley and sure enough he found a small incense manufacturer for us to visit and made sure we had plenty of momos!” – G. M., Greenwich, CT
Picture Yourself Here:
Bhutan's dramatic scenery with spectacular river valleys, snowcapped sacred mountains, terraced rice fields, and striking architecture
Warm and welcoming Bhutanese people and a devout Buddhist culture
Temples and monasteries accessible only on foot
Stunning day hikes to remote villages
- Apr 16–27, 2014
- May 05–16, 2014
- Sep 22–Oct 03, 2014
- Oct 06–17, 2014
- Oct 31–Nov 11, 2014
You may also be interested in:
Prefer a private departure?
Please see our Private Collection, Bhutan: Hidden Kingdom in the Himalayas
EARLY BOOKING RECOMMENDED
It is important to reserve your trip early, as the Bhutanese national airline has a new ticketing policy and will only accept reservations with the full payment of the ticket. Therefore we are unable to hold group seats in advance of reservations.
What others have said...
Bhutan can't be described. It must be experienced.
- Lynn Duncan, Bhutan, April
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