William and Kate welcomed to Bhutan with symbols of friendship


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were welcomed to Bhutan with symbols of friendship from the mountainous country.

William and Kate are making a brief visit to the tiny little-known nation that borders India and China.

They will be forging a friendship with Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his wife Queen Jetsun Pema - like the Cambridges a young couple with a family.

The nation is overshadowed by Himalayan peaks and for much of the 20th century the landlocked country was isolated from the world preserving much of its Buddhist traditions, landscapes and wildlife.

The capital Thimphu does not have traffic lights but white-gloved officers directing vehicles, and television was only introduced in the 1990s.

And the well-being and prosperity of its citizens is not measured in financial terms but by a "Gross National Happiness" index.

The royal couple's plane, carrying travelling British media, landed at Paro airport - one of the most challenging places to touch down anywhere in the world.

The runway is surrounded by steep cliffs some rising to heights of more than 5,000 metres.

The couple flew on a chartered jet operated by Royal Bhutan Airlines and before take-off from Guwahati in India the captain announced that the approach to Paro would be "unique and spectacular" so "please don't be alarmed".

The Royal couple were allowed into the cockpit to watch the plane touch down and see the impressive views.

On the tarmac William and Kate were greeted by the King's sister Princess Chhimi Yangzom and her husband and they were each presented with a ceremonial scarf called a khadhar, given as a symbol of friendship.

William and Kate enjoyed a scenic drive to the capital city Thimphu after completing the first leg of their tour of India.

On Wednesday night the region of north-east India the Cambridges were visiting was struck by an earthquake which violently shook buildings and forced people to run from tall structures.

The couple will return to India on Saturday but over the next few days Bhutan's King and his wife who are expected to name their first child - a boy - at the weekend, will be their hosts.

During the day the Cambridges will travel to the Thimphu Dzong an imposing complex that is home to the Bhutanese government and stands close to the Wangchu River.

The Duke and Duchess will take part in a Chipdrel - a traditional welcome procession, complete with music, and participants in ceremonial dress.

Inside the Dzong, they will have a private audience with the King and Queen before the foreign royals lead them across the Dzong's vast courtyard to a temple where they will receive a brief blessing and will light butter lamps.

In the afternoon William and Kate will visit Thimphu's open-air archery venue and see first-hand Bhutan's national sport, where archers compete to hit a small, brightly decorated wooden target 145 metres away.

The Duke and Duchess will also have the opportunity to meet young people from local schools and NGOs and see other traditional games.

In the evening the Cambridges will have a private dinner with King and Queen at Lingkana Palace.