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Excited Bhutan welcomes British royals

Associated Press Associated Press 14/04/2016 Wasbir Hussain

Greeted by a Bhutanese girl and boy with bouquets of flowers, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived on a windy Thursday morning in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan for a daylong visit at the invitation of its king and queen.

Prince William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, stepped from their jet on to 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 was waiting to drive them about 40 minutes to their hotel in the capital of Thimphu.

The British royals were expected to spend the day watching an archery match and later dine with Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema, who are wildly popular in the nation of 800,000. They will also meet the Bhutanese royal couple's one-year-old baby.

On Friday they planned to hike to a Buddhist monastery perched at an altitude of 3000 metres, 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 weeklong tour of India and Bhutan. They have already visited Mumbai, New Delhi and the wildlife reserve of Kaziranga National Park in the northeast Indian state of 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 were to head back to India to visit the Taj Mahal, retracing the steps of a 1992 visit to the monument of love by William's mother, the late Princess Diana.

The British royals 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.

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