It’s always great to be home after a trip…no matter where. I guess that’s one of the benefits of travel – appreciating the bounty you have at home. Just returned from Bhutan and the land of GNH…yes, that’s Gross National Happiness. It doesn’t hurt to have a Buddhist mindset! Our guide and driver did make us happy and they even managed to put up with us for the week we were there…they did, however, keep up their mantras which must have been some help. Bhutan’s vegetation is similar to the Sierras with it’s pine trees and elevation.
The flight in from Bangkok was quite exciting, as the jet banked through the narrow valley on its approach to Paro. A favorite event was the in-villa massage at Uma Paro. What’s not to like with the villa having its own massage room with a corner fireplace blazing. Although food is not remarkable in Bhutan, here at the Uma Paro it was delicious.
Bhutan, as you know, is a constitutional monarchy but no castles or palaces in evidence. It’s 95% Buddhist (no churches) and we did catch some monks-in-training at a young age… and bathing and playing in the river.
In the capital of Thimphu, what is going to be the largest sitting buddha in the world is in the final stages. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and we were able to witness archers shooting at a target a football field away (just a small exaggeration). When they hit a target the team did a little dance…it didn’t happen often.
We were able to see the rare black neck cranes in the Phobjikha Valley just in from Tibet. And…we visited a small temple dedicated to the “divine mad monk” Drukpa Kinley…who taught dharma by using a shocking and ribald sense of humor. Women having trouble conceiving come here to pray and there are many fertility symbols (i.e. penises) painted on houses, stores, etc…along with a 4 ft carved phallus in the restaurant there.
We managed a hike up to Tiger’s Nest…a 2000 foot hike and a Must Do! This is one of the most revered spots in the Himalaya. It’s good to be in shape however and not a trek to make if you have any kind of heart condition. There are donkeys to take up but not a good thing if you outweigh the donkey. You can also take your children to be blessed… or boiled.
All-in-all, a very good trip and amazingly relaxing. Of course, having a massage every other day didn’t hurt. It’s a trip to take if you like touring, temples and monasteries and don’t need sun and sand to be happy. There’s really just one main road with some of it paved…they are working on it. And no stop lights…just one intersection in Thimphu with a balletic traffic policeman. We were lucky with the weather – a bit cool but not cold. The elevation was only a problem on our hike up to Taktsang Lhankhang (Tiger’s Nest). The people are lovely and English is spoken by most.
We stopped in Cambodia at Siem Riep before heading to Bhutan. Here are some of my favorite shots from the temples we visited there.