for us nothing about Bhutan went anywhere close to the boom! pow! bang! entry we
made at Phunsholing on the India-Bhutan border. The drive from Phuntsholing to
Shaba (where we’d be based during our entire stay in Bhutan) was a slightly
longish one, courtesy the delay incurred and the night-time drive through the
And it wouldn’t
be until the next morning when I’d realize what paradise looked like and how
gorgeous it really was. Our modest little hotel was located adjacent to a
little river and was surrounded by mountains on all sides. These mountains were
covered in a thick green blanket of lush green trees and shrubs. Anywhere you
set your eyes the curves of mountain tops and bends the river made filled you
with a visual delight. In the days that would follow the rain gods accompanied
us, so the river swelled and the mountains were wrapped with mist and cloud
cover adding regality to paradise!
again the rain gods got a little too generous and chose to shower down
incessantly on both the mountain tops as well as our plans. As a consequence we
had to give one of the must-sees the Taktsang Monastery (AKA Tiger’s Nest) a
miss! With too much sadness in our hearts, we stood in weed-lands of weed and
struck a pose one too many attempting to also capture the monastery in the same
frame! The drive to Che Le La was another visual treat amid the mist layered
pines that accompanied us as we drove to the top but couldn’t unfortunately see
Mount Everest due to cloud cover.
everything was rained down upon. During the not-at-all-raining followed by the
not-raining-too-much days, we visited the National Museum in Paro which wasn’t just
a beautiful structure made of layered stones (which the more, I saw realized
was core to the architecture of Bhutan) but was also nestled between the
beautiful mountain ranges that overlooked a valley and water body.
spent time getting lost in the ruins of the Drukgyel Dzong, a once upon a time
fortress and monastery now reduced to its current state by a fire. There was
something magical in the air there and I found myself tripping on how it
somehow transported me back to the 17th
century. With no other tourists
in the vicinity, it was just us left to draw out our own stories of what may
day we also visited the Kyichu Monastery famed for the two orange trees there
that bear fruit all throughout the year.
Drukgyel Monastery transported me back in time then the little trek to the
Cherry Monastery near Thimphu brought out the Zen in me. It drizzled as we
trekked and got closer to a place that’s renowned for bringing monks here to
practice meditation and levitation. On the way back down after which we lunched
by the river, I had my moment of going solo as most of the group were yet to
begin their descent.
But it was
the sudden twist in the weather on that little walk to the Golden Buddha with
the wind and rain lashing us leaving us out cold yet determined to behold the splendour
of the magnanimous Buddha at 61 meters that still remains a funny memory.
you the true flavour of any town, city or country is its local markets and we
spent our every evening exploring the markets in Paro and Thimphu by eating,
shopping but mostly just walking. Everywhere around you are locals dressed in
their traditional Gho and Kira without a worry written on their faces. Another
observation was how people accept anything you give them with both hands and a
slight bend forward as if in gratitude to the giver.
It is no
wonder that this is the country that measures happiness and actually embodies
it in practice too. It may seem outlandish then when you open a newspaper and
find a headline on the front cover that reads “Bridge collapse leaves horses
injured” or the editorial that’s titled “Bhutan balances urbanization with
pursuit of happiness”. I use the word outlandish because most of us are on the
expressway to pursuing something else under the guise of growth and
On a parting
note however a visual that will continue to stay with me from Thimphu is the
very absence of any traffic-lights and sounds of cars honking while the traffic
cop (like a character straight out of Broadway) gracefully moves his
white-gloved hands in sync to some unheard tune as drivers listen (and obey)
with rapt attention.
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