Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness (Part 1). In and around Thimpu!

A few years ago, the topics during a tea-time confab were Gross Happiness Index, Bhutan, Himalayas and Taktsang Monastery. Like a seed planted grows into a tree, this discussion intrigued me a lot and my fascination to witness the Bhutanese way of living increased by the day. All the enthralling aspects of Bhutan and my all time obsession with nature, and mountains in particular, I added Bhutan travel to my bucket list.

Come 2016, life showed a direction towards pursuing my travel dream. And yes, I visited Bhutan, the Kingdom of Happiness.

Pristine landscapes, spectacular views, amicable people and their spiritual way of life, rich heritage, comforting food, and everything else so heavenly qualify Bhutan for a Utopia. Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is full of never-ending range of hills, verdant plains, meandering perennial rivers, meditative sounds of the Buddhist chants and colorful prayer flags tied everywhere reminding us that nature and spirituality are inseparable.

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Though the pictures don’t do justice to the real beauty of this paradise, and my words can’t describe the magical experience, I shall try my best to give a brief of how and what it was. Our tour was of four days covering the two major cities of Bhutan, Thimpu and Paro. A further long stay will give you much time and opportunity to explore the country better.

First two days in Thimpu

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The Memorial Chorten

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The Memorial Chorten or Memorial Stupa was built in the honor of the third King of Bhutan Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It does not contain human remains, but just a photograph of the King. It is circumambulated in clockwise direction like other religious structures. We spent about an hour in the Chorten witnessing the annual recitation of ‘Seven Line Prayer’ to Guru Rinpochhe. The whole milieu was sacred and ingenuous.

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Buddhists chanting peace mantras. Prayer wheels with “Om Mani Padme Hum” written on them

We later visited the Great Buddha Dordenma, a 169ft gigantic Buddha statue and the Takin Preserve. Takin is the national animal of Bhutan.

Rest of city tour had viewing gorgeous vistas and visiting the important places of interest like Changlimithing multi-purpose national stadium, National Institute for Zorig Chusum (Arts and Crafts school), Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar, National Library of Bhutan etc.

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National Institute for Zorig Chusum trains the Bhutanese youth in 13 native and traditional Bhutanese arts like wood carving, statue-making, painting, weaving, tailoring, embroidery etc. Some of the finished products are also sold for good prices.

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Authentic Bhutanese Arts and Crafts Bazaar, Thimpu

The shops had a unique collection of handcrafted house decors, clothes, book marks, key chains, Bhutanese masks, Bhutanese musical instruments, hand bags, jewelry and many more. The place was a kaleidoscope of colors.

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichhoedzong build by the first Dharma Raja, is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the banks of Wang Chu River. There are thirty temples, chapels and shrines within it. It is the office of Bhutan’s civil government and Kingship together. A few kms near the Dzong is the King’s palace, the Dechencholing Palace. The photograph below is an aerial view of the Dzong and its surroundings.

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Bhutanese Cuisine

Coming to cuisine, red rice and buckwheat are Bhutan’s two main foods. Red rice in Bhutan has an earthy flavor. The Bhutanese make soups and stews out of various vegetables and meats (yak meat being a specialty).  Ema datshi, which is their national dish, is spicy made with large, green chili peppers in a cheesy sauce. It is one of their major comforting and widely made dishes. Momos (dumplings) are also quite famous. Butter Tea (also called Suja) is made of the Bhutanese Tea Leaves, Water, Butter and salt. The Bhutanese also include various spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric, caraway etc in their cooking.

Dha/Archery and Traditional Dresses Gho & Kira

The National game of Bhutan is Dha or Archery. We made sure we wore the traditional dresses of Bhutan (Gho for men and Kira for women) and played archery amidst the serene hilly terrains.

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The Kira
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Playing Dha or Archery wearing a Gho
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Making of the arrows

Bhutanese Architecture

Traditional Architecture remains prevalent in Bhutan. Throughout its history, Bhutan has mainly followed the Tibetan tradition of Buddhist architecture. Any new structure construction is supposed to abide the rules. Read more on the Architecture of Bhutan in wiki here.

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Touring Bhutan is not only a way to escape in the tranquility of nature, but also a fun trip getting to know their unique culture and tradition. It opens your heart to simplicity, variety and spirituality.

Revive your body and awaken your soul, go visit this magical Kingdom.

More on the remaining itinerary in next blogs. I will take through our Paro city tour and the sacred mountainous passes.

So..have you ever been to Bhutan? Please share your experiences, and blog links. Thanks for reading. 🙂

What rain brings.

Monsoons remind me of Visakhaptnam aka Vizag, my home town. I have lived all my childhood waking up to a kaleidoscope of greens, thanks to my dad, an ardent nature lover who thought we should live as close to nature as possible.

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I am being a little biased by mentioning only the rosy things here, else I should also go on about the rainy season woes 🙂

Monsoons in Vizag bring a burst of vibrancy and a splash of lush green to an already verdant view. Our home being at foot hill of the Eastern Ghats and a bit sloped, we experience lovely and fresh water streams gushing on a heavy rainfall day. The sight of monsoon clouds hovering over the majestic hills shrouding and revealing them is in deed salubrious.

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And oh, not to forget the tiny pools of water collected on our terrace top, I remember jumping into them and splashing water all over myself. All those little birdies singing at the top of their voice and, freshest flowers and leaves with rain droplets raise your spirits high and make you live in the moment.

Over time I have captured these scenes in my camera and though they don’t do justice to the beauty of this rainy paradise, they keep these special memories alive. So well, I have a lot of rainy tales to tell, but for now please enjoy viewing these photographs.

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So, will you tell me what you love about rains, apart from petrichor? 🙂

Remembering the woods of Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
                                    – Robert Frost
It is a humbling experience to live in the placid woods – the crisp weather, the forest sounds, the sun peeking through the tall trees, the howling of the gentle wind and all that ambiance coming alive straight out of a fairy tale. One such remarkable experience is what we had living in a quaint little cottage in the deep woods of Pinetop-Lakeside, a popular summer resort in Arizona.

The cottage we rented

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We were up to a lot of shenanigans ranging from swinging, playing cricket, singing and yelling near the bonfire and running wild in the woods.

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About the town- Pinetop-Lakeside

Pinetop-Lakeside boasts of its exquisite natural beauty and is surrounded by the White Mountains, the Apache/Sitgreaves National Forest, and the Fort Apache Reservation. Since we were visiting only for a couple of days, the available recreational activities like hiking, biking, fishing etc were not in our to-do list.

Fools Hollow Lake

After spending one whole day goofing around the woods and experiencing life in the cottage, the second day we went to relax by the Fools Hollow Lake. It is a recreation lake park near the city of Show Low, a few miles away from our cabin.

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It was in deed difficult to say good-bye to such a pleasant vacation, a vacation full of life. Like they say “Get lost in nature and you will find yourself”, even if it was only for two days, I did gather enough memories for a lifetime to look back and find myself whenever I get lost. Now, this is what I called Nature Therapy.

Did you ever take a walk in the woods?