Bhutan is one of the least discovered countries in the world and really different from all the other countries I’ve visited before.
Why is it so special?
It is a small kingdom hidden behind the high Himalayas located between Tibet and India and is home to approximately 760,000 people. Polygamy is legal (marrying several people) for both men and women. Men and women always wear traditional costumes during work, school, etc. It is one of the most dangerous places in the world to land by plane and I have noticed it! You can drive up to 50 km per hour across the country, everyone speaks fluent English and the cannabis grows wild everywhere even in cities and towns. However, these are only a few details, because I haven’t said anything about Buddhism and the respectful treatment of nature, animals and people.
Right now in 2018, the people of Bhutan are the happiest people in the whole world.
A special term invented in Bhutan is ‘gross national happiness‘. With this, the Bhutanese king tried to indicate that he considers the quality of life of his population more important than the economic growth of the country.
You cannot travel freely in the country, you are obliged to book a guide and driver in advance who will show you all the beautiful places in the country and who will not lose sight of you for a moment.
Start of my journey
After a wonderful roundtrip in Tibet I fly again over the Himalayas, my god it is so beautiful here!
The landing is more than spectacular, there is a lot of wind and the large plane swings back and forth like a small Cessna.
In the city of Paro I meet my guide & driver and we start the roundtrip!
Dantak Road is the highest road in Bhutan. The highest point is the Chela La Pass, this mountain pass is located at an altitude of 3,988 meters and is fantastically beautiful.
The (sand) road lies between the Haa Valley and the Paro Valley and was built in the 90s. It is steep, narrow, has numerous hairpin bends and many deep abysses. A challenging ride!
Hundreds of prayer flags flutter on the pass and the wind blows hard, magical isn’t it? See also this video.
Haa Valley means mysterious valley and as far as I’m concerned, this name is just right!
After my overnight stay in Haa Valley, the journey continues to the relaxed capital Thimpu. But before we get there, we first go and see the big Buddha.
Large Buddha Dordenma
WOW this is by far the biggest buddha I have ever seen! From this place there is also a beautiful view over the valley.
Then we take a walk to a small temple in the forest. Everywhere there are prayer flags again, it makes me happy.
The last thing on the schedule today is the Tashi Cho Dzong, it is one of the most beautiful dzongs in the country. A Dzong is used as a temple and also as a government building.
After breakfast we first go to see the Takins, I’ve never seen them before! It is a large animal and a cross between a cow and a goat.
On the way to Punakha we drive over the Dochu La pass at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters. There are 108 Buddhist temples close to each other on this pass, the locals believe that the Dochu La pass is the home of many spirits. It is a bit foggy at this height, but a little later we have spectacular views of the valley again.
We continue our journey to the Monastery of the Divine Madman, a legendary figure of Bhutanese history. He was convinced that a licentious life opens the way to nirvana with great pleasure. Everywhere in the country you see phallus symbols painted on the walls and doors of the houses.
Punakha Dzong is without doubt the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. The Palace of Great Luck is located in the middle of the confluence of the rivers Pho (= father) and Mo (= mother).
We spend the night in the Phobjika valley and because it freezes here at night, I have my own wood stove in my cozy Bhutanese room. The dining room is also decorated in the beautiful Bhutanese style.
After a cold start, because my wood stove had unfortunately gone out, we go to see the black-necked crane. These birds are currently breeding here in large numbers.
The hike in the Phobjika Valley takes my breath away. Because we hike up in 3 hours and down in 1 hour. The view is also breathtakingly beautiful!
Burning lake, Mebar Tsho
The next day we go to the lake Mebar Tsho, also called ‘Lake of Burning Fire’, for the locals it is a sacred lake. My guide is delighted when we get there and lights some incense in several places.
Recently a tourist fell into the water and the guide doesn’t like it at all that I also want to take a look at the rock near the water and take a picture.
In Trongsa I visit the 18th century Chendebji Chorten (temple), which is very similar to the Swayambhunath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Afterwards we visit a cozy nunnery, I can chat a bit with the ladies and even take some pictures. My guide helps the nuns prune shrubs. We end the day with a nice walk through the beautiful valley of Tang, what a great day!
With a small plane I fly back to Paro with a few other tourists. We fly over Bhutan and are treated to clear weather again. What a fantastic view, this will never get boring!
There’s a festival going on in Paro and I’m going to have a look. Many people wear colored costumes and the children perform a traditional dance. Afterwards the guide and I will go on a bike ride together. I had something sporty in mind, but things turned out differently. Firstly, cycling is not a daily activity for the guide and secondly, his skirt/jacket of his traditional costume blows open, so he more or less cycles in his underpants and has to stop many times. He does his best but this is impossible, it makes me laugh a lot but we decide to return to the city after 1.5 hours.
On the last day of the tour I take a Buddhist pilgrimage walk to the most famous monastery of Bhutan, Taktshang Monastery, also called Tiger’s Nest. The name Tiger’s Nest originated from an old legend in which the Buddha Padmasambhava flew to this place on the back of a tiger. Subsequently, a beautiful monastery was built.
After two hours of walking uphill, we arrive at the monastery ‘stuck’ against a mountain wall. The view of Taktshang, hanging from a steep rock wall between colored prayer flags, is worth the climb! The guide likes to visit this holy place, gives me a tour and tells me all about it. We share the holy water and he teaches me the prostrations to buddha.
Because we left quite early this morning, there aren’t that many tourists yet and at my request we sit in silence for a while on the cold floor in the temple. I experience total peace and contentment, what a fantastic experience. Really special!
My journey has come to an end and what a great way to end it like this. Bye bye Bhutan I will miss you!
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