Exploring tranquility

Thursday, October 24, 2013
Thimphu, Thimphu, Bhutan
We had three days to explore Bhutan and were very keen on seeing more of the country. Tourism is monitored such that guides are essentially required at all times, but included in the mandatory daily fees that you pay to be in the country. Because of this, we were given a variety of options on how to spend our time.

The first day we opted for a city tour . This included a couple temples and a massive Buddha statue being constructed by the Chinese overlooking the capital city of Thimphu. The architecture in Bhutan is unique and pretty with draping roofs over often nicely painted facades. Compared with the comparative chaos of Bangladesh and Myanmar, Bhutan was a clean paradise.

The tour continued after a native Bhutanese lunch to a heritage museum that was interesting and kept short. The day ended with a visit to a tsong, a massive old fortress across from the king's modest palace and parliament buildings.

Tuesdays aren't like weekends, but they are deemed to be alcohol free days in all of Bhutan. We had a couple beers high school style in Ingrid's hotel room. Seeing 10 or so grown folks sitting around a sofa and bed drinking a couple beers purchased the evening before was pretty classic. A group dinner topped off a nice but tiring day.

The famous Tiger's Nest was on the agenda for the following day . I was very excited about the hike, having seen the pictures from The parents' visit in 2005. Plus, it'd been too long since I'd had a hike in the woods and up a mountain. Along the way we stopped at the airport. Like kids in a candy store we relished being back there, seeing our planes, and seeing a few airliners arrive and depart. We were dorks.

The hike was first and foremost hot. We arrived later than anyone else, as most try to do it early in the morning. Still though, the path was less-crowded that way so once we started getting altitude things cooled off. Very quickly our group got separated as everyone went at their own pace.

The tranquility and views were great. I really enjoyed it. It was tough, but not overly difficult. With the altitude and heat, the hike just required patience. Once I started to get views of the Tiger's Nest, it became apparent that the reward at the top would be well worth any struggle. As I neared the popular photo vantage point, there were many Buddhist prayer wheels and prayer flags . It was a peaceful sight.

With three others from our group, Vero, Jan, and Georg, I went to the temple complex at the top. Late in the day we practically had it to ourselves. Complete with the waterfall gorge that we had to cross over, I can't help but recommend it. The hike down was enjoyable too with friendly dogs greeting us during a solitary coffee stop.

That about wrapped up the day, as by the time we drove back to the hotel it was already pitch dark. There was a bit a celebrity sighting at our hotel with the king's brother having a wedding reception there. I didn't spot anyone.

The third of our days was going to be dominated by a bike ride. Obviously that sounded good to me. We took an hour-long bus ride to the top of an overlook providing a beautiful view of the Himalayas. Of course there was a temple to visit. But then it was on the bikes for a long descent back into town! Needless to say it was a great time . The roads at the start weren't great and traffic kept things interesting, but I smiled the whole way down. Everyone enjoyed it.

The great day continued because original Bhutanese attire was arranged for us to wear that night during an archery demonstration and traditional folk dance show. It was hilarious! Fortunately Johannes and I brought the traditional knee-high black socks to cover our white legs below what can best be described as a tunic. For those wearing normal length black socks, it was a riot. Everyone laughed and took pictures. The dances were interesting as well, particularly the last one where we could all join in and participate. It was painfully noticeable that too many of us spend too much of time caring about activities other than dancing. The laughs continued, particularly when we watched video clip replays during dinner at a nearby local restaurant.

Our three days in Bhutan exceeded my - and I think everyone's - expectations. It's a magnificent country in a part of the world I'd never been too. Definitely worth another visit! Now we'd just have to fly out of the narrow valleys the following morning and then face legendary general aviation backwardness in India...
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