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Bhutan and India (2006)

a travel blog by shoshtrvls

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Day 1

New Delhi, India

We arrived in New Delhi quite late last night and thus didn't sleep much overnight, although the hotel was lovely. We checked out around 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the airport quite early -- lots of time to kill and nothing of interest a the airport. Ellery is essentially on a hunger strike, refusing to eat anything unfamiliar.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 21, 2006 from New Delhi, India
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Day 1 (Continued)

Paro, Bhutan

The plane was slightly delayed but the flight to Kathmandu was short. The views as we landed were spectacular, and I'm amazed at how much Kathmandu has grown in 19 years. We stayed on the plane and then less than an hour we were in Paro. Although we had hoped to get a glimpse of Mt. Everest, there was too much cloud cover -- maybe on the way home.

With less than 50 people on the plane, clearing Bhutan immigration and customs is quick. I don't declare my cigarettes and am not caught. :-)

We are met by our guide Palden. He is young, but very poised and speaks perfect English. (Although English is the official language of Bhutan, you never really know ...). His attire is traditional: a black Gho, knee-high black socks, and black shoes. The Gho is made of pinstripe material with wide white cuffs. Traditional clothing is the norm -- western clothes are not worn while working.

We arrive at our hotel, the Gangety Palace. Quite traditional layout; we are given a large room on the top floor with wonderful views of the Dzong and the town of Paro. Ellery immediately falls asleep in the huge bed.

I meet Palden in the restaurant for coffee and biscuits before we head out for Kyichu Lhakhang temple. Build in the 7th century, it was/is said to pin an ogresses' left foot. The temple is small but filled with interesting buddhas. From there it is back to town, walking down the main street of small shops and restaurants. All the buildings -- houses, shops, hotels -- look the same. As in most rural places, cows and dogs rule the roads.

At dinner in the hotel, Palden tells of his trip tothe US in 2001, spending time with his cousin in Queens, NY, and in Boston, Colorado and, of all places, Cleveland (visiting with a family who had come to Bhutan). I also learn of his attempt to organzie a running trek, his 19-month old daughter, and other interesting tidbits. Ellery eats only rice.

The evening rains come during dinner. I suspect this will be a pattern. Els and I turn in around 8:30. I feel I am back to "me" -- me in an exotic location, feeling and exploring and open to the experience.

Notes: Palden presents us with kigs, which scarves, baskets, and a travel notebook and pen. And a nice touch was a note from Trish, who arranged our trip.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 21, 2006 from Paro, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Day 2

Paro, Bhutan

Ellery awoke at about 3:30 a.m. and didn't really to back to sleep, so we were both up quite early surveing the view from the hotel. Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. consisted of toast, butter and some bananas and, for me, horrible "baked beans."

Eventually we set off for the National Museum. As a former watchtower, the structure was interesting, as were many of the buddhas inside. The balance of the museum consisted of trongsas (banners) and other artifacts. The stairs in all the buildings are steep, built like the land.

Then it was to the dzong -- much larger up close. There was to be a special ceremony this evening so there were many people and monks about. Ellery and I bought cords knotted by the lama -- hers blue for water, mine red for fire. Monks as young as 7 moved about. The weather was perfect so we walked down the road, across the fortified bridge over Paro Chhu (river), near a chorten where our car and driver Dorji met us.

However, we weren't done with Paro yet because just as we were leaving we passed several men practicing archery, Bhutan's national sport. Even more interesting, they were using tratiional bows and arrows and were shooting arrows very, very far away. Fascinating.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 22, 2006 from Paro, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Day 2 (Continued)

Thimphu, Bhutan

On the drive to Thimpu, we passed Tamchhog Lhakhag, a private temple, and an old iron suspension bridge before arriving at Chhuzom, where the Paro Chhu and the Wan Chhu meet. Here we were stranded for about an hour because of road work, although this gave me (Ellery was asleep) time to walk through the small stalls where the roads meet, photograph the three chortens (Tibetan, Nepali and Bhutanese) at the rivers' convergence, and get an up close look at several prayer flags.

The drive from Chhuzom was uneventful -- food stalls along the way.

After checking int othe hotel and having a late lunch, we visited the Textile Museum, which Ellery enjoyed, and the paper-making factory, where Ellery bought a small scroll. The textile weaving, something Bhutan is known for, was very fine. There was a spectacular embroidered square that had taken 2 men one year to make.

Ellery and I then walked the main street of Thimphu. It didn't smell all the great, but that didn't stop Ellery from making friends with many small dogs. We visited a handcrafts store and had dinner at the hotel.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 22, 2006 from Thimphu, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Day 3

Thimphu, Bhutan

Even though they had an American breakfast at the hotel, Ellery still insisted on eating just toast, butter and apples. I, on the other hand, ate cereal, eggs, toast with apple juice and coffee. We wandered a bit until Palden arrived promptly at 8:30.

Our first stop of the day was the National Memorial Chorten, building in memory of the Third King. Four stories tall and amazing statuary in the middle. Many pilgrims were circling the chorten and we spent a fair amount of time here.

(Notes: missing a site/sight -- Dechen Phadrang/neck cords??)

Then it was up to the remains of the zoo, which is now just a sanctuary for the Takin, the national animal, which appears to be a mix of goat and yak. Then we went up to the telecom tower for the view of Thimphu and the many, many prayer flags.

The drive down offered terrific views of the modern dzong and lead us to the Sangay Traditional Arts and Crafts School. We watched students learning a variety of crafts -- Ellery was most taken with the sculpting. Then to shopping and the Folk Heritage Museum -- a replica of a traditional farmhouse.

After lunch, Palden's wife took us shopping for a kira for Ellery, which she loves, and so do I. Then it was time for a small trek.

First we drove to our campsite along the Wang Chhu. Along the way we passed a rock with the largest painting of a buddha I think I've ever seen. Our campsite was just over the river from the road by way of an old covered bridge from the road. After tea, we hiked up a steep trail to the Cheri Goemba (monastery), where advanced monks now study. Imagine being in a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayan Mountains!

Our arrival at the Monastery was enhanced by seeing a barking deer, a mountain goat on the monastery tower and, best of all, several langurs (monkeys). We toured the temple, saw the monks at prayer and had tea, before heading back down.

A hearty river-side dinner capped off the day.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 23, 2006 from Thimphu, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Day 4

Thimphu, Bhutan

In the morning, we trekked up another mountain to the Tango Monastery, which hugs the side of the mountain. Ellery was a trooper and her complaints were few as she searched for flowers, trees and other markers. The final path was lined with flags. We toured the temple, watched the monks rush in for studies and then returned to the campsite for lunch.

Then it was a wonderful, albeit muddy, two hour walk back to Thimphu, passing farmhouses, Tibetan villages, a painting school, and farmers bringing their crops (such as potatoes) to market. Although I didn't write much about it, it was fantastic -- beautiful, mystical.

Back in Thimphu I bought myself a half-kira and jacket, and then had dinner a the hotel. I spent much of the evening sitting outside, smoking and talking with the hotel manager -- the type of experiences I relish.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 24, 2006 from Thimphu, Bhutan
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Day 5

Thimphu, Bhutan

We spent the first hour of the morning (after Ellery finished throwing up@@) at the weekend market in Thimphu. Piles and piles of vegetables, fruits, and spices were offered fro sale, and we ended up buying some bananas for our drive. Then we crossed the bridge to the handicrafts market and shopped. We bought many smaller items as gifts, a few things for Ellery to take to school, and two expensive pieces -- a Tibetan prayer book and a beautiful dagger.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 25, 2006 from Thimphu, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Day 5 (Continued)

Punakha, Bhutan

After completing our shopping in Thimphu, we drove to Punakha. As we crossed the high mountain pass, the rain came (or we came to the rain) and Palden and Dorji hung a prayer flag at the top of the pass, where there were so many such flags that it was amazing.

We passed at least one hillside monastery and many villages and water-driven prayer wheels. The fog was thick for much of the drive, giving the rugged high jungle (and it was jungle) an eerie beauty. We eventually descended into the rice patty valley.

After lunch at our hotel, we continued on to the dzong (the fortress of happiness), a large, imposing structure in the valley. The main courtyard holds a large bodhi tree. The young monks were praying as we passed through on our way to the main temple. Although relatively new, it was spectacular, with 3 enormous buddhas, magnificently painted walls and gold pillars. We also climbed ot the top of the tower and visited two more temples before leaving the dzong.

Our final stop of the day was a short walk through the rice patties and a tiny village to a small temple called Chimi Lhaking, where we received a fertility blessing using an arrow and phallus (not that either Ellery or I are looking to be fertile right now). There was much praying going on inside -- throughout this trip was have chanced on several special prayer days/ceremonies as it appears we are traveling during certain auspicious days.

When we returned to the hotel, we found a group of Thai tourists who were a welcome diversion.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 25, 2006 from Punakha, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Day 6

Wangdiphodrang, Bhutan

This was a long day of driving, but spectacularly beautiful. We set out early from Punakha and soon came to Wangdue. Being "dzonged-out," and with more to come, we didn't stop at the dzong but did wander around the small town of Wangdi where the weekend market was occurring.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 26, 2006 from Wangdiphodrang, Bhutan
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Day 6 (Continued)

Tongsa, Bhutan

From Wangdi we climbed (by car) to Pele La, a pass at 3420 meters. As with all the passes, it was covered with prayer flags and a chorten, which in this case marked the coundary between Western and Central Bhutan.

The roadsides were covered with bamboo and eventually we stopped to take a short walk through beautiful fields to a small village. It was wonderful to watch Ellery running on the path through the fields of mustard. Although we were hoping to see some yaks, they were much further up the mountains. In the village, we were treated to a tour of a real farmhouse -- much better than the folk museum.

Continuing by car, past women making and selling bamboo mats pressed by the passing cars and passing many waterfalls, we soon arrived at our lunch stop - a relatively new restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

More driving, until we eventually spotted Trongsa (Tongsa) Dzong hanging on top of a mountain. (At the viewpoint, Ellery lost her camera -- it was bound to happen). Although it seemed that we were close to Trongsa, it was another half an hour or so until we reached the dzong.

Unlike the other dzongs we visited, this one was almost completely empty, giving it a very different feel. We didn't stay there long before heading to our hotel, by far the nicest one to date. We weren't here alone -- a woman from the Netherlands working for the Department of Tourism was waiting for a group of 15 guides that she was going to take on a new trek. We had a very pleasant early evening sitting on the terrace, drinking coffee and talking. Dinner with Palden included a nice wine, and Ellery and Dorji are becoming fast friends.

permalink written by  shoshtrvls on August 26, 2006 from Tongsa, Bhutan
from the travel blog: Bhutan and India (2006)
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Welcome to my travels. On this site you'll find recent trips and some very old trips. You'll note that for some trips I wrote very detailed reports (at least in the beginning), for others, I didn't even take notes of where I was on what dates. Nevertheless, I've done my best to document, to...

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