Welcome to the world as we see it when travelling!
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We were already very much looking forward to the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery – a highlight of the trip through the country for many visitors.
What is so special about Taktshang – that’s how the locals call this place? Well, first of all, it is a very picturesque place. A monastery nested on a super steep rock face in the Himalayan mountains. But why do humans build a monastery exactly there – at one of the most difficult places to build a structure? Sure, the view is extraordinary, but there are maybe other places with a nice view but easier access?
I open an eye. Twilight outside. Dawn is slowly giving changing the pitch black outside into a grayish. Getting lighter by the minute.
It’s early morning. My eyes are still adjusting after waking up. But the sounds outside reveal, we are at the country side. Forest close by.
I slept very well on the mattress on the floor in a farmhouse in the Phunaka valley. There is already some activity outside. Time to get up…
Our guide Tenzin is already helping our host to setup the breakfast tables outside. A bit improvised, but what a view over the valley. Clouds slowly lifted while the sun is coming up.
I love food and wherever we travel you can find me in the kitchen. Kitchens are social places, there is always an opportunity to support the cook, learn something new and chat with the people, even if this is only with hand and feet.
Let’s take a break form the cultural experiences and get to the culinary side of Bhutan, before we continue staying in a local farmhouse in the Phunaka valley.
Since we travel Bhutan with a guide, which is not our usual travel style, we had to trust on Tenzins’ recommendations. We told him that we want local food and love spicy. We ended up in a restaurant with 100% foreigners as guests and he disappeared when food was served. Food was tasteless and besides the rice, I think there was nothing local. When he reappeared, we asked where he was eating. “Another place where they have food for locals” he said. “That’s the kind of place we want to go tomorrow, don’t get us in a tourist place again please!” we asked him for. “But it is spicy!” he replied to get reminded “We love spicy very much!”.
Long story short: We got tested with some snacks (deep fried chili, some other things I am not sure what it was) and from there on, we did not enter any tourist restaurant (with the exception of the one at tiger’s nest, but we were too hungry and this was the only place. And Tenzin organized some chili paste from the kitchen, so we could manage). Instead of typical restaurants, we tried to eat at farmhouses as often as possible, which is the best you can do…
I saw excitement, sparkling eyes and at the same time a reverent expression in the face of our guide Tenzin, when he spoke to a local monk in a monastery at the entry of the Trongsa Valley. It was joy, but not just joy. Maybe a little similar to a small boy waiting at Christmas Eve to be allowed to see the tree with all the candles and the strong believe that Santa is about to bring some presents…
So what was this all about? “A blessing is being held at the Dzong tomorrow.” was the explanation. “Is this blessing something special to the people?” I wanted to know. “Yes, very special! The monk is very famous. There will be a lot of people. It will be difficult to park the car.” Difficulties to park the car seems to be a global topic, even in a remote valley in Bhutan. “No problem at all to walk. Will it still be possible to visit the Dzong then?”. Since the Bhutanese people are very open to visitors, it did not seem to be any problem at all. So we were curious.
The next morning, the atmosphere was somehow busy but at the same time very calm and patient.
The city of Thimphu faded away behind us. We set off to explore the countryside of Bhutan.
Roads are always spectacular in this mountainous country. But today leads us above the Dolchua pass. 108 stupas in the front. The horizon dotted with several 7000+ meter high snow-capped mountains.
Arriving at the highest point of the road, we see the stupas. But where are the mountains?
While many other cultures are steered along the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an indicator for the development of the country, Bhutan takes a little bit a different approach.
Of course people in Bhutan are also motivated by and keep an eye on their financial situation, but overall many more factors are taken into account. Both on small scale by everybody individually as well as by the government.
First of all you can really see a feeling of belonging together between people on the streets, much more than in our western cultures. There is only a small number of people in the world speaking Zhongka (the local laguage) making conversations between each other a little different and makes them “special”, but its not only that…
A buzzing atmosphere full of colors, smiling people, excitement to meet others, almost endless dances and music full of mystical aspects.
We were lucky to be in town while the Thimphu festival – one of the biggest in Bhutan – was on. Apparently the Tshechu is like Christmas, Easter and a city festival together for the Bhutanese living in the Thimphu valley. Months in advance people plan what they are going to wear. New clothes are being made. On the day itself, kids are often sent in the very early morning to reserve a place for the family, because literally EVERYBODY will go there, watch, meet and enjoy.
Bhutan – the country, not the gas *smiley smiling* . But where exactly is it? And wasn’t it a country which does not let travelers in, or only a limited number? How can you communicate there – the national language is Dzongkha. Only 237 000 people (less than the population of Bonn) speak it and there are at least 18 other languages used in Bhutan. Will it be like traveling in China 20 years ago when speaking with hands and feet really became real for me. Or maybe completely different?
Well, join us on our adventure through the little kingdom in the Himalaya and you will find out on all the questions above and be amazed as we were how different this world is over there…
Despite other rumors from people we know, there is still no risk of running out of ideas and motivation to travel. You can rather think about a time constraint we faced over the last years, but we have a mitigation idea…
Let us take you along, inspire you and bring the world out there a little closer to your home *smiley cool*
5:00am! We will definitely beat the crowds visiting the Moai at sunrise!
Unfortunately the sunrise is on the other side of the island, its pitch dark (no street lamps), the road has quite some pot holes, we have a scooter… and it is raining *smiley annoyed* Don’t ask how, but we made it well before any sun light was hitting the horizon and enjoyed a dramatic looking scenery