Taktshang / Tiger's Nest, BhutanTaktshang / Tiger's Nest, Bhutan

Taktshang – The Tiger’s Nest monastery

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?

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Farmhouse dinner, BhutanFarmhouse dinner, Bhutan

Bhutan – Culinary experience

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.

Since we traveled in 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!”.

Eating Bhutanese food is a spicy affair

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…

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Trongsa, BhutanTrongsa, Bhutan

Trongsa – travelling back in time into a valley going crazy

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…

The big excitement: the blessing

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.

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Thimphu FestivalThimphu Festival

Bhutanese festivals – THE yearly event for everyone in the valley

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.

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Arrival in BhutanArrival in Bhutan

Bhutan – First Glimpse and the reason why we decided to go

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…

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Easter Island, ChileEaster Island, Chile

Rapa Nui by scooter

Time to say goodbye to the South American Continent…

After almost 6 flight hours (Boing 767, no small what so ever bird…*smiley winking* there was:

One thing to clarify, as we Germans tend to speak about “die Osterinseln” and some English speaking people “the Easter Islands”: It’s only one island – and some two or three very tiny islets – so singular it should be!

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Otavalo, EcuadorOtavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo – Early Birds on the Indian Market

We got used to the altitude in the Andes. For the first days, you feel much older up here at 4000+ meters.

Despite our lack of Spanish, we organized a luxury low-budget trip to Galapagos. A long-term dream of us about to come true.

Still pumped with energy to explore. No vacation time to waste. Only much later we will realize the value of just living into the day. From time to time floating around, letting things happen.

But for now: How to fill the 2 day gap until Galapagos?

I saw some interesting pictures by fellow travelers. As food-lover I am anxious. Now I need to convince Thorsten to explore one of the biggest farmers markets in the region…

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Quito, EcuadorQuito, Ecuador

Up and down in Quito

Yes, we finally made it to Ecuador *smiley smiling*

On 2850 meters above sea level, Quito is already quite high. The altitude makes you feel old(er) when walking around or taking the stairs. The later one you will do a lot in Quito, as the city stretches well into the hills around.

We opted to stay in a nice double room in a hostel nearby the Old Town*. From there many sights are in walk-able distance and we immediately started to make use of this.

Spanish influence and language

Exploring the colonial center, you feel the strong Spanish influence. It is still present today in buildings, habits of people and of course the language.

Oh, talking about “language”: We now realize that not really learning at least some basic Spanish* before visiting Ecuador was not the best idea. You can make your way around using gestures and some English words. But we definitely put learning a proper level of Spanish on our list *smiley worried*

After strolling through the old colonial Quito we climbed even higher to earn our evening beer. Walking a lot of stairs in thin air and reveals breathtaking views over Quito after sunset…

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Germany, FrankfurtGermany, Frankfurt

Stuck in Heathrow…

Ironically after all the planning and preparation, we did not make it further than to London Heathrow on the first day. Ending up in on of the many nameless and similar hotels lined up there, both of us had seen during consulting projects in the last years.

What on earth had happened?

The flight from London to Madrid, from where we had a directly connecting flight to Quito was so much delayed, that it was clear we will miss the second one in Madrid. Initially we were very relaxed with 6 months free time ahead of us and already saw us sitting in a nice hotel in Madrid with a good glass of red wine – all paid for by British Airways – and taking the onward flight one day later.

Madrid or London for a night?

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Round the World, FarewellRound the World, Farewell

Farewell from friends, family and colleagues

With all the planning we wanted to do: done, our todo list getting shorter and our preparation as much completed as possible, we had to start the sad part…saying good bye to many friends, our families and colleagues at work, which we wouldn’t see for the next 6 months to come *smiley crying*

We don’t want to bother you with too many pictures of us over and over again with different people, but it was very good to feel so many people wanting to say “good bye” personally, making it much easier for us to leave and be sure not to be forgotten *smiley winking*

But not everybody could make it to our big(ger) farewell party…

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