Sunday, 12 January 2014

Beautiful, Happy, Rich Bhutan






Visiting Bhutan was something I had at the back of my mind a few years ago. I first learnt about Bhutan in Geography lesson 5 years ago. I read that Bhutan was the happiest country in the world and I took a mental note to add: " A TRIP TO THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! " to my bucket list. 

5 years down the road, my dad suggested visiting that place and mum was excited cause she likes new places, went to book a tour and before I knew it, we were trekking around in Bhutan. I am extremely lucky that my family gets to travel quite often and I am very fortunate to be able to visit so many places, meet new people and learn so many new things. Thank you mum & dad! <3 

Anyway, we usually go on free & easy holidays, so we have to read up about the country and plan our trips by ourselves! :) This time however, we booked a tour through Druk Asia Tours. It was a 7 day tour package which included accommodation, food, plane tickets and visas. I was extremely busy with my Final exams so I didn't get to read much about the itinerary and Bhutan. Thus, I embarked on my trip without much information about Bhutan, the only thing I knew was, Bhutan is the happiest country in the world. hahahah! Thinking back, I've gained & learnt so much from these 7 days. 


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DAY 1 
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We took Druk Airlines, Bhutan's national carrier, and it was a small aircraft. We had a short stopover at Kolkata before finally arriving in Bhutan. There was no aerobridge for us so we had to take a bus then walk up the stairs to the plane (just like in the movies!!!) When we arrived, we got to walk around the landing area! This was a totally new experience, however, nothing compared to what we will experience in the next 6 days!




Here we are out in the cold, at the side of the airport landing area taking a picture with the King & Queen of Bhutan in the background! (the Queen is really pretty!) The present King is the 5th King of Bhutan and he is only 33 years old! (the queen is 23!) Then we proceeded inside the airport terminal to clear the customs and officially stepped into the land of happiness! :)

As we walked into the airport, we instantly felt how different it was from Singapore's Changi Airport. There was only one conveyor belt for the luggages! There wasn't much people around and no one was in much of a rush, unlike in Singapore. We were greeted with warm smiles and friendly faces of many tour guides the moment we stepped out of the airport. We quickly identified our tour guide and followed him to the van. His name was Sonam (which means Lucky in Bhutanese) and our driver was a cute older guy called Sangay :)

Everyone who goes to Bhutan has to have a guide as this is part of their effort to preserve and protect their environment and culture there. Check out Druk Asia Tours (http://www.drukasia.com) to know more about how you can plan a trip there as well! 

Soon after departing Paro Airport, we made our first stop at the iron bridge along Pa Chu (Paro River) Here we are, all smiling & posing for the picture.


Hahah but immediately after this was taken, my mum and I hurried back to the start of the bridge again! We didn't dare to go across because it was so scary looking down through the huge holes in the bridge! Dad was the most enthusiastic and was first to reach the other end! If you're wondering what are the colourful things hanging on the bridge, those are prayer flags and you'll be seeing a lot of them in all my photos as they can be found all over Bhutan. 

Sonam shared that this was the only iron bridge left in Bhutan. This was built by the master who built the White Horse temple on the other side of the river. Then, we continued with our journey and Sonam did his best in trying to break the ice by sharing more information about Bhutan. So he was sharing that the official language there at Bhutan is English! And almost everyone can speak basic English here! (My guide speaks super good English!) 

All their subjects are taught in English! In the past, they used Tamil, but it was their 3rd King who was educated abroad that made the decision to switch to English! So grateful for wise leaders like him & Mr Lee Kuan Yew!



Soon after, we arrived in Thimphu and checked in to our hotel, Kisa HotelAt the hotel, We were about to take the lift up but then suddenly the lights went out and our guide said super calmly:

“Hahah! Lucky you guys haven't got in the lift! There's a blackout! Lets take the stairs! ”

Like WHUTTTTT? WHY SO CALM? hahahah! Sounds like a blackout isn't a rare occurrence there? Haha, lucky the building there aren't like the ones in Singapore, they were mostly 2 and 3 storeys high only! This is the hotel room my sis and I shared! Looks really nice right, its a 3 star hotel. However, what I felt was that compared to the house that the locals were staying in, this should be a 5 star hotel~ 



Sigh, We dropped our luggages and proceeded out for lunch!



This is lunch! :) It's buffet style, so I've got lots of stuff on my plate! We tried the chili cheese, which was green chili in some cheesy soup base, sometimes cooked with mushrooms. Hahah! I don't know how to describe it but apparently it's a staple there! 

Breakfast: Chilli Cheese Lunch: Chilli Cheese Dinner: Chilli cheese
Okay, forget it, Its quite hard to imagine what it is, so here's a picture! 
AND IT IS VERY SPICY, they use red chilli sometimes too :)



So there are different spice levels. The one we tried was the normal level! Hahah so it wasn't that spicy, Sonam said we can try the higher level in the next few days!

After lunch we went to a weaving centre, which was actually a shop house. Women were weaving downstairs (uhhh, sorry for the stupid reflection, hahah I took a picture through the glass without realising it until now!) and finished products are sold on the upper level (in second picture!)






And so after the weaving center, we went to an art gallery just next door and we had the honor of meeting and talking to the artist himself! His paintings looked fantastic!!

He mostly paints scenic photos of Bhutan. My favorite painting was one with the back view of a monk walking through colourful prayer flags which was done by acrylic on recycled paper. It was super nice! He painted various watercolor works of The Tiger's Nest, which is one of the biggest tourist attraction here.



Here's a picture of Tiger's Nest. We will visit it on the last day, and the hike up there isn't going to be easy! But, many have said its going to be worth it, and it's going to be a great experience! I'm quite worried about that hike, but I shall have faith and believe we will complete it! 

So back to the point, the artist painted a few Tiger's Nest which looked really nice! He took the time to explain the different types of painting too! Bhutanese are all so friendly!!! It's a pity we couldn't take pictures there! But, if by any chance you are a collector, his art pieces would be a great addition! 

After leaving the gallery, we took a steep drive up hairpin mountain roads to see the magnificent Buddha! 




On the way, Sanom was telling us the story behind the building of this Buddha! It was actually an idea by one of the Bhutanese Masters who wanted to heed the prophecy that if there is a big Buddha that sits there and oversees the Thimphu Valleythen there would be peace and prosperity brought upon Bhutan. Thus, he went to Singapore (yes, Singapore) and talked to Mr Peter Lim. Eventually Mr Peter Lim agreed to sponsor the building of the Buddha! 

Afterwards, this Master also managed to find a Hong Kong businessman to sponsor the building of the temple below the Buddha! :) The Buddha was completed already, but the temple was still under construction. Also, if you can see, there's actually a 1000 carat diamond on the Buddha's forehead in between the eyes! They are also going to put 10,000 (or was it 100,000) small Buddha figurines inside this big Buddha before sealing it. It is believed the more Buddhas inside a temple the better. :)

Here's us taking a picture with the Buddha Statue!




(OMG :( I AM SO SHORT)

Buddha Point is located at Kuensel Phodrang, the 169 feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma (Tallest in Bhutan now), Vajra Throne Buddha symbolising indestructibility will be completed soon. The view of Thimphu valley from the Buddha point is spectacular and beautiful, especially at night.





We were lucky there weren't much people around when we were there so we got to take a lot of pictures and enjoy the magnificence and scenery from the Buddha Point!

And, it even SNOWED a little! ❄ 
Then we drove down again and decided to head out for a walk around this little town! :)

There were so many convenience stores, contrary to what I thought! Hahah! And there were lots of stores selling nice sneakers and boots and there was even a puma store! Eye opening indeed! So we also learnt that Thimphu is the only Capital City in the world which does not use traffic lights! Check out this guy directing traffic!!! 




This is a 4 way junction and the guy in the middle is the one giving directions instead of the traffic lights! Hahah!  So we decided to have a picture taken with this interesting sight! 



Then we headed to a bookstore! Our guide, Sonam reads a lot, likes Philosophy and is very knowledgable about Buddhism as well!

He recommended us several books to buy and wow, they have so much books there! They have lots of popular English books! I saw a Nicholas Sparks Box Set, Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys, Twilight series, Harry Potter and so much more!! 



We left with 3 books, one highly recommended by our guide. It is called, "What makes you not a Buddhist?" Seems like an interesting read! We went back to the hotel at around 530pm when it started to get dark. So we lazed around in our room till 7pm which was dinner! 


While waiting for dinner, we were all using our wifi in our rooms and OMG guess what happened?


BLACK OUT AGAIN!

And just as we were wondering if this hotel was really bad, we looked out of the window and realized that everywhere outside had a blackout too! Even the road lights so it was pitch darkness outside other than the lights from passing vehicles! :o

So we waited in darkness and were debating over this was really a common thing or it only happens once in awhile! Once the power resumed, we went downstairs for dinner! It was buffet style again! Here's what I ate!



It was nice and filling! And the staff were so attentive, as soon as we finished our food and they were quick to clear plates and serve desserts or coffee! :) Everyone in Bhutan is so polite and friendly! :)

We had a good discussion over dinner! Sonam told us that the blackouts were rare! Bhutan sells a lot of power(electricity) to India and it is one of their biggest revenue source(or is it the biggest?)

Bhutan is aiming to be self-sufficient by 2020! Oh and no smoking in public and no killing in Bhutan!! This is a rather interesting fact, because it means that the farmers rear the animals here and they have to export them to india for slaughter then import the meat again! I guess that only works in Bhutan because so many Bhutanese are vegetarian! So the demand for meat isn't that high. The buffet meals usually consists of 5 dishes, 4 vegetables and 1 meat! hahah, and thats usually chicken or beef! 

OH RIGHT, and the World Cup Trophy Tour was in Bhutan!  Read about the tour here!

And I learnt that TV & Internet were introduced by the 4th king only recently as a reward for being good citizens! Oh & their 4th king took over the throne when he was 17 only!!! Cause his father, the 3rd king died too suddenly of a heart attack! So after the 4th king ruled for around 35 years, he let his son(the present king) take over the throne!


Okay, end of day 1, tiring but extremely fruitful! Had a good rest and recharged for day 2!

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DAY 2
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I wrote this with my finger!!! 
SO COLD MY FINGER ALMOST FROZE. 
but but but, 
Its worth it cause it turned out so pretty! 

So we woke up early and had western style breakfast at the hotel! Breakfast was quite nice! We had French toast and baked beans and hard boiled eggs!

And then we set out to our first destination! ❄ Tango Monastery 












Tango Monastery is up in the mountains, so to reach there we first had to walk a long way up and as you can see from the pictures, we were super lucky cause it snowed the night before so we got all the pretty white backgrounds!! The view was just spectacular and priceless! This hike was one of my favourite because of the snow~~~ 

The photos are quite nice but they don't even do the actual scenery justice! Hahah!! It was super super surreal, and peaceful! OHHH and we were super lucky, as we were walking up, there was a Buddhist master who was walking down! And he blessed us!!!!!! 

We made friends with other tourists too because there was a few other groups from Singapore who was hiking with us! So yeah, it was a worthwhile climb up, we walked for about an hour to the top! 

In the Monastery, Sonam told us more about the past, present & future Buddhas and the origin of this place! As we were having tea and snacks with the other tour groups and the guides in the monastery the snow was getting heavier…


AND WHEN WE WALKED OUT OF THE MONASTERY WE WERE GREETED WITH SUCH A BREATHTAKING SIGHT. SNOW SNOW SNOW~











We were so excited about the snow and took lots of pictures! OMG and with all the pine trees and snow, looking down from the top of the mountain, it really looks like a scene from twilight! Hahah! 




After lunch, we went to see the national animal of Bhutan!! It's called a Takin, which looks like it has a face of a goat and a body of a cow. 

Can't imagine how it looks like right! Okay, it looks quite cute actually! Hahah! 



And there were a few other animals like deers and goats there and a whole group of little kids running around there! :) 





Okay, after this photo the kid kept staring at me! :( He must be thinking I'm such a weird stalker because I took a picture of him! But he's so cute~~~ 


Then we went to the Centenary Farmers' Weekend Market. Every Saturday and Sunday most of the Thimphu population congregate on the banks of the river where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their wide range of agriculture products. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people and perhaps buy souvenirs. We dropped by on a Friday thus it was still empty. Most sellers would be there on Friday setting up their stall and getting ready for the weekend. The ground level is for food imported from India while the second level is for local produce. 









They also had another section across the river for antiques or Buddha figurines and for clothes like the pasarmalams in Singapore!! That's us crossing the bridge! There were so many prayer flags there!!! :)




Oh, and this is the Thimphu Dzong which is the “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially constructed in 1641 and restored by the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. Tashichhodzong houses some ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk body. (5 – 6 pm Mon – Fri, 8 am – 6 pm Sat & Sun, to 5 pm in winter) 



We passed by the stadium where the FIFA trophy tour was held and my my, the queue to take picture with the trophy was super long! Since we were not soccer fans we decided to give it a miss. :)




So we decided to go back to the hotel to chill and drink tea! Then I read "What makes you not a Buddhist" out loud for everyone. It was quite an interesting read, but some parts were a little hard to understand, so we probably have to reflect more about it before we can understand! My guide says that this book had became really popular and it was selling well elsewhere too! 



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DAY 3
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We are checked out of Kisa Hotel and were scheduled to drive towards the Punakha Dzong and the Dochula Pass! 
We were about to set off then our guide said that the road towards our destination was blocked since last night because of the ice formation. So we had to delay our journey there, but it was a blessing in disguise because we got to see other sights in Thimphu city!

First we went to the paper factory where we saw the whole process of how recycled paper was made! And we got to visit the paper gallery, and there were so many pretty paper products! 😍




Shredded Tree Barks 
It's quite hard to imagine this would become paper!

Boiled Tree Barks





 Drying the papers



Then we went to watch the national sport of Bhutan: Archery!

We were lucky because it was the national finals! One minister was also there to participate! If you're picturing the usual archery, then you'll be pleasantly surprise to find Bhutanese archery very different! Check this out, the distance between the shooter and the target is 145m!!!!! 






 THAT'S THE TARGET!
The white thing in between the guys in this picture!






 We took some polaroids when we were at the paper factory
It didn't turn out very nice because the background was too bright.
But, oh well, here are pictures of them!
We gave them to our tour guide & driver as a souvenir! :)





Little kids just having fun running around
The people there just seems so carefree & happy :)

I super love this picture because the background is so pretty
and I look so happy too ^^ 

Then we received news that the pass is open and set off towards the Dochula Pass. 












(Following information is from the itinerary!) Dochula Passat 3,050m, this beautiful pass with its 108 Bhutanese stupas was built by Her Majesty The Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to commemorate victory over the Indian militants and to liberate the souls of the lives lost.

Okay, so anyway, it was really beautiful because of the snow! And the clouds were our background omg. They also had a nice cafe where we could drink coffee, sit beside the heater and enjoy the good view!



Cheeky tour guide!


Omg. WHY AM I SO SHORT?!



HAHAH Daddy posing on a traffic police bike, with the traffic police helmet. 
You must be thinking: WHAT IN THE WORLD?
HAHA apparently the police there are super friendly. There were taking pictures and they allowed my dad to take this picture and later on they even volunteered to help my bro and sis take pictures and eventually... ended up taking pictures WITH them lolllll




In the cafe! 



Ohhhh this is a picture of the royal family. Okay, shall take the chance to explain a little more about the royal family. The 4th king(guy in the middle standing in orange) had 4 wives and they were all sisters (they are the ones in blue standing in the picture)

So the 5th King (to the left of 4th King) is the son of the 3rd wife! The cute little boy in the middle of the picture not the 4th King's son but his first grandson! okay a little too confusing! 

Go read up on your own if you're interested :)
And about the royal couple here





Pretty firewood background! 

So after we passed the Dochula Pass, we were headed for the Punakha Dzong. (See it hidden in the leaves in the first picture~)


(From Itinerary) Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers (Female & Male Rivers), the dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong enrich your trip with the opportunity to see the highest standards in woodwork. Do not miss the massive Kuenray, the Coronation Hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong and the cantilever bridge over the Mochu that has been recently renovated. 

















After we visited the Dzong, (No pictures allowed inside) we drove a short distance to the suspension bridge! This bridge wasn't as scary as the other one because it was a proper bridge (Still a bit scary nonetheless! haha) Across the river is a small provision shop and Sonam said that monks from the Dzong would often go there to get stuff like snacks and food :)












It was getting dark and we were behind time. So we hurried back to the van and drove towards our next hotel, Hotel Lobesa! We were pleasantly surprised by the interior of the hotel as it was very spacious! In fact the owners of the hotels were the same as the owners of the restaurant we had our lunch that day! :)

Our room also had a balcony which overlooked the valley and fields! (ohhhh and we had a blackout again, this time only on our level! :o Apparently some wire came loose and it was fixed after an electrician came by.) We had a fantastic dinner, and stayed at the dining area for snacks, wine and chat while waiting for the electricity to come back on. (which wasn't a bad thing since only the ground floor, dining area had wifi hahaha!) 










Although I look really comfortable and wrapped up here, it was actually really cold in this hotel! hahaha the room was so spacious, yet there was only 1 small portable heater and they couldn't give us an extra heater cause the hotel was full house that night. However, after getting under the blankets it got a lot better! My sister and I ended up talking till the wee hours of the night cause we couldn't fall asleep. :p 



End of Day 3 :) It was a tiring but really eventful and beautiful day! :)


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DAY 4
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Had breakfast then checked out of the hotel :) oh and check this out, they were having a marathon up in the mountains! Okay I think it was only a half marathon, but still, it never fails to amaze me how cars, animals and humans can all share this small narrow road! Sometimes we have cows walking (REALLY SLOWLY) in front of us and we just have to wait till they are willing to move to the side before we could pass! Would be a great experience to participate in a run up there in the mountains, hopefully I would get a chance to do so someday :)



Along the way, we came across this small waterfall. There are always interesting sights along the roads which made the road trips so much more enjoyable. :) We had a stopover at this pretty coffeehouse. OMG, this was one of my favourite places! We could have coffee & tea outdoors with beautiful snowcap mountains as the back drop. Not to mention lovely dogs just wandering around us and sleeping under the sun. Sitting there just made me feel so at peace! I totally wouldn't mind living here!!!!! 


















Super sad to leave this place and all the cute dogs! :( So, we set off to our next destination, Gantey

Punakha to Gangtey 
(Itinerary) The valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March. 


Along the way, we saw the Yaks! Apparently they might charge at humans once in awhile so we couldn't go too close :) The sky was really really nice that day so we took the chance to take more photos :)






HEHHE THIS IS SO FUNNY. CAN'T STOP LAUGHING WHEN I SEE THIS. 
LOOKS LIKE IM TRYING SO HARD TO BE TALL 
AND I FREAKING LOOK LIKE POPEPYE THE SAILOR MAN


OKAY, enough of nonsense, hahah here's the proper nice shot! :)


After the stopover, we visited another monastery before setting off on our nature hike!

Nature Hike along the valley of Phobjikha 
A short trek of about 90 minutes known as the 'Gangte Nature Trail' starts from the Mani stone wall to the north of the Gangteng Gonpa and ends in Khewa Lhakhang. 












WHERE ARE WE HEADING TOWARDS?

Okay, see the whole patch of forested area in the background? :)
We will be walking towards the forest, through the forest, across the fields.
And end up on the other side of the valley :)


Yikes, sounds like a long walk but IT WAS SO WORTH IT. 
 EVEN THE PICTURES YOU'LL SEE LATER 
WON'T DO THE ACTUAL SCENERY JUSTICE HAHA! 

















The forest paths :)
But when we arrived at the other side, the view was simply...
BREATH TAKING. 

If you watched 3 Peas in a Pod, where they were on top of the rocks at the Grampions National Park and Xander asked "Do you think this is what heaven looks like?" 

OMG I felt we were in heaven, in paradise because everything just seemed so surreal. The clouds were just a distance away and we sat there admiring the magnificence of it all. I didn't want to walk away from this place but Sonam said that Sangay was waiting for us at the valley already and we were already late for lunch so we couldn't stay for long. But even the view along the way down to the valley was breath taking. We also managed to see some black necked cranes fly past but we weren't lucky enough to get pictures! So here are a few pictures of pictures of black neck cranes from the magazines there! HAHA :)












 Check out the clouds in a distance!










If you're wondering where's our destination, 
It's actually the small houses you see in the background of the pictures.
We walked across the valley to get there.
However, it was too cold while walking there so I didn't take any pictures.



Lunch was especially good after a hike! hahaha we got to go back to the hotel (Hotel Dewachen) to rest after lunch at 4+pm. This hotel was really special because they didn't have heaters in the rooms. We had to burn firewood in our mini fireplace. Okay, but let's not get too excited and start imagining a fireplace like this. (Image from Google)




Because it was nothing like that! hahaha It was only a small furnace where were had to put firewood in every hour so keep the room warm. Nonetheless, it was still an interesting experience. It was so super duper cold outside because we were quite high up in the mountains! Here's what the fireplace looks like HAHAHA






HAHA However, the fireplace at the dining area looked better! :) 
We also took a picture with the staff there. She was extremely nice, and helped with all our requests :)








We had a nice dinner there and Dad & Mum tried their local famous whisky, K5. They bought a small cup and a bottle of Druk 1000. We were planning to stay up the whole night to chat because we had to put firewood every hour~ So I was supposed to be reading "What makes you not a Buddhist" Chapter 3: Emptiness to them but they all slept before I was even halfway through the chapter! :(




Luckily we had hot water bags so we filled them up and hugged them to sleep, so Daddy wouldn't have to stay up all night. We all went to sleep are 3am and luckily the hot water bags could keep us warm till morning! ;)
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DAY 5
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We had a good breakfast before setting off on out 6 hour drive to Paro. OHHH and I was so happy because Sonam said we could stop by the coffee place with the dogs again today!!!! So here you go, more pictures of cute doggies and this time a cute little boy came over to watch the fun. 







My sister wanted to try to chop firewood haahahha! Thus, our guide went to find the locals there to make a request for wood and an axe! Then suddenly everyone crowded around and tried chopping the wood. :)







SUPER CUTE BOY ^^
OKAY, back to doggy pictures :)



OMG I WAS JUST SNAPPING PICTURE AND THIS CUTE DOG 
SUDDENLY STOOD UP AND WALKED TOWARDS ME...


STARED INTO MY CAMERA THEN SUDDENLY....


SHE RAISED HER LEG TO SHAKE MY HAND 
WITHOUT ME PROMPTING OR ANYTHING. 
OMG ADORABLE MAXXXXXX



We stopped along the way near the previous hotel, Hotel Lobesa to go for a short hike (about an hour) to the fertility temple and have lunch at the restaurant before that. The temple was built to pray to The Divine Madman. There is a very interesting story about this Divine Madman who was a Buddsauvatua. I shall not elaborate here but you can go read up if you're interested :) 





















After that we were supposed to continue on the next 3 hours of the journey towards Paro. Sonam was so nice!! The road was extremely bumpy but he was reading a book to us! We really felt his dedication and devotion to Buddhism and we are so glad that he was so willing to share his knowledge and insights! :)


However, Bro had some gum infection or something so we requested to stop by a Pharmacy to buy some mouth wash. Sonam told us that the pharmacy in Paro was a little small and might not have what we needed, so he arranged for a slight detour and a stop at Thimphu again. We managed to buy what we wanted at the Thimphu pharmacy and even had time to stop by at the local bookstore! I managed to buy 1Q84 the full trilogy for $12 only omg! :)

When we left Thimphu it was already getting dark so Sangay had to speed up or else it wouldn't be that easy driving n the dark. I have total faith in his driving but omg, I couldn't control my motion sickness. I felt like throwing up. Luckily as it got dark, Sangay slowed down and safety was first. I felt a little better, by the time we reached our last hotel it was pitch darkness outside (at 8pm). The last hotel was really pretty, the staff were all really friendly as well. 


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DAY 6
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TODAY IS TIGER'S NEST DAY! 






 There was the option to take horses up the mountain. 
But we decided to hike up on our own. 
OMG isn't taking horses scarier?! What if they go out of control?
BUT, after all these years the horses accident rate has been ZERO :)






 That's us at the bottom, before we start the hike. 
If you can see in this picture, I'm wearing a red glove 
and pointing up to our destination.
The small little temple up in the mountains! :)







That's how to trail looks like :)

And this is us at the half way mark, where the first viewing point is. 
There is a cafeteria for trekkers to drink coffee 
& admire Tiger's Nest from there. :)





Here's me with a super nice and pretty dog. 
BUT MY BRO ACCIDENTALLY CHANGED THE CAMERA SETTINGS
AND THE PHOTO TURNED OUT LIKE THAT.
By the time he changed it back, the doggy ran away already. :(


















 The view from up there was just magnificent. 
{We went into the monastery and came out already!}
However, no electronic devices were allowed in. 
Thus, no pictures of the interior or even the view from there ;)


We all lit butter lamps. :)
The area for butter lamps used to be inside all the temples. 
However, after a few of the monasteries were lost due to fire from fallen butter lamps,
Bhutan's government made it mandatory that butter lamps had to be lit in a separate area.






Can't imagine we climbed all the way up there and down again :')

This hike to Tiger's Nest wasn't easy but it was definitely worth it. Climbing up was really easy for me while my mum kept panting and tired hard to keep up but when we were going down, she was the one all the way at the front skipping her way down (Okay, I exaggerated! hehe) But, the point was that she found going down so much easier. On the way up she kept asking me to tell her jokes to distract her hahah! I told her, the harder the climb, the nicer the view at the top :) Eventually she really enjoyed the view and surprisingly she was the rare few who found going down easier! 

That wasn't the case for me. My calves were so tight and pain and I had to be really careful going down as there weren't proper steps and the route was rather steep and slippery. Going down was really hard, and there were horses going up and down while we were walking down so we had to be careful and move to the side. :) It was a really interesting experience and we had a great sense of accomplishment after completing this hike. (read more about the Tiger's Nest from the itinerary below) 

Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) [6 hrs] 
Often called the Tiger’s Nest, perched on the cliffs, has awestruck many a visitor. “Trip to Bhutan is never complete without climbing to Taktsang”, says one tourist. Indeed it’s true as the journey there fills you with spiritual bliss. For those not choosing the spiritual side it is the dramatic, artistically built monument that becomes a hiker’s delight. Take a trip to this dramatically set Buddhist relic hanging from a cliff. Experience the uphill climb as you ascend more than two thousand feet from the valley floor.

A prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex located on the cliff side of Paro Valley. According to legends, it is believed that Guru Rinpochhe flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a Tigress (his consort Yeshey Tshogyal) and meditated in one of the caves. Guru Rinpochhe performed meditation and emerged in eight manifestations and the place became holy. Thus gaining the name Tiger's Nest.

After that we went to have a good lunch and then had a good walk along the streets of Paro. We didn't buy much for the simple fact that there weren't much to buy! :) We managed to buy a jade bracelet for my ah ma and also some spinning wheel charm thing for good luck for my po po & gong gong :) There were a few tourist-y shops where they sold books on Bhutan and Buddhism, and lots of Buddhist ornaments. :)Oh! there were also cows roaming around by the road side :)
  



After shopping around for an hour, we left the street and went to this monastery built in the 7th century! They preserved the little part built in the 7th century and another section was added later on in 17th century and it was also renovated a little recently I think. 







That was our last sight to see for the trip :'( At that moment, reality hit and I realised that the trip was ending so soon. I wasn't ready to leave such a beautiful country~~~ :( 

Then, guess what, Sonam and Sangay gave us a really really nice surprise!! They decided to bring us to a Farmhouse for dinner and since it was Christmas eve that night, Sonam ordered a cake and wine to share for dinner! We had a chance to interact with the locals and had a conversation with the little girl from the Farmhouse! She shared about the education system, school experience and life in Bhutan while we shared a little about Singapore with her! :) We also managed to get a group photo with the family who hosted us! The food was really delicious and they were such nice people! :)

PS. she got a big shock when we told her we had 5.3million people in Singapore. Sigh, Singapore is really a too crowded. I miss wandering around the mountains in Bhutan where there are clear blue skies and friendly smiles from everyone. :)






After dinner, we went back to the hotel where I spent the night writing a thank you letter to our tour guide and our driver! :) Ka drin che la Sonam & Sangay! :')


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DAY 7
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Woke up early (430am) the next morning to go to the airport! Really hate to leave Bhutan because it felt so surreal to be there... But, good things always come to an end. We said our goodbyes and walked into the airport. Even though this journey to Bhutan came to an end, it was a beginning to new perspectives and insights, and the beginning to a new friendship with our bhutanese guide, Sonam! I really hope to be able to go back again someday.

Sonam asked me why I would want to go back to Bhutan again by describing Bhutan with 3 words. I thought about it for awhile and my conclusion would be: Beautiful, Happy & Rich as you can see from the title of this post. :)

Beautiful
I guess most would agree, after looking through the pictures in this post, it is not hard to understand why this word was chosen! The mountains and the sky was just too beautiful! It felt so good to be back with nature. :) I've always preferred holidays where I can spend my time back to nature, and that is why I LOVE BHUTAN. The air was extremely fresh and it just felt like paradise everyday.

Apart from the majestic mountains, clear blue skies and cold fresh air, there were beautiful things happening all around us! We were extremely lucky cause we got to experience snow! 

Happy
Ever since I came back to Singapore, upon hearing that I've just been to Bhutan, everyone's first question was: So are the Bhutanese really happy? This was a question that we had in our minds when we went to Bhutan. Frankly speaking we had the chance to ask a few Bhutanese this question. Their answers were: I don't know. (My tour guide explained how the Gross National Happiness Index was calculated. Read about it here > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_national_happiness)

Haha, however, after spending 6 days there, I think other than the statistics that proved their title, I felt the happiness for myself. My response to the question above was: Okay, First of all, they are not smiling 24//7 if that's what you mean by happy. But, they are contented with what they have, they lead a simple life and they love what they are doing. (or at least these applies to the Bhutanese I've came across! haha) At first, I thought of course they would be happy with their simple life since they don't really know what the world outside is like~ (before my trip) But I was wrong, they were not as backwards as I thought and they were exposed to other cultures be it from tourists or the internet and the television. However, they still chose to be happy with their simple life and protected their culture. They felt no need to adopt the culture of others and instead they are proud of their own. :) My tour guide could go on for hours about Bhutanese culture and heritage, the royal family, the national tree, national flower, national animal, national everything. :) 

Rich
This word isn't commonly associated with Bhutan. But why did I use it? That's because I really felt that they are indeed very rich. Rich in culture, rich in heritage, rich in resources, rich in kindness, rich in happiness... the list goes on. 

It was indeed an eye-opener to see how people could live with simpler stuff yet be so much happier and free. Ever since I'm back in Singapore I just feel like everyone is in such a rush, no one every stops to enjoy the beautiful flowers or the stars in the night sky. :( Sometimes, I really don't understand how we are so obsessed with our results and our career, how come we just keep chasing more and more that we lose ourselves and eventually realise aside from our riches, how little we have.  

I miss taking my time to enjoy the breeze, to gaze out into the horizon and to just let my mind wander. I miss Bhutan. xx


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Thank you J


Sangay our extremely skilled driver J




Sonam our very dedicated tour guide J


Our tour agent 

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