Saturday, 20 September 2014

Destination Thimphu - The country side

The short flight from Bagdogra to Paro on the wings of the Dragon was the first time I sat back and started to look at Bhutan closely. This was one of those holidays which was quickly put together and left me little time to explore Bhutan on paper. As I flipped through the pages of the on board magazine, my excitement perked up as i read the following titles.

A birding paradise that is Bhutan
The bottom line is happiness
Where prayers are in the air
84000: Translating the words of Buddha
Klu- The powerful mythical serpent being
The sustainable relationship to the planet

How could I not but think " Tashi Delek (May all auspicious signs come to this environment)" and help myself to it to further reading later. Yes, guilty as charged! Here I was on the way to a honorable country and I do the dishonorable deed. As one of the eight Tashi Dagay (auspicious symbols), Dhunkar (white conch) was already in play and expelling a tiny bit of ignorance at a time. Mam/sir, I was no longer ignorant about Bhutan but at the cost of guilt. I am sure the other seven symbols will help me out with the tiny inconvenience.

Paro airport is considered as one of the many dangerous airports to land.  Am I not one of the privileged few. Not only was I flying into  danger but also by one of the eight handsome Bhutanese pilot certified to land there. Hey, stop it!! I was on a holiday. If I want to be flown in by a handsome Mexican or Bhutanese pilot, it is gonna happen. Pema lotus, the second auspicious symbol had taken the back seat. Agree, I need to purify my body, speech and mind. Why do you think I was off to Bhutan.

As I waited at the door of  airbus A319 , Kuzuzangpola ( Greetings and well wishes) whispered the green ranges and the clean fresh nippy air. We were greeted with a wave of green in all the shades possible  as we arrived into Druk Yul (country of drokpa,the Dragon people) at the end of the monsoon season.Did you hear me? Seriously! Did i just write that. Green ranges whispering? Really? It must have been the clean air and the whiff of mushrooms from the green ranges

National gross happiness begins with a smile and I could not help but do that when I saw the quaint little airport building in the traditional style of architecture. Do-Zo (stone work) is one of the 13 Zorig Chusum (traditional craft) being encouraged in this land of happiness. The new age buildings continue to imitate the traditional architecture and the airport is no different. If architecture interests you,this link is very helpful.

Also greeting us was a huge hoarding of the cutest royal couple. The royal couple continued to greet us at every possible location. Please, let me have more of them.  Do you know the monarch has a facebook page ""...I LIKE, like like!!The temperature of Bhutan must have gone up on the day of coronation and stayed up ever since.

We were greeted by our guide Tintin and driver Captain Sangay. To complete the trio, Snowy dropped in every now and then as and when Tintin felt the need to pet a stray dog. Tintin in Tibet was about friendship and going the distance to save a friend .Tintin in Bhutan was just doing his job. Maybe he did not have the mushrooms or wait, did he have too much of it considering there are 457 fungi available out there. Yes, that kind of mushroom! What did you think I was talking about?

Green was the color of this holiday or was it apple green,olive green, forest green, fern green,pine green,jungle green, spring green? They say green is the color to relax one's eye. And the minute we started our drive to Thimphu, I was in the zen mode. No small talk for me , I only have the big talks with nature. Screw the hypocritical traveler , I am the quintessential tourist. So our first pit stop for "site seeing" was at Tachog Lhakhang Dzong. The location introduced us to the next traditional craft of Gar-Zo( art of iron work). According to legend,this craft was introduced to Bhutan by  a Tibetan saint Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo. We got to experience his work first hand or what is remaining of it juxtaposed on the new work.

The 14th century bridge across Paro chhu is an iron chain link bridge or a Bhutanese style stiff trampoline with prayer flags across the length , constantly sending out well wishes into the air for a safe crossing. Stilettos were not popular in the 14th century . Or I am sure the revered saint would have thought of an easier way to cross the river and keep us dry. One step for me, felt like one giant leap for my heart. Is this safe Mr. Tintin? Oh wait, Tintin was most assumed as he thought I was going to cross without my footwear for reasons too boring to explain. Really Tintin? What better opportunity for my first shoelfie?? Don't you think Tintin. Sorry guys, it was not a Jimmy Choo or Louboutin. It was a well worn woodland and I think a pedicure was long overdue.

Now the intellectually smart you, must know Hinduism and Buddhism have a lot of things in common. One of them i discovered was to build stone pyramids. In Bhutan it mean you are building a stupa and seeking blessings. And man I could use blessings and lots of it and left my Stupa across different locations along the western part of the country and here is one of them by the Paro river.

a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong Gyal
a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong GyalAnd am sure thinks the word still is only an adverb. My immediate inner response is what and my external response was ' why,  you will get bored in a day ' Bhutan is one such place . For night life,  you can
We also went on a short drive to seek blessing from one of the tallest sitting Shahkyamuni Buddha in the world. The bronze Buddha Dordenma is a project still in progress. That reminds me of the third craft that is practiced. It is the craft of Lug -Zo (bronze casting). The nevari artisans from Nepal had a key role in bringing this craft to Bhutan. One can experience the craft at various locations.
Newari artisans that came from Nepal

At temples and monasteries one will find the butter lamp enclosure where one can offer dalda  or even light  a lamp.  A pious moment! But we had our version of spiritual moment earlier.We gathered all our strength and held up the 51.5 m high statue. No disrespect to the scared location. A little bit of harmless fun that lets you enjoy the moment from the heart can also be spiritual. 

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