Saturday, October 06, 2012

Memories of Bhutan - 16-20 August 2012 (Part 1)

A country where Gross National Happiness is used to measure the quality of life

Ga day bay zhu ga???
(Hallo!! How are you?? - in Dzongkha)

I had no idea what Bhutan looks like before I went there. I tried to gather any info, but I think most information I collected was about Nepal. Since we joined the tour group, I thought, well, leave it to nature. When we were there, then we would see how it looked like. That what I was thinking.

We took Druk Air from Kathmandu to Paro. I sat on window seat and could manage to see the beautiful Mt. Everest and Mt Makalu peaks from the sky. It's second time I saw the Mt Everest. First time was when I visited Tibet in Aug 2010. No matter how many times it is, I would never get bored to see it over and over again :)

I was so proud being able to sit on the Royal Bhutan Airlines, as it's the only airlines available to enter Bhutan. Hehehe.... We took a small plane with two propellers on the side. It was a safe and smooth journey though. When we reached Paro Airport, all of us went out from the plane. I was 'WOW'! At that moment, I thought I was in Switzerland. Perhaps because of the beautiful mountains and the housing is kinda similar.

They allowed us to take photos which you can't do in any other countries.. hahaha.... The weather was good, welcoming us to the country. We were fetched by tour guide and two drivers. There were 20 of us, that's why we need two drivers with two buses.

Simtokha Dzong

We first stopped at the place where Thimphu Chhu and Paro Chhu met. The colour of two rivers are different and mixed together creating a triangle sign.

After that, they brought us to Simtokha Dong, the first Dzong of its kind in Bhutan, built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a person who unified Bhutan. It is an important historical monument and former Buddhist monastery. Now it houses one of the premier Dzongkha language learning institutes.

When we were there, they allowed us to go in and see how the Bhutan monks did their prayers. There were music instruments played during the praying (long horns and drums). It felt so serene and tsagtogto - peaceful....

Time for lunch!! We had our lunch in Thimphu. Below is the Bhutanese food that we had :)

There were Red Rice, Puta (Buckwheat Noodles), Hentey (Buckwheat Dumpling), Minced Beef, Cabbage Oyster Sauce, Kakuru (Garlic Pumpkin), Cucumber Pickles, and of course Ema Datshi (known as national dish of Bhutan - which contains chilli and cheese)

I need to adapt to the food there.. hehehe... It was slight different types of food that we used to have here.

But for the one below here... is my favorite!!!

Druk 11000

Hahaha... Yup, it's Druk beer. I found it clear, no bitter, no bubbles, and smooth.. Some of them said it's strong, but I didn't have it much there.. Usually I just drank it 1-2 glasses, so I didn't know if it's strong or not. Too bad they don't sell in cans, otherwise, I could bring it back home and enjoy it at home......

Next time, if someone from Bhutan comes to Singapore, could you please bring one bottle for me?? :D I'll exchange with Tiger beer with you. Is that okay?? Hehehe....

Memorial Chorten, Thimphu

After lunch, we went to visit Memorial Chorten, which was built by 3rd Bhutan King's mother, Her Majesty the late Queen Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck. It was said that this memorial stupa was built for a world peace.

Thsering, our tour guide, explained more about Buddhism in Bhutan. He said it's Mahayana Buddhism that they follow. However, the basic of the Buddha's teaching is still the same. Do good things, avoid evil things, pure your heart and mind - do and practice it in daily lives. He also said, we don't have to always go to temple to pray as the Buddha's teaching is in our head /mind, while our body is the temple. Just practice the above, we have already practice the Buddha teaching.

He also mentioned Öm mani padme hum, which has same meaning with Sabbe Satta Bhavantu Sukhitata - May all sentient beings be happy.

I'd learnt something there. Tshering said, in Buddhism, when we pray, we don't pray for our own happiness, but we pray for other sentient being happiness. Because most of the time, when people pray, people will pray for their own happiness. E.g. they wish they can do well in exam, they wish they can have good health, they wish they can win TOTO, etc... Now I understand what my mom does all this while. When she prays, she always prays for other people's happiness, e.g. for her children, her husband, her parents, etc. Thank you Mom for your prayers. I will always pray for your and pa happiness, good health and luck too!!!

Next, we went to Bhutan National library and Handicrafts Emporium. I bought a Buddha's painting there. It is beautiful. Today I went to buy the frame so I can hang it in our living room and when I look at it, it will remain me of the beautiful country. We stayed in Druk Hotel for two nights, which has a beautiful room for us to rest.

Kuzuzangpo-la!! Day 2 in Bhutan.

Archer aimed to shoot

We went to see the archery competition, which is a Bhutan national sport, declared in 1971. The distance between the archer and the bull eye board is 145m in length. Wow, how could they shoot the arrow in such a distance!!!


There are 3 players in a team. When the player manages to hit the arrow to the board, the other archers will do the dance. It's very cute :)

Next, we went to see the Buddha Dordenma or 'Vajra Throne Buddha', a bronze statue, located at Kuensel Phodrang, overlooking Thimphu. It will be one of the largest Buddharuppam in the world, at a height of 169 feet (51.5 meters). The project costs over than US$100 million. It's still not finished yet, so we could only take photo from afar :)

Tenzin (driver), Tshering (tour guide), my parents, Gyeltshen (driver), me and Raymond (Indo tour guide)

Then, we had lunch. After lunch, we went to Centenary Farmers Market, a weekend market in Thimphu. We were given free time to browse the area. My parents and I went to see the clothing and I bought the Kira. I also bought the bells and thunderbolt as souvenirs from Bhutan.

Beautiful post cards of Bhutan

They brought us to National Institute of Zorig Chusum, which is the center of Bhutanese Art Education (painting, drawing, woodcarving, embroidery, and carving the statues); National Textile Museum, which displays various Bhutanese textiles; Folk Heritage Museum, where we can see a traditional Bhutanese farm house which displays more than 100 years old vintage furniture; Institute of Traditional Medicine, which displays various herbs and traditional medicines.

Overlooking the Tashicchoe Dzong and royal family residence, Dechencholing Palace

We went back to hotel for a rest and continued our trip to Tashichhoe Dzong - also known as "Fortress of the Glorious Religion". This place is used both as a religious center for lamas and administrative center for civic administration. There are also the throne room and offices of the King of Bhutan, and the secretariat and the ministries of home affairs and finance.

Me wearing Kira - with the security officers at the entrance

When we walked to the Dzong, we had to pass by the Dechencholing Palace, the residence of Royal family. We weren't allowed to stop, to stare, and to take photo. We had to walk as per normal. We could only visit the West of the dzong, a small tower of Ney Khang Lhakhang, which houses a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha and protective deities. Inside, Tshering explained to us the different deities and their stories :)

Inside the Tashichhoe Dzong

And below is my photo with the prayer wheels :)
That's it for Part 1 - If there is any mistake in spelling or explanation, please correct me :) Thank you!

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