Monday, October 07, 2013

Bhutan trip day 16 - Friday, 20 Sep 2013 - Journey to Bumthang

At 5.30am I woke up and got myself prepared. Lachhe was getting prepared too with her belonging. Two of us were going to Bumthang. Riku had office meeting to attend on that day and was unable to join me, therefore he asked his sister, Lachhe, to accompany me for the trip.

That morning, the view outside was awesome!!! There was layer of white cloud, or maybe fog, across the mountains. After staying in Thimphu for more than two weeks, it was my first time to see such a wonderful view :) The weather was cold, but it didn’t stop us to continue our journey, even when there was no Taxi to be seen, we both walked down the slope to Changangkha before finally getting our taxi.

Beautiful view of Thimphu and our fateful bus of the day!!!

Once reached the station, we found our bus easily as the driver was shouting on top of the bus arranging the passengers’ luggage, “Bumthang, Bumthang!!!” I faster double checked the bus number with the receipts on my hand. “1407.” It matched. I passed both our luggage to the driver on top and we waited outside until 6.45am. Lachhe went to buy phone voucher and after that, opening a packet of Shakila that I bought her the night before, and munched on it peacefully.

At 7am the bus departed from the station. We sat on our seat, number 11 and 12.

It was “OUR” first trip to Bumthang. She hadn’t been there too before although her sister had stayed there for almost 4 years. Both of us had no clue on how Bumthang looked like, where her sister stayed, and still unclear if we could manage to go around there in such a short period of time (I would have to go back to Singapore on 25th and go back to Thimphu on 23rd, which left us with only two full days there).

I had no idea too how her sister and families looked like, whether they were friendly, or whether they were free to bring us around, etc. Riku only told me that his brother-in-law had a car and if I requested him, he would be able to help me to go around Bumthang. Hahaha…. So the first question I asked Lachhe was, “Is your sister good?” She answered me, “Yes, she was good and kind.” After hearing her answer, I was very much relieved because if her sister was good and kind, there shouldn’t be any problem for both of us to stay at their house and to disturb them for two days :D

The bus went through the Dochula Pass, and it stopped for a while at Punakha as they gave passengers chance to have their breakfast. Since we were still full, we just went to the toilet. At 10am, it reached Wangdue. Unlike the direction to Gelephu, this bus crossed over the bridge to the direction of Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Oh, I was surprised and excited as I’d never crossed and gone to this direction before, and was also happy that we didn’t have to go through the broken and dusty road due to the development of Punatsangchhu hydroelectric project. I opened my eyes widely to see where the road led us to.

Beautiful view of Wangdue
At 11.50am, the bus stopped again at one eating house. We would then have our lunch there. We ate chicken, rice, ema datsi and dhall, and bought two packets of potato chips for munching inside the bus. Hehe…

Lunch of the day
At 12.20pm, the bus departed and reached Phobijka – beautiful valley of the black necked crane – at around 12.45pm.

Beautiful house and surroundings - I'm loving it!!!
The view after that was stunning and very beautiful. I couldn't stop amazed by it!!! We passed by lots of beautiful mountains with lots of colorful wild plants and trees.

Beautiful colors of wild plants and trees
I knew why many tourists were brought to Bumthang through this road. The view was spectacular. In a moment, I felt like I was in Switzerland, instead of Bhutan.

Looks like Switzerland instead of Bhutan. Do you think so too?

At around 1.40pm, there was something wrong with the bus. I think something hit the below part of the bus and it needed repair. The driver stopped at the eating place, somewhere near the Pelela pass and had the bus repaired, together with other bus driver of the same company. It required more than half an hour to repair it, under a rain.
Lachhe and I on our journey to Bumthang :)
But the rain had stopped me from taking photos outside. Also, the thick fog started to appear and left the view covered with black white fog. I had no choice but to sleep (also good to sleep after having a full stomach and cold weather hehe..)

Another view looked like Switzerland

Chorten along the way
After some time, I was awoken by the cold weather. When I opened my eyes, I could only see white fogs surrounding us. “OH, am I dreaming???” I asked myself. I pinched myself and I felt pain, “I am not dreaming obviously…,” I talked to myself. I rubbed my eyes to ensure what I viewed was real. I wanted to ask Lachhe, but she was sleeping peacefully beside me, so I’d better not to disturb her and I threw my face to look at the outside view again.

Live above the Clouds ;)

“Oh, does this the feeling when you stay on the cloud??” It reminded me of one Indonesian song called “Negeri di awan”, sung by Katon Bagaskara, which means “Land in the cloud.” I was imagining how it felt if you live in the house that was located above the cloud. Everywhere you walked, you could only see the cloud.

Suddenly the pictures of Doraemon and his friends came out from my mind. The scenes where they could swim in the cloud, sun tan with a glass of cocktail on the one hand, and play volley ball above the cloud filled up my brain. How nice it would be if I could do like that too…. :D

We went through Trongsa and passed by the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan, called Trongsa Dzong. It was built overlooking the Mangde River in 16th century.

Beautiful Trongsa Dzong from afar
The bus stopped for a while to drop some passengers in Trongsa town.

View of Trongsa bus station
At the junction of Trongsa Town
About 1.5-2 hours before reaching our destination, perhaps it was somewhere near Yutong la pass, the bus broke down again after it jumped hard on the bumpy road. It seemed that the bus was too happy to reach the destination soon. We had to stop for a while and the driver was checking what went wrong. It was the same problem that we had just now. He immediately called for help. However, the sky had turned dark soon. We were in the middle of the mountains, surrounded by trees with no shops around, and only few vehicles passing by.

My beautiful and favorite pine trees :)
It was 6pm. We supposed to arrive in Bumthang town at this time. Many passengers were making call as their families, relatives, or friends were all worrying about the bus that never arrived at that hour. I didn’t understand their language, but I assumed that they were all reporting about the break down and wanted their families, relatives, or friends to pick them up from where we were.

In this kind of situation, the driver had no choice but tried to start the engine and kept going. The engine was working but the smell came out and they were worrying if something worse happening. We stopped few times just to ensure it didn’t get worse and affect the whole operation. This time onwards, the driver just drove the bus in a very slow motion.

Despite of this kind of situation, I was just sitting down calmly. “We were on holiday,” I consoled myself. “There was no time to rush; no family and friends to meet and to miss yet (as I hadn’t even met up with them before; no other place could be visited too at night. But I was just feared of being stranded in the middle of the road, in the darkness of the night, in the middle of the mountains, in a very cold weather. No hot water to warm ourselves up.” Quickly I thought of what kind of food or snacks did I have inside my bag. My mind ran down to the ‘Beng Beng’, the Indonesian chocolate bars that I brought to be given away to them. “What else??” I tried to think hardly. Hm… seemed like nothing else other than that. “Oh my… How??? How??”

I quickly erased my worry and started to think positively. I told myself, “Be positive… be positive…” How worse the situation could be??? “But I felt cold….,” I said. “You could just wear your another jacket, couldn’t you?” “Yes, but the bag was on top of the bus. How could I get it when I needed it now??”

In a moment, the bus stopped. Just like wishes came true, the assistant of the driver took our bags down and put it near where we sat to make things easier for those who chose to go down before it reached. Oh, I finally saw my bag!!! I held it close to me, on top of my lap. “I’m saved!!! I have the chocolate bars, and my jacket. Hope it could help us to go through this journey!” When you were in this kind of situation, a minute felt like an hour. The bus drove too slow and you felt like this was a never ending journey.

Riku was calling me and asking where were we. We told him about the bus breakdown, but I didn’t tell him what ran inside my mind hahaha… I still acted very cool outside :D

The bus then stopped again. The driver was talking with people who were sitting inside a Taxi van. From Lachhe, I found out that those people were actually the mechanics who could fix the problem. However, the place was too dark and too narrow. Therefore, the driver kept going until it reached one shop in a place called Chumey.

The shop where we waited
The bus stopped there. All passengers went down. Lachhe and I entered into a shop. Time shown was 8pm, which meant, it had been two hours since the problem happened. Wow!!! Both of us took turn to the chabsang or ‘toilet’. After that, we ordered two cup of hot tea and chose a packet of butter biscuits.

Ohhh… I felt much better now after gulping down the hot tea into my stomach. The biscuits had slowly filled up my empty stomach too. The room was much warmer and a better place to be rather than staying inside the cold bus.

Riku called us again and asked how we were doing. I told him that it required some time for them to repair and there was still such a distance to reach Bumthang town. Driver said another one hour journey. He asked me to pass the phone to Lachhe and he asked her to call their brother-in-law to pick us up.

She then called her sister and asked her brother-in-law to pick us up. At first, she said that he was unable to pick us up as he was drunk and fell asleep. When I heard the news, I was wondering, “Haaa?? Wasn’t it too early to get drunk?? It was only 8pm plus when we called them up.” But not long after that, her sister called her back saying that he would be able to pick us up and she was asking where we were.

Lachhe then explained our location and we were waiting for him to come. While waiting, we chit chatted with other female passengers. Most of them were first time coming to Bumthang, just like us, and they went there to meet friends and some, relatives.

At 9.20pm the car had finally arrived. Her brother-in-law, Suneet, came with Kedar, his friend (whom at first I thought was her brother-in-law, hahaha…. :P). I never met him before mah… He immediately took our bags from inside the bus and transferred it to his car. We took off soon after.  Again, I was relieved that we were in safe hands now. The car went so fast and we reached their home at 10pm.

When we entered their house, we were warmly welcomed by Riku’s sister, called Muna, together with her neighbors (who were also her husband’s colleagues). There were two families of them, which were Kedar’s and Phungsuk’s. Total, three families staying nearby. There were of course other families, including their tenant’s families who owned the building where they stayed, but only these two were the closest and often came to their houses and did their activities together.

Yeshey, Phungsuk’s wife, told me that she and Kedar’s wife were purposely waiting for me there. They wanted to see how I looked like, how I behaved, how my personalities like, etc. For them, they seldom received overseas guest coming to their place, but I wasn’t the first foreigner that they met. There was a Chinese man before me, they said.

Both of them were housewives, also Muna sis. As expected, they started asking me lots of questions, from general to private ones, e.g. my age. Hahaha… :D But I was happy to answer them la (except to tell them about my real age) Lolx! It was an honor for me actually to be welcomed in their place and I didn’t expect that they would so eagerly waiting for my arrival and wanted me to have fun with them. All my worries earlier in the afternoon were all gone.

Ara from Tang valley with soaked Cordyceps
At first, Muna sis gave us cup of tea and biscuits to warm ourselves up after such a long journey in a cold weather outside. After that, Suneet was so exciting introducing Bumthang ara (specially made from Tang valley and soaked with cordyceps inside), and both housewives were eagerly waiting for me to finish the tea so that I could start the ara session. Hahaha… It seemed like I was so suitable in their environment. They needed someone who could drink alcohol there!!!

Our first dinner gathering In Bumthang. Left to right: Kedar's wife, Muna sis, Yeshey, Lachhe, Suneet, Kedar and me :)
They led me to the living room. All of us sat on the big floor mat and they gave me a special mat just for me sitting down there. I told them that they didn’t have to treat me so special like that because I was same like them. But they insisted, so I just accepted their offer bashfully.

Delicious and sinful Bhutanese spicy pork!!! Nyum nyum....

Since I was drinking my first cup of ara, they served the spicy pork as ‘changpa’ (side dish to eat with ara). It was only Suneet accompanied me drinking while the rests were busy preparing dinner. We had spicy chicken and spicy pork for dinner, together with dhall. Oh, so nice ya!!! Hehehe..

Doma with leaves and lime paste
After dinner, they took a plastic bag of doma and started munching it. They asked me to try too. Since they insisted, I took a small piece, wrapped it in a small leaf, put some paste, and started to chew it. But it didn’t last long. I was asking them if I could chew it out hahaha….. I couldn’t stand the bitter and the taste.

We couldn’t take a bath as the water was not running heavily so I just did the wash-up, brushed teeth and prepared to sleep. They told me that they had planned to go for a picnic tomorrow, which happened to be a ‘Blessed Rainy Day’ or Thruebab Duechen, whole day, from morning until evening time.

When they said ‘picnic’, I immediately recalled to my wish lists on things to do in Bhutan, and yes, picnic was one of them, which hadn’t been fulfilled yet. So, I was so exciting that I finally had a chance to go for a picnic, and didn’t mind to spend whole day just for picnicking. Yay!!!!

Another exciting day was coming. I had to go sleep now to ensure I had enough rest. They also asked me to take a bath early in the morning, with raining water collected, as early as 5am. I was like, were they serious??? Find out the story in the next post :)  


Sogyel Tobgyel said...

i was in bumthang till my 18th year... it is indeed a beautiful place... you are lucky imbay la...

Overcome said...

18 years compared with 2 days in Bumthang, you are indeed much luckier than me la! But it is really beautiful. I don't mind one day visiting it again in the future :)

Yeesi7 said...

Hello, Nice to meet you.
Bumthang is a paradise. Glad to see you exploring so many of Bhutan. I should do that too :)

Overcome said...

Hi Yessi!! Nice to meet you too! I often read your blog but didn't expect that you would read mine too.. :) and thank you for your comment. For me, not only Bumthang, but Bhutan itself is a paradise :)

Since it is your country, you should treasure it more by visiting more places in Bhutan when you go back for good. Unlike me, not many chance being able to go there...

Well, keep writing ok? I want to read more of your blog post. Have a nice day!!

Tshewang Dorji said...

But You are luckier than me..;) I never had the chance to visit Bumthang except on my way to a school at Trashiyangtse on the bus. that's all. learning so much about Bhutan!...

Overcome said...

Don't worry Tshewang, when there is a will, there will be a way. One day you will have a chance to go Bumthang and witness its beautiful natures yourself :)

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