Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Then I Saw Her Face by Ngawang Phuntsho

Once holiday was over, I had to adjust my life back to the normal course of life. Other than work, housework at home, busy attending family gathering for about two weeks, finally I could go back to enjoy ‘me’ time by reading books. It could be one at a time, or few at the same time :)

Then I Saw Her Face by Ngawang Phuntsho

I started reading with the light one, “Then I Saw Her Face”, written by Ngawang Phuntsho. He has a Bachelor Degree in English Literature from Sherubtse College and currently works at NGO READ Bhutan as Development Officer. Other than this book, he is also the author of “The Cuckoo and the Pigeon: A collection of folktales from Bhutan”, and a Bhutanese blogger who blogs regularly on social issues. You can read his blog here. Other than that, he also often contributes his writing to Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB) website here.

I knew him only a month (through Facebook) before we finally met up. I had heard about him from the other blogger’s friends. They told me that he was a humble and modest guy, helpful and very good person. He even personally gave the book to me, the day after we met at the Blogger’s meeting in DYS Harmony Village in Thimphu. Read about our meeting here.

We met for a first time not during blogger’s meeting though hehe.. When I was in Thimphu’s bus station (waiting for our bus to Gelephu to depart), I saw him walking past and carrying goods. That time I was sitting inside my bus. When Riku came, I told him that I saw Ngawang, but I was unsure if it was really him. Then he walked and carried the goods again for the second time. Riku saw him and told me that it was really him. Riku then walked towards him and not long after that, both of them came to the bus where I sat, and we started to introduce ourselves to each other. That was how I met Ngawang for the very first time :)

We met again for the third time only a day after the Blogger’s meeting, which was also my last day spent in Thimphu. He fetched me in Changangkha Lhakhang (after I’d done with my prayer) and he drove me to town. I told him that I wanted to buy some Bhutanese handmade gifts/souvenirs to bring back to Singapore. Despite a very hot sun he was patiently walking, accompanying me through the whole stretch of road where Bhutanese handicrafts were sold (opposite of Taj Mahal Hotel). He was also helping me to bargain the price with the seller hehe…

Dreams Quote :)

While shopping, he shared with me his future dreams and aspirations, which were to continue further study, to have a stable source of income by opening shop run by his wife, so that he can fully concentrate to help Bhutanese who are poor and in needs (especially those who stay in rural and isolated area of Bhutan) – by bridging those who has more and who doesn’t have anything at all. It is truly inspiring Ngawang!! Hope you can fulfill your dreams and wishes soon!! Wish you all the best from me :)

Once I bought what I needed, he dropped me in front of the Druk Hotel and that was when we met for the last time. At the same time, he gave me this book, and other two children books, meant for my son to read. Thank you Ngawang for the books, especially for your time and hospitality given although it was only a short time! I appreciate it very much :)

I finished reading his book weeks ago; however, I wasn’t good at reviewing book. So I would only give whatever impression that I had after reading the book.

“Then I Saw Her Face” was a collection of 28 short stories related to Bhutanese way of life. I was exciting when reading it as I wanted to know what kind of story that the author would write and share to the readers and what kind of ending he gave in each story. Sometimes I was expecting the unexpected to come. It was thrilling for me hehe…

It was my first time to read the Bhutanese short stories compiled in a book, reminding me of my teenager’s time when I used to read Indonesian’s short stories, mostly from magazine. Somehow, I was expecting what kind of stories that related to Bhutanese cultures that made it special and different from other part of the world’s cultures’ and beliefs’ stories.

It was short but refreshing. While some stories carried a lesson to learn – True Gift, some described different type of experience faced by people there in the story – The Call of Nature. Some was funny too – Philanthropists. It brought you to Bhutan atmospheres for a while, imagining if you were there and experienced the story yourself there.

Overall, it was good writing Ngawang!!! Hope you can continue writing and bring more fresh stories for Bhutanese and us (overseas readers) to read :)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bhutan trip day 18 – 22 Sep 2013 – Visiting Lhakhangs in Bumthang - Part 2

Beautiful scenery from Mebar Tsho to Bumthang Airport
On the way to Tamshing Lhakhang, we passed by the Bumthang Airport. It’s a simple long runway, but view surrounding it was marvelous :)

View of Bumthang Airport :)
Tamshing Lhakhang was located across the river from Kurjey Lhakhang, founded in year 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. It was the most important Nyingmapa temple in Bhutan.
Tamshing Lhakhang in Bumthang, Bhutan
In this Lhakhang, there were very old religious paintings (one thousand Buddha and 21 Tara – female form of Bodhisatva) around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored at the end of 19th century. Inside, there was square chain about size of 1m x 2m (I called it ‘chain cloth’) put on top of one table. Bhutanese believed that when you carried this chain cloth behind your back and turned the inner side of temple around for three times, your sin would be cleared. All of us carried the chain cloth and made one round. Two or three children carried it together, sharing the burden as the chains were quite heavy for all of us. Interesting no? Btw we did that not because we really believed that by doing that we could clear our sin, but just for the sake of having fun. If it really could clear our sin, this temple must be very crowded and people would queue just to carry the chain three times every single day hehehe…

Devi and I went up to second floor. The temple inside was locked and not opened. We just walked one round outside the room. She kept warning me to be careful with my head as the ceiling was quite low. It was built based on the Pema Lingpa’s body height, which was quite short. I realized that many places and doors in Bhutan were built with low height. I didn’t know how many times I had accidentally knocked my head against the doors there uuhh….. :P

Konchog Sum Lhakhang in Bumthang, Bhutan
Konchog Sum Lhakhang was built in 6th century, renovated in 1995, and burnt down on 24th February 2010. Luckily most of the sacred belonging was safe, including the main statue of Vaicorana. The inner part of the building was kept with some renovation done to maintain the outlook, while they were reconstructing and renovating the outer part. It was still under construction by the time we visited. It was said that the Lhakhang contained a large bell, when rung, the sound could be heard all the way to Lhasa, Tibet. However, during 17th century, the Tibetan army tried to steal it but since it was too heavy, they dropped it and made a big crack. We saw it inside the Lhakhang but not sure if that was the same bell mentioned. 

Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery in Bumthang, Bhutan
Last but not least, we visited Lhodrak Kharchhu Monastery.  It was located just above the Chamkar town. It was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1984, recognized as a reincarnation of Tibetan Lama in 9th century. It was huge!!! Quiet too. I think we came when monks were having their classes. Few of us walked around the area. It’s said that there were almost 400 monks currently studying and staying there. This monastery has become part to preserve the Tibetan culture where monks learning about many things such as: reading, chanting prayers, drawing Mandala, learning how to use musical instruments, poetry, and many more. From there we could see the view of Chamkar town. Beautiful!!
Beautiful Chamkar town from afar...
So, we finally finished visiting the Lhakhangs and Mebar Tsho. We all went back home, changed our clothes, took some rest, before we headed to Nila’s house. He and his wife invited us for dinner in their house since they knew it was my last night staying in Bumthang. We had a full-course of Bhutanese style dinner there – read the Bhutanese style dinner experience here – and before going back home, this sweet couple gifted me a bottle of pickle dorle chili, two bottles of handmade strawberry jam, and a packet of taengma or gaaza seep (cereal kind of food made of maize). Thank you for your kind hospitality Nila and Devi!!! I appreciated it very much!

Before going back to Suneet’s house, Kedar invited us to visit his home too (located just next to Suneet’s house).  Although we had lots of Druk already in Nila’s house, they still offered us a drink at their home. We accepted a glass of Raven red wine gratefully. Thank you!

At Kedar home sweet home :)
His wife also did the weaving of Kira during her free time. She, Muna’s sis, and Yeshey (also stayed next to them), each of them had the traditional equipment to weave the kira. All of them must be a very detailed and patient person, unlike me kekeke…. It was quite late already so we only visited for a while. Before we left, we took photos together. Thank you Kedar for everything!!!

Although it was only a short two-day trip, I’d seen and experienced thing that I thought it didn’t exist much in Bhutan, which was a loving Bhutanese family - spouse living together with their children - and at the same time, valuing their togetherness as families and treasuring the importance of friendships.

After spending time with them for two days, it had opened my eyes that after all, there were still many out there who were having happy family life. It might not be perfect and not necessary to be perfect; however they were happy to live together, value each partner’s loyalty and hard work, wish and do their best for their families. I could feel their loves and warmth and saw how lovely they were to each other. My friend, Kedar, was even still praising his wife beautiful and capable in front of me, and he treasured his both sons very much.

Particularly children were having a great time. They spent most of their free time playing with neighbors’ children. They were staying together with families during breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner time. They sat down with their parents together watching TV at night. 

I was wondering about nowadays children in Singapore. They occupied their time mostly at their own room playing computer games, other electronic devices, such as: Ipad, Xbox, Play Station, etc., watching cartoon on TV almost whole day, and so on.

Hm... How wonderful if all Bhutanese, or even all human being would be like them. Hope more of us would treasure the value of loyalty and happiness within the family and to trust the partner that we choose in our lives to be honest and faithful.

Bye bye Bumthang!!! See you again one day......
Next morning, we had to leave Bumthang. Suneet sent me and Lachee to bus station as early as 6am. Our bus left at 6.30am. It was drizzling, as if the sky was crying as I left this memorable place hehehe.... And you know what? We saw Changa and Chuddu coming to town. Both of them seemed to recognize us :) Happy to meet them again. As if they were sending us off too.. hehehe... We had a great time in Bumthang!! Thank you everyone for everything!!! :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

You can now reach up to the sky at a price :)

Flying high in the sky
I took this picture from our local newspaper this morning - "You, too, can defy Gravity - for a price" - My Paper Fri, October 25 2013.

Many years back during my school time, in tourism class, we had already predicted that the future of tourism industry would be this kind of traveling that people would be able to travel in space by paying a hefty price.

Things that were seen as impossible were being realized and more reachable to public.  "The Arizona-based company, World View Enterprises, said in a statement on Tuesday the trip will cost US$75,000 (S$93,000) and travelers will stay aloft for about two hours in an eight-seat 'luxuriously appointed space-qualified capsule'".

Although I love traveling, I won't spend my money this way, also I don't have much money to travel this way hehehe....

I don't like a short-time enjoyment like this. I love to spend more time enjoying the view slowly and experiencing things by touching, smelling, tasting, interacting, and not just looking :)

Anyway, good to know that we were spoiled with more choices on how and where to travel, in case we get bored with traditional traveling and don't know where to spend our excessive money ^^

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Inner voice

Before starting my busy day today, I sat down in quiet contemplation. I think, look back, and see what I've done so far. Time flies. December is coming very soon and another new year is coming in about two months time.

I think that sometimes it amazes me on how much I've been through in this past one year, how things that happened affected my life unconsciously and unknowingly.

Somehow it affects my behavior changes too. Sometimes I've become someone I don't even recognize. But I'm glad that this year I've been knowing and meeting lots of new friends that I'd never imagined that I would encounter this way before. Thanks to fate and good karma ba!

However, life continues on. There are so many things I want to do now starting from understanding my inner voice, then act accordingly. Since I fail to recognize the other 'me', I need to rectify it and find my own self back.

Recently I've not gone for my cycling session. Just went once after coming back from Bhutan. Cycling is one kind of therapy for me where I can have my own time to let my mind think and wander off, speak to my inner self on what I've been doing, what should I do, and so on, enjoy the nature surrounds me, let my freedom roam away satisfy my needs of getting freely from any boundary, restrictions, right and wrong, customs, traditions that mainly were created by and to human, and just to enjoy the present moment.

Apart due to rain, I was kinda lost my mood on it since my last cycling. The place that I used to go is now surrounded by high-rise HDB buildings and concrete such as: flyover road bridge. It made me sick. My soul needs nature just like horse needs huge grasslands to roam about. I need space to satisfy my hunger and thirst soul, also awareness on where it goes and what they do. I can feel it when it has surpassed my own self. I start looking for guidance and advise from others.

Many people asked me where is my next destination for upcoming trip. Honestly I haven't planned anything yet. Few places occupied my mind though but I am not in a hurry to realize it soon. I'm in resting mood now. Just want to rest and be lazy, stay at home and do whatever things I love to do, such as reading, writing, sleeping, watching TV, and so on.

Meeting friends would be part of my life too because we can't live in this life just by myself. We need someone who understand us, listen to us, giving us opinion and support etc., although at the end we are the one who make decision on what we are going to do.

I agree life is full of ups and downs. We just need to recognize this state, accept it as part and parcel of our life, and let go the unhappy thing and let live the one that we love doing it.

So hopefully I will go back to my own self again for the rest of the year and come out with new energy and spirit that I require to face new challenges in upcoming year.

Jia you Overcome!!! You can do it!!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bhutan trip day 18 – Sun, 22 Sep 2013 – Visiting Lhakhangs and Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake) in Bumthang - Part 1

I supposed to go to Bumthang on Thursday, 19 Sep. Due to unavailability of the bus ticket I could only go there on Friday. Also, since one whole day had been spent for picnic, it left me with only one day to browse around Bumthang. Since I had to go back to Singapore on 25th Sep morning, I had to return to Thimphu on 23rd Sep. Therefore, Suneet (Riku’s brother-in-law) had tried his best to arrange the itinerary to bring me around, based on the list of the places that I showed him.

While waiting for the rest to get prepared, I walked alone to Chamkar city, which was only five-minute walk from the place where I stayed. I walked all the way up to the bridge, bought some tidbits and snacks, took some phallus pictures that were displayed openly outside many shops, and returned back home. It’s a small town but surrounded with beautiful mountains and valley.

Chamkar town, Bumthang
Since I wanted to go to Lhakhang, Bhutanese had to wear their national clothes, gho and kira. Muna sis had kindly lent her beautiful golden color tego and her handmade new weaved kira for me. I told her to just lend me the used and normal kira, but she insisted me to wear her new creation as she said it looked nice on me. Hehehe… Kadinche-la Muna sis :)
Well, we finally departed together with Kedar and his families. Our first place to visit was Kurjey Lhakhang (Body Imprint Monastery).  There were three temples there and the whole area was surrounded by 108 chorten (stupa) walls.

Visiting Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang
The first temple, called Guru Lhakhang, located on the right side, was built in 1652 by Chogyal Minjur Tempa, the first Governor of Trongsa. Inside here, there was a cave where Guru Padmasambhava meditated there to subdue the local deity in 8th century and left the imprint of his body on the rock.

The second temple, called Sampa Lhundrup Lhakhang was built by King Ugyen Wangchuk in 1900, while the third temple was built in 1990 by Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk, the Queen Mother. Above the monastery, there was a tall Cypress tree, which they believed it was grown from Guru Rinpoche’s walking stick (see the photo above - middle left side).

Near the entrance, there were stones with a small crawl-through in the middle. Bhutanese believed that if you were able to pass through that hole, then your sins would be gone (see the photo above - top right side). I was too big size for that hahaha…

After coming out from there, we walked up at about 5 minutes to get the holy water. When we reached, there were many jerry cans lining up towards the pipe where the holy water came out (see the photo above - below right side). Since we only brought a smaller bottle, I asked permission from people who were waiting if we could get our water without further waiting. Luckily they allowed, so we didn’t have to wait so long :)

Visiting Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang
Next destination, Jambay Lhakhang. This place was the one that I wanted to visit most in Bumthang since it was another one of the oldest monastery built in Bhutan. It was built in the 7th century, by the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo and this was one of the 108 monasteries built by him to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region, same with Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro.

I felt blessed being able to visit this temple. Thank you for the good karma :) Inside the Lhakhang, there were three stone steps, which represented ages. First step represented the past, the age of Historical Buddha, which is Sakyamuni Buddha. This step had come down to the ground and was covered with wooden plank. The second one represented the present and was at the same level with the floor. The last one represented the new age. It was believed that when the step that represented the present age sunk to the ground level, the Gods would become like human and the world would end.

The inner part was different from Kyichu Lhakhang as there was a place for us to circumambulate the main temple before going to the centre part of the temple.

You know what? In this Lhakhang, I met the two brothers, Changa and Chuddu. Read more about their story here. I had never met them before this. Only knew them by reading the blog posted by Riku quite long time ago, so I couldn’t really remember how they looked like, and forgot their names too. Before leaving to Bumthang, Riku had already told me to find them in town area. 

Met Changa and Chuddu brothers in Jambay Lhakhang, Bumthang
So, whenever I walked around the Lhakhang, I saw both of them. I called Riku immediately asking him about these two brothers’ names. Once he told me, I was asking someone who was standing nearby both of them to ask them what their names were. When they said their names, ahhh… I guessed correctly then! Wow!! What a coincidence to be able to meet them there!!! :) Like what Riku wrote in his blog, "These two brothers murmured, exchanged smiles to each other, and walked so buoyantly, as if they might have their own language and wisdom (understanding the essence of life and happiness)."

Picking up 'marip'
Once done, we left the place. We went to pick another friend, Nila and his families from his house. While waiting, Nikita and Lachee were attracted from picking up small round shape fruits from the trees located next to our car. I never saw this kind of fruit before. It was called ‘Marip’. It was sweet and there was seed inside. Kedar went and cut few branches and gave it to us to have it in easier way rather than plucking the fruit one by one. We just ate the fruit like that, without washing it. Hahaha… another thing to learn from Bhutan ;)

Mebar Tsho or Burning Lake in Tang Valley, Bumthang
Next, we went to visit Mebar-Tsho (Burning Lake). It was located in Tang valley, one of the most sacred sites in the region (also one of the holiest lakes in Bhutan) as it related to the renowned Terton Pema Lingpa, who discovered the sacred treasure that Guru Rinpoche hid within the lake many years back. He was considered as incarnated disciple of Guru Padmasambhava, holding a butter lamp in his hand, jumped into the lake, and several hours later he came back holding a scroll of paper with the butter lamp still burning bright. That was how the name of the lake coming from.

The importance of this site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and the small clay offerings called 'Tse Tsa' in rock niches.

This was how we looked the Mebar Tsho from the top :)
To see the lake from top, we had to lie down on the stone as it was quite high and they scared us falling down. There were few cases happening before where people fell down accidentally and died. Since I went there wearing kira and with a large group of people, I didn’t have chance to get a closer look of the lake from below, otherwise I would like to stay longer and feel the tranquility of the lake closer. Anyway, I was lucky enough having chance to go there. Thank you everyone for bringing me there :)

Lunch break - picnic style. Oh.. loving it so much!!! :)
Once done, we stopped at one place and had our lunch picnic on the roadside. Oh… that’s what I wanted to experience in Bhutan too. Seemed like they know what I want, although I never voiced my heart out to them :) Kids ate using their hands. Once we finished, it was the crows turn to eat our food balance on the grass hehehe….

Continue the journey at part 2 here :) 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bhutan trip day 11 - 15 Sep 13 - Journey to Gelephu - Part 2 Unforgettable memories :)

We finally reached Gelephu bus station at 4.30pm. After purchasing our return tickets, we took taxi to the nearest area where we started our two-hour walking journey to Chuzargang village. Riku had already warned me in advance and asked me to be mentally prepared for this journey. "I am ready, let's go!!!" replied me while smiling. Oh, I was so exciting!!! I tried to pack my bag as light as I could, only brought the necessary, unlike Riku, who brought lots of gifts for his family members :)

Starting our journey :)

We started our journey walking on the road full of stones. When we saw water, we decided that it was time to change our shoes to slippers. Not only that, we also changed our pants hahaha...

Many water puddles along our way to Maokhola river

Tell you, the view surrounding us was beautiful! Everywhere surrounded me was only nature, nature, and more nature. Be it trees, paddy fields, cows, mountains, grasses, river, etc. I was so pampered with the rich of natural resources. I wish Singapore was like this and allow me to walk in this kind of environment everyday *daydreaming.....

Two of us near the infamous Maokhola River :)

After a while, we reached to see the infamous 1.8km long Maokhola river :) We need to wait for the boat to come, therefore we spent the time having fun taking photos. Btw I was so lousy in wearing slippers. Only walked for a while, I had already spoiled my slippers. Yallama!! It was when I had to walk through the water puddle. The slipper was stuck and pressurized by the water. Haiya.... Riku immediately lent his slippers to me. I told him it was okay as I would love to walk barefooted on the soil and stones, just treated it as foot massage hehehe... but he insisted me wearing his slipper while he had to bear the pain of walking on top of many stones. Oh... I was so touched la, thank you Riku!!! :)

Right below: Three towers photo with villagers :P

The boat would only come when there were enough villagers to board. It was located at the opposite direction. Therefore, they had to pull the boat against the water flow then paddled it to our side, and again brought it closer to us.

Pulled the boat against the water flow
Boat crossed over to our side and pulled nearer for us to board

All of us slowly went into the boat and had our seat.

First cross of Maokhola River

Yes, it was only our first cross. After this one, we had to walk a distance and take another boat to cross over.

Top: A cute villager came and took photo w/ me :) - Going to cross another river by boat

The second cross journey was shorter and the water flow was milder.The view was wonderful. I loved it so much!!! See the photos below.

Beautiful view of Maokhola River in the evening :)

That alone, we had already spent around an hour time.By the time we crossed the second time, the sky had changed into beautiful reddish color and Riku had to wear his shoes back as the stones had become unbearable to step in on his barefoot hehe...

After crossing the second time, while walking, I remembered him telling me this, "I have been walking over this river for many many times in my life, but I never thought that one day I would walk with you over this river." I smiled. Suddenly I felt blessed and grateful for having this opportunity to walk through this journey. Happiness was all over our hearts that we both could have chance to enjoy the beautiful nature together, although in such a short period of time only. Thank you Riku for bringing me there!!!

It was very beautiful --- I fell in love with Bhutan so much!!! :)

From there, we walked again, following few villagers in front of us. We walked through tall and thin silver grasses (see photo above), even taller than our heights, made us difficult finding the villagers who walked in front of us. In fact, we almost got lost. Hahaha...

Finally we found the land, our starting point to the village. Starting point??? Yes, you saw it right. Hahahaha........ Yallama!! You thought it was over and we reached the village? No way!!! When I asked, Riku said there would be another one-hour walk to his village. "One hour?? On foot??", I asked him to confirm that I didn't hear wrongly. "Yes, one hour.", he replied firmly. Yallama keno!!! I thought he was trying to make me feeling better saying it was one hour while the journey might be reached in lesser time than that, but he didn't. He was saying the truth. Lolx!!!

Chandra (Riku's brother) was waiting for us. Riku asked him to wait for us there and accompany us to lead the way back home. Since I was a little bit hungry and exhausted, Riku suggested me to take a rest for a while in one stall there. He bought two packets of Wai Wai noodle and we had to eat it dry. He also bought snacks to two villagers who helped us showing the way to this place :)

We couldn't rest so long as the sky had started to turn dark and we still had a long way to go so we started walking again. This time, someone helped me carrying my bag, so I only carried my backpack. It had helped me a lot. We had to walk very fast. Chandra led the way, I walked in the middle, while Riku was walking behind me. Riku had to slow down whenever passing by the water puddle (as he was wearing his socks and shoes back), while I wore his slipper. However, I was so careless again with his slipper and I spoiled the slipper for a second time. Hahahaha.... No choice, I had to carry his slipper with my hands, while walking barefooted.

It was so fun. My feet touched the soil, water puddle, stones, and even cow dung, made me feel very closer with the earth. I didn't care how many germs sticking on my feet. In fact, I felt so carefree. We walked under the bright moonlight above us between the paddy field, small path, and kept walking. Chandra walked very fast and I had to catch up with his pace because otherwise I would get lost. Hahaha.... Since the dark came, we had to turn on our torch light. I was lazy to take out my torch light from inside my bag and just turned on the flash light apps from my handphone. It was bright enough to show the path in front of us.

Suddenly Riku reminded me of leeches. He said there would be many leeches during this season. Yallama!!! Before hearing it, I was so happily enjoying the journey. No worry, nothing. Just enjoyed the moonlight and stepped the soil barefooted and felt the earth's warmness. But after he mentioned "leeches", suddenly I felt scared, insecure, and full of worry.

So sometimes in life, it's better that you didn't know or didn't hear about anything and still be happy with your life, rather than knew about it and made you feeling scared and insecure, full of worry. Don't you agree? When time came, when you got bitten by the leeches, it might be too late, but no matter what, the result would obviously still be the same. Only how long you would enjoy the happiness with your ignorance rather than keep worrying and be sad all the time in your life journey ;)

Therefore, I chose to ignore about it and kept going. Too bad I didn't have a chance to capture the view of that journey as we had to walk very fast and it was dark (my handphone might not be able to capture as beautiful view as what we saw with our own eyes). Therefore, that images would only be stored inside my brain :)

On our way, Riku asked me to talk with Chandra as he could speak and understand English. So, I was asking few questions from him, about his families, his occupation, and so on. He was a very humble person, content with what he had in his life. Blessed with marrying a very beautiful wife and had two cute sons, 7 and 4 years old each. He worked as a farmer, taking care his own paddy fields. Other than that, I heard he was a good carpenter too. His favorite past time was to drink whiskey, Black Mountain whiskey - hahaha... (this was my assumption though, as per what Riku told me :P)

Riku and his brother, Chandra

Ooohh.... after walking for some time, I saw some buildings.Yayyy!!! I was so tired and full of sweat. Hahaha... So happy that we finally reached our destination :) We were escorted to the biggest house. Once went in, we could find two single separate bed with a table in the middle. There was staircase leading to the above floor. The wall was made of mud and dung washed. There was a ceiling fan to cool us down. There was Hindu altar too inside the house with God of Hindus posters were pasted near the altar

Riku's first Mom, me, Riku's father, Chandra and his youngest son

We took a seat and had a rest. One by one I met Riku family members, started with his father, "A man behind Chuzargang rice", Mr. Lal Bdr. Subba. He looked exactly the same with the photo that Riku posted in his blog previously, except that he had lost some weight due to health condition issue that triggered him few months back. Riku told me that his father could speak a little bit of English, so I could converse with him. Hehe.. I did talk with him afterwards and the first thing he told me was that he married two wives and Riku was coming from the second Mom. Hehehe.... I guessed he was very proud of it. No wonder Riku told me that he wanted to marry two wives too in the future, following his father's step :P

His first Mom came in. She was wearing gold accessories under her nose (it was common for the woman to wear that kind of accessories there) and earrings on both ears. Although she was petite woman, she had given birth to seven children.

Her eldest sister-in-law came in, followed by Chandra's two sons, Raj and Diwash. After that Riku's Mom entered followed by Chandra's wife and Chandra. I was introduced to each of them. Among them, I think it was only Chandra who could understand English, however, he spoke less. So they all would converse in Nepali while sometimes I would ask Riku to translate whenever they spoke something related to me.

Riku's Mom offered us Ngaja. While having tea, Riku and I distributed some gifts to all them. I brought some chocolates for them to taste. Riku gave his two Moms scarfs that he bought in Nepal while I gave two of them brooch. Both received it happily :) I passed some souvenirs from Singapore to his father. We gave Riku's brothers the Black Mountain whiskey and both sister-in-laws were so happy hahaha... Riku bought a packet of balloon to Chandra's son, reminded me his blog post that he wrote regarding Chunku (his youngest sister).

Once finished our tea, I told Riku that I wanted to take a bath. I felt so sticky and was longing for a fresh water to clean up my body. He asked me to prepare my clothes and my other things. I thought he would bring me to the pond or river to take a bath, but he didn't. There was no river nearby ba. He brought me to a place located around 10 meters away from the house. There was a man-made pond filled with water near a big tree (not sure where the water was coming from, whether it's clean or dirty, it was too dark to see and I didn't really care about it too, as long as there was water for me to take a bath). He told me to take a bath there, in open air. I was like, What??? Was he serious?? He was asking me if I wanted to take a bath outdoor or indoor. I guess that indoor was not that fun and troublesome as I had to take the water manually to the small toilet. Therefore, I chose to take a bath outdoor. He gave me two alternative places. One was at the pond he showed me just now, while another one was at water tap nearby Chandra's house (brighten with light), which was more obvious for people to see. Hahaha......

Fireflies - source: http://www.thecoolist.com/slow-shutter-fireflies-by-tsuneaki-hiramatsu/

I chose to take a bath near that man-made pond. He assured me that no body would peek on me as everyone would stay inside the house and no one had an intention to do that. Well... so be it ba! I put my clothes on the stone nearby to ensure it wouldn't get wet. I filled the bucket with water, took out my bath gel, face soap, etc. Oh my... when was the last time I took a bath outdoor like that??? I think I never did that before. It would be my first time though. Hahaha... I was a bit shy so I took a bath with my cloth on in the beginning and only removed it when it's going to finish. It was dark, only lighted by the moonlight on top of me. And you know what??? While bathing, I saw many fireflies flying in the vicinity. There were lots of it!!! It was blinking and so beautiful!! Wow!!! I felt so blessed bathing this way. The water was not that cold and suitable for this kind of hot weather. I kept looking at the beautiful view of fireflies and moonlight. It was really great feeling and unforgettable memories in my life :)

After I finished, it was Riku's turn. While waiting, I had a chit chat with Riku's father. We tried our best to communicate using English. Hehehe... Once Riku was back, we went into the room and his Mom brought us dinner. We had rice with fried chicken, dhall, and dorle chili. Nyummy.... Loving it :)


While having dinner, everyone was inside the room. They had a chit chat while I was just listening to their chatter and laughter. Chandra told everyone that I was so strong, walking like a horse. Hahahaha.... Maybe he was surprised and didn't expect that this city girl would be good at walking hahahaha.... After finishing my dinner, I was asking Riku if they had tongpa. I had been reading it in his blog and heard about it from others too but had never tasted it before. Since I was in Gelephu, I should have drunk it right? He asked his Mom if they had it and I was lucky enough that they actually had it with them. I was given a jug of it with a straw made of bamboo - see the photo above. Hm.... it was warm and mild, not very strong in alcohol, tasted a little bit sweet, nice :) Once you finished drinking it, you could add boiled water into it and drink it all over again. Cool!

Me and Riku's Mom - Felt warm with her hugs - Blessed!!! :)

Happy times together - with Riku and his families :)

The above photo from left to right: Riku eldest's sister-in-law, Chandra's wife, Riku's Mom, Riku's first Mom, me, Riku's father and Riku. 

Inside Chandra's house - Three drinker ladies - Cheersss...... :)

After that we went to Chandra's house. Both sister-in-laws were having the Black Mountain whiskey. I joined them to taste how the whiskey tasted like. Hm.. not bad.. hehehe.... I realized that these two ladies were happier than their husbands when it came to drink hahaha.... Great accompany!!!

Inside eldest brother's house - with Riku's brother, sis-in-law, and sis-in-law's mother

It was raining while we were there. Once the rain was lighten, we continued visiting the eldest brother's house. Their house was quite small and simple. Once entered in, you could see the rack, table, and beds. Usually every house there would have a separate kitchen. She served us drink and had a chit chat while waiting for the rain to stop. Here, his eldest sister-in-law told us that I resembled one of the young girls who stayed in the village, called Jyoti and after that they started to call me Jyoti hahaha.... :D

The rain didn't stop so that we had to use umbrella to go back to our place. We went to sleep after that. I was awoken up at 3.20am. I wanted to pee. Instead of going to the toilet, I chose to pee on the grass outside the house. Hahahaha.... I helped them fertilizing the grass mah! I was facing the wall. When I looked up, wow!! I was amazed!! There were many stars above me looking sooo... big and near. I thought I saw wrongly. I removed and put my glasses back, and indeed, the stars were so many and shone brightly in the dark sky! Oh... another unforgettable memories.. while peeing... Lolx!!!

I told Riku about it and he was waking up and went outside to see it too. But he wasn't as amazed as me, perhaps it's common for him. For me, it was wonderful as in Singapore, we could only see a faraway and small stars in the sky. Not as big and as close as in Gelephu.

Suddenly, we heard the rooster calling just next to our room Yallama!! It shocked me for a while! At 3.30am??? Usually rooster would only call out at 5 or 6am in Indonesia, never at 3.30am. Both of us went into laughter hearing that hahaha.... After that we continued our sleep. Good thing was there was no mosquitoes. Oh, I was so relieved! I thought there would gonna be lots of mosquitoes there. That's why I could sleep peacefully...... Oh, so many unforgettable memories in a day... I am blessed!!!

Continue the day in this post.

Bhutan trip day 11 - Sun, 15 Sep 2013 - Journey to Gelephu - Part 1

Prior to my trip to Bhutan, I'd read many stories written by Riku in his blog. In fact, I knew him from his blog :) On my trip there, I felt like I experienced many things from what he had written there. Starting from "A tree, four seasons", I finally saw the tree that he mentioned there while walking from his office to his house; being introduced and met some of his very best friends from Sherubtse college's time as per "Way back to boyhood"; finally met Tashi Namgay - whom I supposed to meet in Kolkata earlier this year; watching the full rainbow in Thimphu although from different place; although it wasn't winter and Christmas time, we were invited for coffee at midnight by his best friend, Pema, who works in Taj Tashi Hotel; met the two brothers "Changa and Chuddu" while visiting Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang; visited the artificial turf - Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu; met many "Industrious Entrepreneur" along the road in Thimphu town; had a stroll in the evening from Motithang to Zilukha road and watched this place personally; stayed in this place for many nights during my stay there; looking at the beloved Thimphu town from far above the Sangaygang; took photo with "Bhutan comedian king, Phurba Thrinley" when we walked in Thimphu town during first day of Thimphu Tsechu; visiting Drayang in Haa, however me and his best friend came too late and the girls had left the place by the time we reached there hahaha....;and finally met not only the most eligible Bachelor but also a kind-heart in nature in person for the second time, who has a lot of passion in writing.

This time, he brought me to the place where his parents and families stayed, also where he spent some of his childhood time. He had written about this place many times in his blog posts. You can read it here, here, and here :)

We left his home to Thimphu bus station after having his warmhearted, own-cooked breakfast - fried sunny side egg, toasted bread, and a cup of hot coffee with cream. He wanted to make sure that we were full and having a comfortable journey before the bus stopped for lunch in afternoon time. Thank you for your considerate thought Riku!

First public bus encountered from Thimphu to Gelephu - 15 Sep 2013

This would be my first time taking a public bus in Bhutan. I read "Beyond the sky and the earth - A journey to Bhutan" written by Jamie Zeppa before. She wrote many of her horrible experiences taking public bus there, even called it "vomit comet" as there were many passengers in bus who were vomiting while traveling inside the bus. So, I was expecting a very much worse experience than what I really encountered, only to realize that the book was written based on her experience in 1988.

We sat down just behind the driver's seat, number 3 and 4. I sat down next to the window so that I could have full view of the roadside and make it easier to take pictures along the way. We left the bus station at 7am. On our way, the driver picked some more passengers illegally into the bus until it was full. We stopped for a while at immigration checkpoint where I had to go down and show my route pass to the immigration officer.

In a while, the journey continued on. The driver turned on the Nepali songs loudly to entertain the passengers while I sat down quietly writing my travel journal. Sometimes I took photo and sometimes I just let myself diving into the beautiful view while taking pleasure of the fresh and cool air from outside.

Source: Bhutan National Online Project (http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/bhutan_map.htm)

The bus passed by the Dochula Pass, Punakha, and Wangdue, reminded me of my last year's journey; and went through the dusty and bumpy road where Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project was under construction - between 7 km and 18.5 km downstream from Wangdue Phodrang Bridge. Ohhh... it was horrible!!! There were many big vehicles passing by transporting materials required for building the projects. We had to close and open the window all the time as it was so dusty and the weather and the sun were too hot if we left the window closed.

Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric project - after Wangdue bridge

Luckily, not long after that we were dropped at one eating place. It wasn't near with dusty area. Slowly the passengers went out from the bus and went inside the eating place. As it was my first time experience, I was curious how the place looked like, what food they served, how to order, how to pay, and so on. Immediately I sat down at one table and observed what was going on, while Riku joined the crowd to get the food from an open counter directly outside the kitchen.

People started ordering their food. Riku was asking me what I wanted to eat. I told him, anything. I could eat any food that they had. He was asking me if pork was fine. "Yes, sure" I replied him. He came with two plates of rice first with some veggies inside. He took two bowls of dhall and spoons. The bus driver, who knew that I was foreigner, came personally to us and brought two bowls of spicy pork. We thanked him for his service and enjoyed our lunch. Wow, the pork was full of fats!! But it tasted great! Haha... I loved it! Sometimes enjoyed, sometimes felt sinful. Lolx!!! In short while, someone came out from the kitchen bringing a pot of rice, walked around offering everyone if they wanted to add some rice. After that he went in and out from kitchen with pot of dhall. It was included in the package. So, meat was limited to one serving, while rice and dhall was unlimited. That was good huh?? In Singapore, everything was charged by portion, otherwise in over-priced buffet price.

Once finished, people would go to the cashier, tell them what we had eaten and paid accordingly. Here, we had to be honest with what we ate because there was no way that the cashier knew what you had eaten. Kekeke... One person paid Ngu 130 (around SGD $2.60). Not very cheap, but definitely filled our stomach.

Roadside stall selling local food products - on our way to Tsirang

We continued our journey again. This time, the road had turned better. On our way to Tsirang, we passed by roadside stalls selling many local food products, such as: fruits (banana, lemon, guava, papaya, apple, etc.), eggs, pickle chili and vegetables, dorle, red and green chili, vegetables (cucumber with salt and chili powder, fern or nakey, etc.), local made cheese, honey, peanuts, bean, dhall, milk, ready eat samosa, etc. It was so colorful and attractive. I saw many passengers buying.

We passed by mountainous road of Damphu. From here we could see Dagana and we headed to Sarpang direction. Inside the bus, in between the music that we listened, there were some jokes recorded too. Almost all passengers (except me, who didn't understand the language) laughed out loud listening to it. However, I became very happy too listening to their laughter and looking at their expression. It was really a good idea to put some jokes in between so people wouldn't get bored inside the bus. Interesting!!! :)

Different style of house in Sarpang, southern part of Bhutan

We finally reached Sarpang. From inside the bus we could see the small Sarpang town. The road had started becoming very plain, no longer mountainous road. The house that we saw was different from usual Bhutanese house. From here onwards, the weather had turned hot and we could start seeing doma trees, which grow suitably in warmer weather. The area was near Indian border too.

Many wonders inside my mind

On the way to Gelephu, we could see many tall trees on our left and right side. They were all protected and preserved. I loved watching it. All trees seemed very old, had been there for many years, still grew strong and tall. Sometimes I wondered, if I had be reborn many times before this, would I ever be there and saw the same trees and visit the same Lhakhang before?? Because otherwise, how would I ever know this country in present life? There were many wonder and questions on my head that were left unanswered.

We passed by Bhutan liquor distillery factory, which manufactured high quality liquor in Bhutan, called AWP (Army Welfare Project), a company incorporated under the Companies Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan mainly in the business of bottling a range of alcoholic beverages such as whiskey, rum, gin, etc. Presently AWP Gelephu has around 18.44 acre area which include the water treatment plant and manufacturing unit and a guest house.(Source: wikipedia.org). 

Reaching Gelephu town

We finally reached Gelephu bus station at 4.30pm. We took a cab to the nearest place where we could start our journey. Journey??? Yes... journey to Chuzargang, the village where Riku's families stayed. In fact, it was a long journey mainly on foot. Continue read on part 2.
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