Friday, June 30, 2017

Journey to Merak and Sakteng: Day 2 - Fun loving time at Merak :)

Panoramic view of Merak, Bhutan :)

The last half second day of our journey - Merak:

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Merak and Sakteng was to meet up with its people and see the different cultures and life that they had. Although both places were located still within Bhutan, the ethnic group - Brokpa (literally means nomad or herder) community - had pretty different style of living.

Brokpa ethnic community in Sakteng, Bhutan

Local wool cloth for man (left) and animal skin vest (on the right) - Merak, Bhutan

It's said that most of them came from Arunachal Pradesh, India, but originated from Tshoona region of Tibet. Due to the location and environment that they lived in, they used to live a nomadic life herding yak and sheep. They utilized yak and sheep for many things. I saw them wearing the skin from animals as a vest to keep their body warm, especially during harsh winter. The wool was dyed and spin, later on was weaved manually and made into beautiful and colorful traditional clothes that they wore everyday. Even the traditional hat - the twisted tufts of hair - was made by that and made them looking unique :)

Typical Brokpa Zhitpa (rotten yak cheese) made in Merak and Sakteng (Photo source: Bhutan Observer)

They made the Brokpa Zhitpa or rotten yak cheese from the churned milk that was pasteurized or fermented for at least 6 months and was wrapped up with animal's skin or leather. They could not open it until its maturity date. The longer they kept the cheese, the more expensive it became.

Delicious Momo filled with yak meat - handmade in Sakteng, Bhutan

They took the yak meat and made delicious momo or steamed dumpling and other dishes for their meals.

Two happy travelers wearing traditional clothes at Merak, Bhutan :)

So after filling our stomach with delicious lunch, we were having free time. And suddenly I had this thought. I asked K to ask the home-stay owner if she had traditional clothes for us to rent. Wow!!! She really had it!!! So soon after, we entered her house and she helped up with the dressings.

With a beautiful traditional dress in Merak, Bhutan :)

The above picture was the result :)

Our selfie with complete attires - Merak, Bhutan :)

Then I saw her grandson wearing the pearl necklace. So I asked her if she could lend it to me as well, hahaha.... and she was very kind to trust the accessories in my hand :) After going out, then I realized we were missing something, which was the hat. So K went to ask her again if we could borrow. The above photo was the result ;)

Kipchu with the Lhakhang at the background - Merak, Bhutan

With Lhakhang at our background - Merak, Bhutan :)

With big Mani Dungkhor near the Lhakhang - Merak, Bhutan

We went out exploring our surrounding, visiting lhakhang or temple, walking through villages, communicating with villagers, and not forgetting to take lots of photos with them and their beautiful places :)

Beautiful places - Merak, Bhutan :)

Fun loving moments in Merak, Bhutan :)

Beautiful places - Merak, Bhutan :)

We strolled the place until the sun set. Before returning back, we went to a grocery shop to buy some sweets and tidbits for Dorji Tenzin (the grandson of the lady owner), and eggs for our dinner.

Grocery shop at Merak, Bhutan

As we shopped, I peaked into the room beside it. They were bunch of villagers starting their dinner. It was quite early, wasn't it? Usually Bhutanese had their dinner after 9 pm :D

We went back to owner's house and returned our attires for the day. We paid her Nu 200 for the rent. She said she usually charged foreigner for renting the clothes. But for us, she was willing to lend it to us without any cost (which means free of charge). However, Kipchu and I had so much fun and memorable moments walking around the villages wearing these beautiful attires. We were very grateful for her efforts in lending us her precious clothes and that's why we felt that she deserved receiving the small token from us :)

Tasting local ara served by the home-stay lady owner

Before leaving the place, suddenly K asked the lady if she had local ara. She said she had it. And I asked him if we could taste it. Just nice we had 2 eggs that we just purchased from the grocery shop. We requested her to add it in and voila!!! The delicious ara was soon ready for us to drink!!! :) The sky turned dark and air was getting colder. However, with bukhari in front of us and two bowls of ara slowly entering our stomach, we felt very warm and safe inside the house :)

Taking photos with them before leaving their house - Merak, Bhutan

As we were about to finish, a middle-age man came back and went inside the house. We saw his photo hung near our room and she told us that the guy was the 'Gup' or the headman of the Merak village. So before returning back to our room, we took opportunity to take photo together with them :)

Our dinner of the day :) Merak, Bhutan

So, in such cold weather, we could only cook something fast and hot. We reheat the leftover food from lunch and cook a packet of Korean noodle. That's a perfect meal for us!!! Well, our fun loving time for the day was finally end in Merak, but our journey continued.... :)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Journey to Merak and Sakteng: Day 2 - Rangjung - Merak

Basic Health Unit at Rangjung, Bhutan

The first half second day of our journey: Rangjung - Merak:

We woke up at 6 am in the morning. We had to get up early as the room would be opened for patients started 8 am. By 7 am we had finished packing our stuffs and it was too early to disturb Mdm Pem Deki. Therefore, after returning the mattress back where K got it the night before, we then had a walk surrounding the BHU building.

Beautiful surrounding at Rangjung BHU, Bhutan

Wow!!! It was such a beautiful place outside the building. The area was decorated artistically using recycle bottles, bottle caps, and woods material were used as seating area, partitions, chairs, etc. K brought the flask and went to the kitchen to get some hot tea. We sat down and breathed fresh morning air enjoying the beautiful surrounding :)

Breakfast with love by Mdm Pem Deki - BHU Rangjung, Bhutan :)

We went to Mdm Pem Deki's quarter at 7.30 am. As we entered, she had finished preparing various delicious dishes for us. Fried rice, ema datshi, and chana curry with a cup of hot ngaja filled our stomach happily :)

We were still not sure when and how to go to Merak yet. As it was still early, both of us decided to walk to Woesel Chhoeling Monastery, located not too far from where we stayed. With full stomach, it was really good to do some exercise, get natural vitamin D (sunshine), and feed our soul with blessings by Guru Rinpoche with many great Lamas whose pictures could be found inside the temple.

Morning walk to Woesel Chhoeling Monastery at Rangjung, eastern Bhutan :)

The monastery was founded by His Eminence Dungsey Garab Dorje Rinpoche in year 1989, built to provide a conducive place for monks to learn the Buddha dharma as expounded in the Dudjom New Treasure Lineage and carry out dharma activities for the benefit of Buddhist community in and outside the country. (Source info: Rangjung Foundation).

The building was still quite new and typical Tibetan temple. As we entered into the main temple, I was amazed by the Guru Rinpoche statues together with the pictures of many renowned Lamas, great teachers of all times. Suddenly, I had a good feeling that our trip would be successful and safe. K also mentioned that this morning, as we were on the doorstep of Mdm Pem Deki's house, she was coincidentally opened her door with a bucket full of water going towards outside. Bhutanese believed that a bucket full of water meant a good luck for people who were heading for a journey. Thank you Buddha for your blessings and guidance throughout our journey so far. Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu.

Rangjung town, Bhutan

We continued our walk and it led us to Rangjung town. We bought some banana before walking back to the BHU. Mdm Pem Deki told us that there was a patient who might have a trip back to Merak from the BHU, but they were not sure about the timing yet as the doctor had not yet done the round to check the patient's health condition. And after examining him, the patient still had to stay for another night. However, K managed to find a driver who was willing to send us to Merak in his Bolero, at the price agreed. We paid Nu 2,500 for the trip. It had already been discounted. Otherwise it might cost Nu 1,000 more for private trip like this. On the way, the driver stopped at the town and K went down to buy beans and chili for our food supply.

Beautiful view on the way to Merak, Bhutan

Stopped for a short break :D

The journey was amazing!!! I then understood why we needed Bolero to reach Merak. It was small rough road, which kept going up from below to the top of the mountain, passing by many Bhutanese houses, chortens, cows, horses, and so on. The feeling was like going back from Haa to Thimphu through Chelela Pass. 

Famous stupa - Legend of Khandro Drowa Zangmo at Chaling, Bhutan

Our driver chew doma all the time. As he chewed it, he shared with K in Dzongkha about places we passed by, and then K translated them to me. The village we passed by was called Chaling. The driver stopped his Bolero near one stupa. As Bhutanese, the legend of Khandro Drowa Zangmo must be familiar in your ears. But as foreigner like me, I had to search about the story and it went like this:

"Bhutanese are familiar with the legend of Khandu Dawa Zangmo – a beautiful and the younger queen of King Kala Wangpo. She bears the King two children – a boy and a girl. The son is named Kintu Legpa. The older and childless queen, Duem Hacham, harbors extreme jealousy and eventually masterminds the death of Dawa Zangmo and then attempts to assassinate Kintu Legpa and his sister. 

The henchmen, however, spares them but the two children fall into a river. Both survive and they reach Lho Mon (as Bhutan was known then), where Kintu Legpa becomes the king (probably a chief) of an unknown tribe. Duem Hacham also goes on to imprisons Kala Wangpo and rules the kingdom herself claiming the King is terminally ill.

Since time unknown the legend is a favorite drama piece played in schools all over Bhutan. A feature film has been made recently. While the legend and the story is told in the finest of details, it was only in recent years that historians have found the tribe that Kintu Legpa rules in Bhutan. The place is in Chaling in Shongfu Geowg in Tashigang District in Eastern Bhutan. In fact the people of Chaling calls the particular site Yuel Pemachen. Ruins of the palace of Kintu Legpa are still visible today."

Source: Vajra Community Bhutan

So, that's about it. Interesting mo la? :)

The view from the driver's window - On our way to Merak, Bhutan

More beautiful view along our journey :)

Beautiful Rhododendron along our way :)

We passed by many Rhododendron trees along our way. They were in white, pink, red, so beautifully coloring the greenery :) I enjoyed the journey very much!!! It brought us from one distinctive view to another. As the place got higher, the wind became colder. 

White prayer flags donated by our driver - On our way to Merak, Bhutan

We stopped again at the Pass above. The driver said he donated and installed the white prayer flags as per shown in the photos above. He repaired the bamboos that went down blown by the wind and took another short break. 

More white-washed stones built Stupa - On our way to Merak, Bhutan

House storing woods for bukhari - On our way to Merak, Bhutan 

Beautiful road view - On our way to Merak, Bhutan

Prayer flags under the blue sky - On our way to Merak, Bhutan

The journey continued. We finally reached Merak over 3 hours time from Rangjung.

Finally reached Merak!!! Yayyy!!! :)

Reached our destination - Merak, Bhutan :)

The driver stopped and parked his vehicle nearby the Stupa above. We went down and straighten up our legs. We reached Merak. But I could not believe it. I had to ask K few times, "Where are we? Have we reached Merak? Here is Merak? Are you sure??? Do we need to check with the driver again if we have reached Merak???" So many questions on my head. For me, it still felt like a dream to reach Merak in that short period of time. Because from the website that we went through, it's said that we had to trek for 1 to 2 days to reach there. Then I realized that the roadway had been made all the way to make the journey reachable by vehicle. Yalama!!! No wonder we had to pay so much!! After all, it's all worth it :P

Our relieved faces :D

We took our bags down, paid the driver, and bid him goodbye. K called his friend to ask the contact number of the staff who worked at the Park Range Office in Merak as we had to go there to make the Permit for Visiting the Protected Areas. Someone came down to fetch and show us the way to the office. It was about 5-minute walk way up. The staff was asking about my particular and issued us the permit below with a fee of Nu 1,000. The permit was only required for me, foreigner, and not necessary for Bhutanese citizen. 

Permit required to visit the Protected Areas of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary - Bhutan

Posed inside the Park Range office in Merak, eastern Bhutan :)

Once the permit was done, we went down and looked up for home stay guest house built by local people. We found it with the help of the boy who guided us to the office. The lady carrying her grandson showed us our room in a while. It was located at the second floor. 

View of the Guest House - Merak, Bhutan

There were total of 3 bedroom available and we hired one of them. There was a share space outside the rooms where we could boil tea, cook and eat. Shared toilet was located outside with no water access. We had to collect the water from below and carry it using buckets provided. K bargained for the room and we were offered Nu 400 per night.

My favorite time while traveling - Home cooked food!!! :)

Ohhhh.. After settling down, I then felt hungry. Time shown was almost 3 pm. No wonder lah!!! K borrowed small rice cooker and curry cooker from the owner. Water kettle was there too. We immediately washed all the utensils up, boiled water, made coffee, cooked rice, and prepared curry. K cooked bean with cheese. We made miso soup from the miso paste we bought added with hot water. We completed our meal with ezzay. Woahhh!!! It felt so wonderful!!! Love it soooo muchh..... :D

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Journey to Merak and Sakteng: Day 1 - Bumthang - Trashigang - Rangjung

Our journey to Merak - Sakteng from 17 to 22 April 2017

Three weeks before our trip:

"Where do you think we will go this time?" asked me during chatting with K. "I thought of going to Pemagatshel. I have few friends there,"continued me. "Ina?? What can we see over there?" he asked. "Hmm.. not sure.. Never been there yet. But we can visit my friend's farm, few temples...,"answered me. "Why don't we go to Merak and Sakteng? That's where you wanted to go mo?" he stopped my words. "Hmmm... I wanted to, but can you take such a long leave? We need at least a week for the trip," I said. He paused for a while, "Should be fine," he answered.

After the chat, I browsed the internet looking for the info to trek to Merak and Sakteng. At the same time, he asked around the info from his friends in Bumthang.

The night before our trip:

Both of us stood up at the Bumthang bus station, in front of the bus that put up the signage in front that wrote: "Thimphu to Trashigang." However, it was empty and no one nearby.  I looked at him, and he looked at me. "How? This must be the bus mo?" asked me. He nodded. "Let me ask the guy inside that hotel," he said while pointing out the hotel nearby. I saw him talking with a guy, but it seemed that he was not the bus driver and he had no idea about the driver's or the timing when the bus would leave at the next day. We waited again, almost hopeless. We could not buy the official bus ticket as we would only depart from Bumthang station, We could only try our luck to adjust with the available seat unofficially to reach Trashigang. K went asking around one more time and the guy pointed him to the hotel at the opposite side, saying the driver might stay there overnight. K walked inside and asked the hotel's staff. There was another young boy asking for the same driver. In a while, the staff managed to call the driver and he finally appeared. Ohh my...  finally!!!

Our bus from Bumthang to Trashigang :)

Other than us, the boy was asking if his Angay (who seemed just attending the Tharpaling's wang or blessing that day) could adjust the bus seat tomorrow morning. So three of us. The driver gave K his number and we were saved. Smiling at each other, we finally could feel relieved!!! K met up with his school's friend and chatted for a while. I was hungry. We wanted to eat thukpa at the restaurant nearby, however, it was not opened. We finally decided to go to Bumthang Pizza and ordered one large Pizza. By the time it was ready, it had already been quite late, so I asked for takeaway so that we could enjoy the Pizza together with K's brother at home.

Feast before starting our journey :)

At 9.15 pm we finally reached home and enjoyed the delicious Spicy Mixed Pizza. Until now, I still missed the taste and texture of it!!! :P We then started packing our bags, getting ready for our trekking trip. Both of us were quite amateur in it, and did not really quite sure about the situation that we would face. Like we were not sure where we should halt a night. Should we stop at Miksateng or should we continue until Sakteng? Would there be tent and water available? We did not even know where we should halt a night the day after. In Trashigang? Rangjung?

We took out our necessary staffs and put the similar things together. Sweaters, jackets, shirts, warm pants, inner wears, under wears, sleeping bags, toiletries, towels, torch lights, sweets, nuts, snacks, etc. While packing them into bags, K went to the kitchen and prepared rice, oil, salt, chili, garlic, onion, pot, spoon, containers, thermal cup, Korean noodle, miso soup, coffee mix, chocolate powder, and so on. He also made ezzay for our journey. We discussed things together, reminded each other if we missed anything else. When done, we finally went to sleep.

The first day of our journey: Bumthang - Trashigang - Rangjung

Alarm rang at 4.20 am. It was still dark outside and cold air struck once we got outside of the warm blanket. I headed to the bathroom to wash face and brush my teeth. The underwear that I hung outside the toilet's window was harden crisp blown by the freezing wind. K prepared a bowl of Korean instant noddle and reheated sel roti (handmade gift by my dear friend, sweet Rupa Gurung) with fried chicken (cooked with love by dear Devi Raika the night before). We had those with K's own made ezzay. We felt our stomach immediately warmed and full after finishing it all :)

Lunch stop at Sengor - 17 Apr 2017

At 5.20 am, K's colleague, Chimi Rinzin, picked us up with his car outside K's rented apartment. We reached the bus station, headed to the bus, and sent our bags into the vehicle's top part. Due to limited space, K and I had to sit down separately. He sat two rows behind me. The bus departed on time at 6 am. Our journey was finally started. The bus took the short cut way through Ura and stopped at Sengor at noon. We had our lunch in the restaurant - kewa datshi, dhall, rice, and K's ezzay.

Beautiful Stupa on our journey :)

We were mesmerized by the view surrounding us throughout the journey. It was spring. The grasses were green, so did the trees. My favorite pine trees and their friends were there to say 'hi' to me. They were happy to see me again :)

There were many mothers and babies inside the bus. Often times they busied breastfeeding their babies. It was such a beautiful view to have too :) Soon, we passed by Mongar town. The bus stopped for a while to drop the passenger. The winter weather in Bumthang had turned to summer in the afternoon. We removed our jacket and sweater one after another.

Short break at Yadi, Mongar

At 3 pm, the bus stopped again for a break at Yadi. We ordered ema datshi with rice this time, plus a plate of momo, and a big bottle of mineral water. K looked very hungry hehehe... We continued our journey and reached Trashigang bus station at 6.30 pm.

Trashigang town in the evening

With no clue, we walked to the center of Trashigang town trying to find out where to go and stay. It was K's first time visiting the area. He called his colleague's friend, Mdm Pem Deki (a pharmacy staff at Rangjung BHU - Basic Health Unit), and she helped us arranging the Bolero taxi from there. It cost us Nu 600 for the trip. It came at around 8.45 pm and it took us about half an hour to reach there. The road was dark and very quiet, not many vehicle around. We felt so relieved when the driver finally came. Trashigang town could be unsafe if we kept waiting and met the wrong people around.

We finally reached the destination. A lady with her daughter came to welcome us. She opened the door one of the room used for patients'check up and let us stayed there for a night. She even lent us the mattress. K carried and put it on the floor. We added our sleeping bag on top and used our bags as pillow. She asked us to go to her quarter for dinner. We washed our legs and face before going there.

Feeling blessed with warmhearted welcome and meal by Mdm Pem Deki. Name same kadinche-la!!!

She was very kind serving us delicious food (fried egg with datshi or cheese, and fried cauliflower with carrots, plus pipping hot steamed rice stored at the rice cooker) and fresh pineapple juice to store our energy back from the tiring journey. She and K chit chatted for a while before we asked permission to take leave. She must be very tired too and need to take a rest. We headed back to the room, took a really great bath at the toilet nearby, and finally settled ourselves at the comfortable bed and had a good sleep...

Saturday, June 17, 2017


It's a common sickness that everyone could get at anytime. But I couldn't remember when was the last time I had one. Considered me lucky?

Fever boy (Pic source:

Baobei, my dear son, got it the day before we flew back to Jakarta. At first I thought it wasn't serious. But his fever was showing a high temperature. And usually Panadol would be the first that came in mind to reduce the temperature down.

He spent most of his time sleeping so that he could get more rest and recover faster. I prepared porridge and fried egg by the time he woke up so that he could gain energy. However, the fever continued for the next few days until we had to give him antibiotics (without consulting a doctor in Jakarta), and cough syrup so that his cough could recover soon. And poor him, he had to stay in bed for the next 3 days in Jakarta and only be able to eat limited kind of food.

Dry cough came to me on my last day in Kuala Lumpur. I admitted that I didn't have enough rest during the last few days of my stay there. Additionally, the electricity in our hotel room was gone at 2am in the morning. It forced all of us (my parents and I) to get up and find out what's going on.

Trapped in a dark!!! (Pic source:

It happened that there was no window access inside our room and it was very stuffy if we didn't open our room's door. I tried to get down by the lift but it wasn't working either. And I wasn't familiar with the emergency exit door. Some exit door was made not to be opened from the inside. To avoid being trapped situation, I decided to check the hotel's phone number from its website (luckily hotel's WiFi connection was working) and I called them using my mom's local prepaid number.

They said they tried to solve it within half an hour. So we waited. I stood up at the door and held it open using my body's weigh. My father was restless. Still with an eye patch on one of his eyes (after doing his cataract operation), he walked around the room's corridor slowly and quietly until it scared the hell one of the hotel's staffs who walked around trying to find out how to solve the problem. The staff even scolded him (as he was scared to death by his appearance) and advised him to stay inside the room until the problem was resolved.

He looked as cute as this ^^ (Pic source:

Dad walked back to room and told mom that the staff thought he was a walking ghost. Mom started to laugh and I too, giggled quietly still at the door front.

We couldn't sleep with our door opened. It was not safe, especially Kuala Lumpur was famous for its high criminal rate. But we couldn't let the door closed either as it was stuffy and dark. My dad kept swearing with the condition and asked me to check with the reception if we could get a temporary room that had access to windows.

Luckily our room was located on the third floor. Still in my butterfly batik sleeping gown, I walked down through the staircases. Before that I saw people accessing that exit door. I asked them when this problem could be resolved. They said maybe 2 to 3 hours time as they could not resolve to repair the main circuit themselves. Oh my... I explained to them our situation and the stuff checked the possible available room for us. Luckily there was one not far from where we stayed and it had access to window facing the road outside.

We took our valuable stuffs with us and moved to that room. There was still no electricity inside but at least, the opened window allowed the light and fresh air. By that time it was already 4am in the morning. We had to wake up at 6am (so we only had barely 2 hours of sleep minus the toilet visit in between) to catch our morning flight.

So it was when my cough had started and it got worst as I reached Singapore. The weather was very hot. I took a bath once I reached home, took my lunch (a specially prepared fried rice by dear Baobei), and immediately went to sleep. I thought sleep could make me feeling better. I slept for 5 hours, then woke up for dinner. I slept again until the next morning. And I could feel it got worse instead.

What I felt (Pic source:

After having breakfast (simple porridge with siumai dim sum), I felt unusual with my body. I felt cold (despite hiding inside the blanket with no fan being turned on). Dry cough attacked me too. Then I knew something wasn't right. Soon I felt my whole body was in pain. So, this was how fever felt like, I told myself.

I slept again. I was awoken by Baobei's knock and he could sense that I wasn't feeling well. I asked him to buy his lunch outside as I didn't have energy to prepare lunch for him, and at the same time, asking him to buy lemon, bread, and milk.

My sensible growing up boy :) (Pic source:

Before going out, he told me that he'd cooked egg omelette with sausage since he thought I hadn't had my meal yet. Wow... I was impressed by his initiative!!! Because that was what I gave him when he caught fever. He was indeed my grown up teenager boy who knew how to give care and concern towards other people's feeling!!! Well done Baobei!!! Keep your mentality up in serving and helping others who needed it!!!

After a while, I took it and had medicine. I checked the temperature of my body, it was 37.8 degree Celsius. I took one tablet of paracetamol and when I woke up, I was drenched with sweat. The medicine managed to force the heat out of my body. But it didn't last long. It came again and this time I had to take two tablets.

My situation now (Pic source:

And now I was awoken by the complete silent and darkness. I didn't turn on the air con and the fan. Hubby had to sleep with Baobei in his room. Suddenly I just wanted to write my fever experience here, as it didn't always come to me (thank Buddha for that!!!), and still shivering with cold below the blanket, I would end this writing soon and go back to my sleep again... Just hope that I could get well soon.....
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