After my last post we spent 5 more days in Bhutan. Although they were altogether less eventful than the preceding 20, we were able to see a number of fascinating sites and make some wonderful Bhutanese friends in our dorm stay. Before leaving Thimphu, (my apologies for the typo in the last post, spelling it without the second “h”) we went on a quick afternoon excursion to visit a paper factory, the takin reserve, and a giant, giant Buddha on a mountainside overlooking Thimphu. I will put together a quick video showing how paper is made, but for now, still images will have to do.
After the paper factory we made our way to the takin reserve. The takin is what the people of Bhutan call their national animal. It is considered a goat-antelope, and looks like a strange mix between a mountain goat, a bear, and a moose, depending on how you look at it. Some people thought it was cute; others thought it was strange. I’d probably say it was strangely cute, but who am I to judge? You can do that for yourself.
From the takin reserve we made our way to the giant Buddha that overlooks the city. This, I have to say, was even more spectacular than I had imagined it would be. As a sign at its base claims, it is the biggest Buddha in the world. We can’t be too sure of that, but hey, it is pretty damn big. The base is still under construction, but the temple inside is open for business. We simply admired its grandeur from the ground, taking copious amounts of pictures from all angles, trying to get the sun just right behind this beautiful figure.
Overlooking Thimphu from the base of the Buddha.
After this day we had a “rest-day” to do what we pleased. For most of us, this meant sleeping in, reading, bingeing on internet, and buying gifts for ourselves and our families and friends. We left Thimphu on Sunday, March 23 for Paro, the small city in the west of Bhutan from where we would eventually depart three days later. Before reaching Paro we made two stops: the first was to visit a bridge and a monastery built in the 16th century by an Asian renaissance man. Indeed, it was one of the more precarious bridges I have ever crossed, but it was a pretty neat experience.
The second stop was at a dakini. Yeah, we didn’t know what it was either. Turns out a dakini is a person who has died and then come back to life. Thus, they have “been to the other side” and, with that experience, has special powers like telling the future. Each of us had our futures predicted, but none of us will hold our breath on that. Once we reached Paro we made our way to the Paro College of Education where we would stay the next three days. This time, instead of kicking-it in the guesthouse, we each were put with one, or two or three Bhutanese students. My roommate was so incredibly generous and ensured that I was comfortable and warm at all times. Our second day in Paro we left for a hike to Taksang, the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery poised on the sheer face of a cliff. At around 9,000 feet in elevation, Taksang is undisputedly one of the most sacred places in all of the Himalayas. It was built around the 16th century. Thankfully, we did not have to walk the whole way up – like the lazy Americans that we are – but instead had help from some wonderful, albeit temperamental, four-legged friends.
I’m on a horse! (those are my feet…)
On the way up.
There it is, but it is still so far away…
Trying to be artsy, but also drawing out the final reveal of what when I focus on the big picture.
Here it is!
And that, more or less, concludes our trip to Bhutan. It was an amazing three weeks, but alas! (sorry, I have been reading a lot of Dumas lately) we have returned to Nepal, the land of dust, honking horns, and our loving Tibetan home stay families. Although I shall not return to Bhutan anytime in the near future – and quite possibly ever – it was nice to come back “home.” I have made friends and seen amazing things while in Bhutan, and these memories are ones I will certainly not forget. At present, I am headed out the door of our program house to see my Tibetan family once again, and thus I close this chapter of my blog. I hope the pictures and words I have put on this page have captivated your interest long enough for you to read this far. As always, thank you for reading, and I will be speaking to you again soon.