The Happiest Place on Earth
Lets start with 10 facts of Bhutan!
1. You have to go through a travel agent to get to Bhutan
2. A driver and a guide will then be allocated to you, there is no such thing as a free and easy tour
3. Bhutan is 38,394 square kilometers whereas Singapore is merely 719.1 square kilometers
4. The population here is just 675,000
5. It is illegal to kill animals - my fav fact!! However, they do import meat
6. The no.1 contributor to revenue is exporting hydroelectricity to India and tourism stands at no.2
7. All tourist have to spend a min of US$250 a day, this is inclusive of the driver, guide, hotels and food
8. Bhutan is a carbon negative country!! (another fav fact of mine)
9. Tabacco is illegal
10. There are no traffic lights
The plane departed Changi airport at 6:40am and 6 hours later, we arrived at Paro International Airport! It is the most scenic airport I've ever seen - it lies in a deep valley with surrounding luscious green mountains and hills as high as 5,500m. Cameras were already whipped out even before the plane had landed (mine included) and the second passengers were allowed to step out of the plane, 'oohs' and 'ahhs' ensued as they feasted their eyes on the beauty of Bhutan that lay in front of them! After quickly clearing customs and getting our suitcases, we met with our lovely guide, Kuenzang and our driver, Tandi and started our drive to Thimpu. We drove along the river Paro Chhu and I was really in awe throughout the drive just because we were just surrounded by endless rows of mountains and hills that were covered in greenery!
Our first stop was to the Tachogang Lhakhang Bridge, one of the famous iron bridges in Bhutan that was built in the 1400s. It was lined with brightly-coloured prayer flags and was actually really flexible and bouncy!
There were numerous street 'stalls' (can't quite call them stalls as they were literally at the side of the road with sometimes just an umbrella used as a roof) along our drive and we decided to stop just to check out what they were selling. There was an adorable girl who was playing on her mum's phone which I had mixed feelings about but it is really inevitable that technology will eventually reach and be readily available to even the vulnerable and less fortunate group.
After purchasing some apples and peaches, we then continued our drive to our lunch place (thank goodness because we were all starving by then). It was a buffet lunch, where I soon learnt that all our meals would be a buffet style, and I just loaded up on veggies and rice and though the meal was simple, it was simply delicious!!
Next, we went to the National Memorial Chorten, which Buddhists often call such monuments the 'Mind of the Buddha' and this was also where most elderly came to pray.
The next stop, and also what I felt was the highlight of the day, was the Buddha Point. Here is where one of the largest statue of Buddha in the world stands at 51.5m high! We were lucky to be the only tourist there at that time of the day, and the Buddha statue just majestically stood there, surrounded by perfectly blue skies and fluffy white clouds. It was almost as if you could feel a peaceful aura as you stood in front of the massive statue. The view of Thimpu valley from here was amazing as we were at quite a high altitude!
After the Buddha Point, we then visited the Centenary Farmers' Market where villagers sold a wide range of agriculture products. What I did not get was how everyone was literally selling the same thing - the vegetable stalls sold the exact same range of vegetables, the fruits stall as well and so were the stalls selling dried fish and meat. I asked Kuenzang how they'd make money like that and she said that it was by luck if a tourist decides to stop at their stall to purchase their goods. I wish there was a better system in how they sold their goods because its so hard for them earn money like that, wouldn't it be better if each person specialised in a certain good ?? Anyway, most of the sellers were females, and I was amazed at how great their complexion was and they were all so beautiful!
Mum and grandma got some dried goods from the market like chili, mushrooms and fish and we then finally drove to our last stop - the hotel! Justina and I then quickly unpacked and changed into out workout clothes and did a Kayla in the gym. Feeling great after the workout, we then got back and showered and joined the fam for dinner of veg and rice again :)
Justina and I got up surprisingly early at 6:45am and I think this was because the sun rose really early at around 5am. We then both headed to the gym for a quick workout sesh before freshening up and heading down for breakfast. We started our day with a lovely 3 hour hike at Wangdi Tze! It was planned for us to go on a hike to the Tango/Cheri Monastery which would have taken 4 hours but it was too steep for my Ahma so we happily settled on this one instead. Midway through the hike, we spotted the Buddha point miles away and it was just the size of my thumb!
After the hike, we went to the 'Orchard Road' of Thimpu and met with the only traffic light in Bhutan, which was a man! It's quite mind boggling how cars here can run so smoothly without traffic lights and no honking, and the roads here aren't the the easiest to drive on either! We had lunch at this lovely restaurant which cooked separate dishes for me just to make sure the oil was clean - it was incredibly thoughtful of them to do so and even without me requesting for it
A happy-full tummy after, we headed to the Simply Bhutan Museum. This museum was the highlight of my day just because the guide was so good - and she was only 19!!, the museum was really interactive as we got to play games and try archery, and I really learnt so much about the history and culture of Bhutan.
We met Pema Tshering, an incredible foot carver who was abandoned as a kid by his parents due to his disabilities that left both of his arms useless, but because the queen of Bhutan felt so sorry for his plight, she sponsored him to learn the art of carving at an art institute in Bhutan. He picked up woodcarving skills really quickly and could produce pieces that were equally good as his capable classmates. He now works from the museum and creates his craft live, and it was so amazing watching him in his element using just his left toe to not only carve wood, but paint and even pick up a mug of water to drink. But I was even more amazed by his lively spirit!! He could not converse with us and had a little speech impairment, but he was just so bubbly and humorous as he did crack a few jokes with Kuenzang! We then tried some Archery, the national sport of Bhutan, and when our museum guide (the 19 yr old, I couldn't rmb her name :( ) demonstrated how it should be done, she scored a bull's eye. GASP. After being amazed, I decided it was my turn to score a bull's eye too but of course I didn't even come close to it hahah
After the museum, we went to the Institute of Zorig Chusum, a painting school, and following that we visited the Weaving Centre and a Textile Museum! Oh and before you think these museums are like the SAM or National Gallery, they look nothing like those big buildings, but rather, the museums in Bhutan are almost like small huts. Anyway, the Weaving Centre was really cool and we found out that some traditional Bhutanese dressing can take up to 2 years to make.
We then headed to our last stop, Taschichho Dzong, a Buddhist monastery and fortress. It was stunning and Kuenzang also told us the really interesting history of the fortress where the gist of it went something like - a man was trying to hide a treasure and had built 12 other fortresses around the country to make it harder for the enemy to steal it (really wish I remembered all this)
We were pretty tired by the time we got back to the hotel, so we quickly had dinner, guess what I had - that's right, veggies and rice!!! and had an early night :)