With all that’s been going wrong around us lately, I would like to write about the peaceful kingdom of Bhutan today. I am trying to find solace through reminiscing my trip to this wonderful country where people are genuinely good, friendly and helpful.
We went to Bhutan in mid-2009 and the first thing that struck us were the uniform architecture and the road signs. All the road signs were painted blue with white text on them. The office buildings and the homes were the same – beautiful intricate wood carvings that were accentuated by white washed walls. The guesthouse in Thimpu where we stayed had an interior rich with wooden furniture fitted with red brocade sofa covers, wall paintings of dragons and floral motifs in muted colors and carefully placed ceramic plant pots. And outside there was a quaint garden with beautiful blooms of lavendar hydrangea.
Our trip included a drive to Dochula Pass, that offered some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The most memorable and romantic drive I have ever had was to Punakha. We were driven through winding roads amid gorgeous mountains to reach a zhong in Punakha. We crossed a solid wooden bridge on foot to reach the monastery where we were welcomed by tall trees with violet blossoms. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that overlooked a flowing river. It was so quiet all around us.
Our next stay was in Paro. We couldn’t take our eyes off the mountains around us and the gentle stream flowing by, lending a soft music to calm all troubled souls. There’s no rush, no hurry to reach anywhere. In the evening, I noticed that the groups of young people hanging out together spoke in soft tones. I think we heard the sound of a car horn only once during our stay there.
So far it had been all relaxing and rejuvenating for me. Now came the hard part – climbing to the famous monastery, Tiger’s Nest, in Taktsang. Being an asthmatic, it was daunting to even think about the climb up. I started slow and got even slower as I had to sit every few minutes to catch my breath. Egged on by Shakil, I made it to the top in three hours, double the time it takes normal people to do the job. On the way up, I took in the up close and personal views of green pine forests covering the slopes and the mountains. I knew then that it’s these views at every twist and turn, each one from a different angle, that drive mountaineers and trekkers to their endless adventures. The beauty that’s hidden in Nature is a treasure worth more than all the gold and diamonds in the world.
Flash floods delayed our return home and we were blessed with an extra two days’ stay at Kichu Resort in Paro. The grounds of Kichu Resort were extravagant with ancient trees, different species of birds and exotic flora. The raging river that flowed by the resort was frightening but the thought of getting back to work, the client demands and bickerings, the rude sound of invectives thrown at each other while stuck at a traffic jam was even more so.
Coming to the people of Bhutan. Just one small example would be enough to show how trustworthy and innocent they are. When we go abroad, we usually don’t hand over our passport to strangers. So when we arrived in Bhutan, we had to get permission to visit the various places. Our local driver asked us to wait in the car while he got the photocopies of our passports done. Shakil and I looked at each other in disbelief while the guy was just standing, waiting for our passports. He probably didn’t even know the concept of running away with passports and what doors a forged passport can open!
The warm and gentle people of Bhutan will forever hold a special place in my heart. Their respect for others, their love for animals, their close connection with Nature, their hospitality toward foreigners, their aesthetic sense and their calm attitude toward life are the ingredients that make them more civilized than others who are perhaps wealthier, more tech-savvy and live a more fast-paced life.