Bhutan and Phuket adventures
The final few days in Bhutan were, unsurprisingly, superb.
We did a small amount of sightseeing around the capital Thimphu, taking in the giant Buddha currently being constructed above the city and an arts school, which was fascinating to see the discipline of the kids learning the different traditional art forms of Bhutan. Another stop off was the memorial stupor in the centre of town, which is crowded with mostly elderly people who come here to pray, meet friends and chat in their old age. This provides them with a social outing and sense of purpose as they move towards the inevitable, and there is evidence to suggest this activity has helped to prolong their lives, or the current one at least, given the Buddhist beliefs of Bhutan death is not something to fear, just simply a step to your next reincarnation.
Following anther lengthy drive, though this time on mostly sealed roads (a novelty here), we arrived in the Haa valley. We arrived on dusk into the tiny town, which took no more than 15 minutes to walk a lap of the Main Street. The purpose of being here was not for the town, but the next morning we drove up to almost 4000m altitude to commence our hike downhill to a nunnery perched on a cliff face about 3500m above sea level. The walk was great, with more views of the snow capped Himalayas and through a forest along the cliff. It's amazing that the nunnery was built here in the 17th century, let alone that the nuns lived here without electricity or a road up there until only a few years ago, having to carry their rations and kerosene for the lamps up themselves. It must take incredible faith, willpower and discipline to live the life they have chosen. Fair play to them, though not for me.
On the way back to Paro, we had a cliff side picnic, cooked by a local lady. I have to say the picnic food we were served at various locations, whilst all mostly a version of chicken and rice, we some of the tastiest. Some free time shopping in Paro, and it was an early night because the final day we were hiking to the Tigers Nest.
The Tigers Nest is a monastery, probably Bhutan's most well known, that is built clinging to a cliff about 3100m above sea level, and 800m above Paro valley. Unsurprisingly, the hike is all uphill, and pretty tough going. But like most of these things, totally worth the effort and a definite highlight of the trip.
After a hot shower and a celebration beer, we ventured to a farmhouse for a cultural show and dinner, including a sample of the local moonshine (a rice wine kind of like sake but not really anything like sake), and of course local beers and whisky. Had it not been for the festival we caught at Gangtey valley, the dancing would have been a great demonstration of some of the traditions of Bhutan, but as we got to see the 'real thing' and not a performance for tourists, this would have been a nice substitute. As it was we got the both, so can't complain.
And that brings the Bhutan adventures to a close. This has been one of the most laid back but 'genuine' travel experiences, where I really felt we were able to get a feel for the Bhutanese people and their home. It is a wonderful place where time has little meaning; happiness, and the greater social good is prized above wealth; and I can't but help think what a better place the world would be if all nations adopted this philosophy.