Monthly Archives: April 2017

Time at 9500 Feet…no wifi!


(Finally on Weebly, also it is here.)

With a fire built in my bedroom stove, 2 hot water bottles in my bed sheets, and heavy bed blankets, I was toasty the entire night. I did put wood in the stove before I went to sleep and had a good night’s sleep. It was cool upon waking this morning, but very manageable with an additional long-sleeved shirt. Where we ate breakfast, heat is from a center stove.After breakfast we walked to a local farmhouse. We are at 9500 feet so a good chance to do some acclimatization. The woman, Dema, is widowed and has a 15 year old boy in the hospital the past 6 months and a 26 year old daughter who does the shopping for her. Dema’s house seemed quite spacious and although she thought it dirty, we did not agree. She plants potatoes, and when not that she plants turnips, radish, cabbage and mustard. The house is 26 years old, with thick walls, and thick cypress wood flooring. Two years after it was built electricity was installed. The biggest room in her home is for the large number of people who come to her house for the Annual Ritual Festival. One room in her home has a good-sized alter, compared to others I have seen, plus she has a couple of drums. When asked about America, she had heard about it but that’s it.

We stopped at a monastery that follows Guru Rinpoche, as opposed to the other branch, Long Bearded Man…do not have his official name. The young monks who talked with our group seemed to be wise beyond their years. When asked why become a monk, one answer was if he went to school then there would possibly not be a job, but here he is educated and will be a monk. The other monk was afraid of going to hell and he wanted to help all human beings. The monks are at level 1 and it will take about 9 years to get to level 2. I think another 3 years to level 3, more to level 4, 5 and at level 6 or 7 they can do a 3 year meditation. When a monk reaches level 5, they learn how to construct a house and paint. The reason for this is if a monk decides to leave the monastery they will have skills to bring with them in their new direction. When our monks were asked what message do they want to share with us it was 1. Be vegetarian, 2. Do not lie, 3. Do not steal. We went into the temple which was very cold and damp. No electricity so we had to watch where we were putting our feet (shoes off, no hats, no photography) The Buddha statues were each in a different mudra and the bowls of water were displayed in front…4 lined up on the left, then a candle, and 3 bowls on the right. Water is available to all, rich or poor, so that is why water is always in the bowls. There must have been hundreds of smaller statues of Guru Rinpoche in the temple. The master of this monastery oversees a few other monasteries in Bhutan, so he travels outside of Bhutan to speak and make money so his monks can receive an education and study.

Next we visited the Black-Necked Crane Center. When the black necked cranes visit/migrate to this valley, no planting is done. Electrical wires for this village are underground so the birds can safely fly in and out. Marshland is here for the birds to land and have it part of their migratory pathway with Tibet, China. The final annual count for this valley of cranes by February 3, 2017 was 555 birds, 52 juveniles. As long as the birds continue to breed when in China, the population will continue to grow. Since 1987 the local wetlands have been protected, but there seems to be some local controversy where some wish for paved roads while others see it is disruptive to the bird not recognizing its usual seasonal place to rest. Anyway, November 11 is the festival to highlight the importance of the cranes. I can imagine photographers flock here too to capture sight and a photo. 
We saw one disabled crane, Karma, at the center. With donations, they are hoping to create a nicer pen for her. They think a feral dog attacked and broke one wing. Not able now to fly, it stays at the center. They are tall, good looking birds!

I keep reminding myself that Bhutan is a young democratic society with many things to figure out.what I was surprised about was our hotel owner, at this location, actually lives in Thimphu. He seems to have brought workers from the city to here because he feels the local people cannot do the work. Now whether he actually considered training them, I suspect not since if I recall our guide’s information, 25,000 people live here, 60% nomads. But the other thing I found interesting is as this man takes his profits to Thimphu and the government, he pays no local tax. So no money stays in the village to upgrade what they want, instead they are dependent on the government to do and pay for the work the government sees fit. I think this lends itself to the controversy over paved or not paved road within black-necked crane area. Tourists come for that observation, stay in hotels which the government wants a paved road to the hotel, and yet that is disruptive to the bird’s navigation in wanting to return to the same place each year. Hopefully some educating will provide the best direction for all to be content, along with the birds.

At the start of lunch we had a demonstration on how to cook edamatshi, the very hot chile, onion, tomato, cheese combination…known dish in Bhutan. This was my second tasting of it and it was not quite as hot as the first try. We then had lunch of rice, vegetables, the pork was very fatty, chicken, oranges and jasmine tea.

Back at the hotel we had about 45 minutes to relax. With no Internet I decided to write my daily notes and hope I can copy and paste it all into my blog. Time will tell.

We then left for a 2.5 mile nature trail hike with a climb of at least a couple thousand feel elevation. Good warm-up at 9,000 feet as we continue to prepare our body and mind for our Tiger’s Nest Climb in a few days. We are anxious about that hike since we end up at 10,000 feet; however, we have all day to climb the 3,000 feet up and hopefully enjoy a good view along our way. Weather has been perfect everyday on this trip. Sure some days were very hot in the big Indian cities, and also cool/cold in the mountains, but no rain during the daytime! 

I am going to leave my writing now. My power pack is charging this IPad and later my phone since I am not counting on the electricity here. Now time to enjoy a solar-powered hot water shower, dinner, a good sleep!

Tomorrow we leave early for another very long drive.


Thimphu to Gangtey….post here for blog


(I cannot get this blog to Weebly, so it is here!)

We left Thimphu for Gangtey. A long ride of very few paved roads. As a matter of fact, they were digging and making the road! It was a long 5 hour drive, fortunately with our guide sharing information and a few stops.

Few notes: 1. parent’s property stays with the daughters and their husbands would move it. 2. If marriage occurred and there wishes to be a divorce, then at court the woman always is right. If there is no certificate and divorce, then woman is not supported right away and court decides. 3. When a Bhutanese person goes for education outside of the country there is a mandatory two week orientation as a reminder of their Bhutanese culture. 4. Not exactly sure on this, 2 months later the university student sits for RCSE specific exam for position in the country. Could be about 3400 people hoping for 360 government jobs. 5. There are no special education classes. The wood carver we met has been taken cared for by the queen and he received his training to now create the wood products. 6. The government is beginning to see the importance of vocational education so there will be plumbers, electricians, etc. Our guide thinks it is important for parents to provide their children with direction of what career to pursue, and to reinforce the importance of education. 7. Free medical care includes surgery which may be done in Calcutta or if necessary then even out of the country. The government pays for the medical care plus the flight to wherever and back. 8. If a person has an alcohol, smoking or drug problem, the government will provide medical care; however, if a person continues to drink, smoke or use drugs and need help then that person pays for their care. 9. Military here is the Army, the police and the Royal Body Guard.

We took a village walk to see how Bhutanese homes are constructed. Window tops are like the back of Buddha. You can see head and shoulders shaped in the window frame. Bricks are made of clay and cow dung then dried before use. We went into a home, up some stairs into the kitchen and reception… a bird chart on the wall! Two back rooms for bed rolls on floor and an alter. Water is at a community pipe where people wash their hair and clothing. The woman’s husband is doing construction at a fortress that had a fire a few years back. Our guide said the people ran to the fortress and threw statues and important pieces out of the building to save them. Now this generation is rebuilding the fire-torn fortress somewhat like earlier generation of their family had first built the fortress. So they see it as a responsibility to do the repair.
Lunch was at a very nice place and I enjoyed the rice, potatoes with rice noodles in a sauce, and chicken. We learned how to say “I am happy”. Sem gaye…. Sounds like sem gi e….

Tibetans who live in this area have no citizenship card so they will never get a passport; however, they have all the Bhutanese rights: free education and free medical care.

Over paved, and barely paved, dirt, ruts, and winding roads we stopped at Dochu La mountain pass where there are 108 chortens (the designated number indicating death). In approximately 2001/2002 four Bhutanese were killed in a conflict with militant Indians who were warned to leave the area and did not. The Bhutanese army took action. At this location we saw the Himalayan Range; it was pretty clear! We had time to wander around the area and I waved to a herder and his son as they moved their animals in an area just down the road and below the road surface. A gift shop is here, and we had tea. It was a beautiful place to stop.

Our drive continued through areas where bulldozers and trucks were moving rock, gravel, dirt and all else for necessary road construction. The funny moment was seeing a young man trying to stop a barrel that was rolling downhill. He tried to throw rocks in front of it to stop it. The scariest moment may have been after some soft sand was bulldozed into place and our driver had to accelerate through it to keep moving and then squeeze past a truck on the other side. Other crazy moments were when the van was close to cliff’s edge. We would definitely roll down a thousand feet if we went over the side! Apparently an accident in Bhutan did just happen like that and was in the newspaper a few days ago. We found out we need to return on this road again in 2 days! I think we are fine with our driver and if it does not rain.

Another wonderful stop was to meet a woman on the roadside and another further down the hill who is actually a nomad. She has 40 yaks that have wandered down into the valley as she weaves pocketbooks, belts, etc dries her yak meat and cheese, and moves with the seasons. When it is time to go she will go where the yaks go. She packs up her home and moves her yaks higher in the mountains; now there is a wandering soul with purpose. We asked about her husband. He was supposed to be gone for a week and it has now been a month. She believes he will come back. She sells her woven products and seemed to be of good humor with some of her answers to questions we asked. I have to follow up on one thing our guide mentioned. She had a small amount of a caterpillar plant combo he called cordyceps. It is a medicine and most often wanted by Chinese travelers. The interesting thing to me was when I was in China a doctor felt my pulse and this was one medicine recommended to me. It has been 8 years since then and I had taken it for about 4-5 years since I could order it from Swanson Vitamins but I cannot recall the reason I took it for a period of time. Will check another time about that, plus I thought it was a fungi.this woman was planning to only have her 2 daughters go to school till grade 5, but the girls wish to stay in education and are now a few years beyond that grade. I was glad the girls chose education since they can always weave and work some day, and not solely live a nomad’s life.
Finally we are driving in Phobjikha Valley on our way to Hotel Dewachen Gangtey. This area is known for its potatoes and cabbage. As a matter of fact potatoes are exported out from this area to other Bhutanese villages and to India and Bangladesh. It is a beautiful area. The marshland within it is where the black-necked cranes land in their migration. We will learn more tomorrow about them, but unfortunately they are not here now for us to see.

The hotel is simply beautiful with its designs and woodwork throughout. My room has a wood-fired stove, which I will stock before going to sleep, and electricity that goes on and off every so often. There is no Internet so time to enjoy the views instead! A few of us played “Heads Up” after a delicious dinner of rice, pad Thai, mushrooms and cheese and a fruit salad that included pomegranate.

It has been a long day. I am looking forward to a hot water bottle in my bed and a good night’s sleep after I spend a few minutes with the stars in this very black sky. Need to be sure to carry a flashlight in case electricity goes out! The generator kicked on at dinner when lights went out and I suspect they will be out for the night. Got my flashlight in a ready position!

Sem gaye!

Sweet dreams, when nightfall comes your way!

Food in Bhutan


Dinner tonight: we had rice, vegetables, chicken curry, ribs, and a Bhutanese very spicy cheese and chile pepper combo…see photo below…. and we bought wine at a local shop on Main Street of Thimphu….($6 bottle!) spaghetti was on the buffet…I cannot eat that…