Editor’s Note: Gayatri Iyer travelled with us to Bhutan in June 2016. In this blog she recounts her experience traveling to Bhutan and gives you the low down on five Bhutan experiences you just can’t miss! Read on.
The energy of my trip to Bhutan is so powerful, that it continues to haunt me, in a good way of course. As I was recollecting my memories from the beautiful trip, each day spent was unique and experiential. Whether it were welcoming the morning sun with a cuppa Butter tea in your hand or hiking up the Tiger’s nest like a pilgrimage, it was all so worth it.
The happiest country made me so happy and still going strong that I cannot help but share some of the ‘not to be missed experiences’ one should have while travelling to Bhutan. Below are some of my illustrations and musings from the happiest country on the planet: Bhutan
- Soak up nature: From the time I stepped out of the plane in Paro, Bhutan and up till the time I said goodbye, I was surrounded by nature at its best. Whether it were the cloud covered mountains, the roaring Paro River or the company of some of the furry canines.
I was in the lap of nature surrounded by calmness and serenity. As they say, nature has the most powerful healing and rejuvenating effects on you, so if you are seeking some time off to simply re-charge, look no further.
- Bring me the food: I cannot stop raving about the food, apart from being wholesome and healthy; the taste is quite suitable to our Indian palate due to the neighbouring influences of India, China and Tibet. Loads of green chillies, cheese, river weed, potatoes, beans, pork and chicken forms the major ingredients of their staple dishes.
The most famous one is the Ema Datshi, which is a spicy dish made with large slit green chillies in a yak cheese sauce. This hot dish is also the pride of Bhutan. We all love our Momos and so do the Bhutanese, these steamed dumplings filled with pork, beef or cabbage is made during special festivals. All of these dishes are eaten with red rice or if you love your breads then you always have buckwheat pancakes.
There is something for every diet type, vegan, healthy, vegetarian and hard core non-vegetarians. My recommendation is to head to the Bhutan Kitchen in Thimpu to get a taste of all the yummy traditional foods.
- Tiger’s Nest Monastery: If you need to expand your bucket list, then this one should be on your top 5. The series of caves, some of them are even secretly hidden from the public, citing you can only enter them if you are truly worth it (very noble and thought provoking). When viewed from far, it looks like the face of Guru Rimpoche, who meditated in these caves during the 8th century.
To reach it, again you must be worthy in terms of fitness and willpower. But the views during the hike to this shrine are indeed spectacular and once inside the temple, the wafting smell of butter candles, murmuring of the monks and the gongs all transport you to another world.
If you are truly lucky, then you can also get some of the sweet offerings like chocolates and biscuits after the monks finish their rituals.
- Dzong Hopping: A dzong is part fortress, part monastery and a government office; talk about optimization. Each city has a dzong that resembles a defence structure of high walls, small widows and wooden roofs. They straddle rivers in the west and cling to the mountain tops in the east.
The interiors are colourfully hand painted with mythological stories and imagery like the wheel of life or mandalas. Since they double up as government offices, you can find many officials moving in and out of their tiny wooden offices. The large courtyards in the dzongs give ample space to soak in the views and energy.
- Mingling with the locals: The Bhutan locals are a shy lot and that makes them even more intriguing. But all you need is a genuine smile to disarm them and soak in all the happiness. I had the fortune of dining with a family in Paro, who were kind enough to make a hot traditional meal.
I even visited a local farm where I had the opportunity to relax with a hot stone bath. The traditional farm grew a variety of vegetables, had perky farm dogs and log cottages to make it look like a picture straight out of National Geographic.
Good food, good people and even more amazing landscapes is a recipe for a beautiful experience right? The country is a well preserved traditional country which is now going through a lot of transformation.
To witness this transformation and trying to balance progress versus tradition is a very interesting one. So, stay tuned for more insights on Bhutan
Gayatri often oscillates between the love for cats and dogs,quirky art, yoga and all foods healthy topped with a little bit of chocolate. These aspects started becoming evident in her maiden vibrant book ‘Life’s Macchiato:A collection of your stories’, and food venture Chef In A Box which is a recipe and ingredient kit delivery system in Delhi. Since then she has decided to be true to herself by walking on an artist’s journey starting with Ahem Stationery designs and more importantly, not forgetting to take breaks to travel and dream. Find her on twitter and follow her on Insta!