Nov 23, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love & Drink some - Bhutan Diaries - (part 3 of 4)

Bhutan really is a place to fall in love with, complete with the Eating, Praying and of course Drinking bit too! (with due apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert for the title of this post)

The Eating
  1. The national dish of Bhutan is Ema Datshi (Ema: Chilli; Datshi: Cheese). And that is exactly what it is a plate full of chillies in a cheese sauce. For the faint hearted like me a couple of tries was quite enough, but it is delicious nonetheless.
  2. A particular delight was the 'totshe' (rice and beef) at the Art Cafe (Thimpu), along with their huge mugs of coffee, tea and a honey and lime concoction
  3. The Ambient cafe is worth a visit for its pastries and the Sonam Trophel, Paro dished up brilliant 'pakoras' and the best 'masala chai' in the land of Suja (salty butter tea).
  4. Lastly The Village Restaurant in the outskirts of Punakha offers a brilliant view with some choice Bhutanese delicacies.

The Praying
  1. Official Name: Kingdom of Bhutan | Language: Dzonkha | Currency: Ngultrum
  2. Over 60% of Bhutan is forests - ranging from tropical hardwoods to predominantly oak and pine forests. There are numerous trekking trails including the famous Snowman and Jumolhari treks. We did the checklist Taktsang trek near Paro and took the not-so-beaten track of Phajoding on one day and the Goempa's Tango and Cherie on another.
  3. Most Temples (Lakhangs & Goempas) are located away from civilization, far away infact. Each of these are at least over an hour of hiking in the forests.
  4. The Dzongs are the seat of religious and administrative power and each province has one. They are usually ornate house some of the most exquisite 'tankha' paintings (Intricate Buddhist paintings depicting folk lore, life and myth surrounding the religion)
  5. The penis is the symbol of fertility in Bhutan and paintings of it adorn the walls and line the souvenir shops.
  6. The general populace sports the 'gho' (traditional outfit of men) and the 'kira' (traditional outfit of women) as day wear and also parties in style come evening.

The Loving
  1. With its focus on Gross National Happiness, the sense of peace in Bhutan is almost tangible.
  2. A word has to be said about it people, both the Bhutanese as well as the Nepalese settled in Bhutan. Kind and trustworthy, they are a pleasant lot to interact with.
  3. The llamas are a particularly a generous lot, who offered us guidance through the forests while trekking and even coffee in their best china :) at Chokortshe Goempa and other places at large.
  4. Bhutan gets its name "Land of the Thunder Dragons" from the frequent violent storms. We were lucky with Blue Skies for more part.
  5. Love happens in a place like Bhutan. The eastern Himalayas, the pine forests, the gushing sparkling rivers and waterfalls all transpire and reaffirm your faith in yourself and love of life in its entirety.

The Drinking
  1. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and restricted to men, who indulge in this sport in a drunken stupor aiming at a 30 inch target from over 100 meters away. You will be amazed at the precision.
  2. Alcoholic Beverages form one of the main industries of Bhutan and they brew two delightful beers Druk 11000 and the more popular Red Panda. The K5 whisky also accompanied us on most nights. The price of a beer being INR 40 and 60ml of K5 anywhere between INR 80-160.
  3. A specifically delightful experience was sourcing 'arra' (the local brew) from the Llamas at a local temple.