April 2019
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  • Day20

    green, green, green

    May 16, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    What a wonderful drive that was back to Paro. We started at around 2600m, went up again to a pass at 3600m, down to 1400m almost to Punakha. We had lunch break there after visiting the temple of the divine madman Drupka Kinley. That was a lama in the 16th century from Tibet, teached very unconventional and he had a magic penis to fight against evil spirits and witches. Again a lama with thousands of stories around it. I really like that about this culture, for everything is a story or even two and it isn’t about wrong or right, it matters if you believe it. Because of this guru there are a lot of phallus painted on the houses, you can buy penises in all seizes, forms, colors, some are even the body of a bhutan air- plane. No limits to that. The phallus stands for harmony, good luck and the erect penis is supposed to drive away evil spirits. The explanation Tenzin gives here is that the spirits have a mind of a five year old and then they laugh about all the penises and forget why they came in the first place.
    After that visit we walked up again to the village trough rice fields. I love the green of these fields. Also the whole drive was through forests that are incredibly dense and they seem untouched and are in different greens, incredible. I couldn’t look enough. We arrived at around 3:30 at the hotel that is vis-à-vis from the airport and a couple of planes took off or landed, very cool. Bhutan has in total two helicopters. When I told Tenzin and Phub on the trek that in Switzerland injured cows are evacuated by helicopters, I could really feel the gap between my home country and Bhutan.
    I don’t want to leave. I think a bit of my heart will stay here. It is a incomparable country. I have the feeling that Bhutan can do it right, does it right with the whole environment issue. They charge people that want to visit the country. I don’t have the feeling here in Bhutan that I come as a tourist and go away again and leave a big pile of problems that I caused by just being there. I think they can handle the carbage, the dirty water issues and all that. Not like it was when I was in Bali, Thailand or Mali. Bhutan is also the only country to have the Gross Happiness Index. It is since 2008 in the Constitution of Bhutan. There is also criticism about it of course and Bhutan is still a poor country but making a lot of progress (https://thediplomat.com/2018/08/bhutans-unique-success-in-reducing-poverty/) It isn’t all fairytale and I am the last to see things like that through pink glasses. Nevertheless because of the late opening to the outer world at least in terms of tourism I have the feeling they have the big opportunity to make it better then many did before. Money isn’t everything, I get the feeling when being here. But as said, easy for me who can afford 250$/day to visit this country for three weeks. I leave with a feeling that in this country, people do care more for eachother, for the place they live in, for the environment - it’s not just about themselves- and I think we all should be more like that.
    Oh and I think I’ve never used the word penis as much as I did in this post 😊.
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  • Day19

    up the hill

    May 15, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    Today the last hike of that journey was on the list. I was picked up at 9 and we started a bit lower then planned and under rathr cloudy conditions. It started to rain a bit, it was such a beautiful hike through the forest full of rhododendrons. They are marvelous. We had lunch at the top of the pass where we were supposed to see a lot of mountains but there was fog. We went down quickly, Tenzin doing every couple of hundreds of meter a sound to chase away bears. We didn’t cross one but some very colorful bird, one a big bigger then the blood fasan on the Jomolhari trek. I was back at the hotel at 3 already and had again a whole lot of time just for me. Splendid!Read more

  • Day18

    the valley of black-neck crane & patato

    May 14, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Today we drove to the Phobjikha valley, a journey of around three hours for the 80km over a pass of 3500m and then down to 2600m. The valley is famous for the black-neck crane that arrive in November to spend the winter here before heading to Tibet in spring. A festival is taking place when they arrive so the little village has quite a few accommodations. I get to stay again at the best one, called Dawachen, which means wisdom of true happiness. The night before I was staying at the Hotel with the name of heaven. So from Heaven to Happiness, no wonder I am so in a Hakuna matata mood all the time here in Bhutan. After lunch we took a quick walk up to a monastery, had a quick visit (we couldn’t visit it all since under renovation because of earthquake damage) and then went back to the hotel.
    Tomorrow I’ll hike up another pass and drive around this beautiful valley. It is very remote, on the way here we crossed way more cows, dogs and horses on the street the cars. It is also the black mountain valley, the name coming from the dense forest on the top of the mountain. Btw, the amount, that goes to the government, is 65$ and not 200$ like written in the German tourist guide. At the moment tourist from India do not to buy this visa / entry fee per day and the Bhutanese are confronted with a increasing number of Indian tourist which often visit the country on a low bidget. They are afraid of over tourism.
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  • Day17

    where my red rice comes from

    May 13, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    l was picked up by 8:30 from Tenzin and our driver, then we went up to a temple. It was magnificent weather, sunny and very hot. The colors are incredibly and the sights just wonderful. We spent a bit time on the top of the temple with a grandiose view on the valley. Later on we drive to a village, where Tenzin’s dad comes from and we would stay in a farmhouse for diner. The way up there was over bumpy streets, winding up the hill, beautiful. That it is the village of Tenzin’s Dad is a coincidence. Tenzin was so kind to get us some red rice and this red rice is harvested by a family on Tenzin’s land where i was heading to. Very cool. I was greeted very friendly and i sat down on the floor in the traditional way and had milk tea and roasted rice with sugar and butter - from the cow next to the house. Delicious. So was diner, eaten by the right hand. What a nice experience. We said our goodbyes, walked a bit in the fields and headed down to the Punakha Dzong. What a beautiful building from the outside, inside was just more fabulous. We were too early so we went over the longest suspension bridge of Bhutan. Tenzin was so kind to buy icecream and then we were finally in the Dzhong. Wow, as a said before. We stayed for an hour since we had to wait to enter the temple. They had a ceremony going on. Tenzin and I went up a staircase and then had a good view on the groups waiting to go in. Incredible how they just took pictures of some monks right in the face. I always ask myself why would you do that. Anyway, we could then enter the temple and i got the story of the Buddha in 8 pictures. Then i got already back at the hotel, had electricity and then not and again enjoying the time I had.Read more

  • Day16

    byebye lilli!

    May 12, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Today is gonna be the day where we say byebye ti Lilian. We drove to the airport and then off she was. How lucky was I to spend that adventure with this wonderful woman. I am sure we will see eachother again in Switzerland and laugh again tears over peach wine. Looking forward to that! So it was just Tenzin, the driver and me. We drove up in direction to a pass with 108 little stupas and a big one. We quit the asphalted road and drove to a monastry. On the way we stopped for an eldery woman. She said that she didn’t mind to walk bit was afraid of the monkeys. Tenzin was happy that someone else has to step in for the picture today since Lilian was on her way to Delhi. We started to climb up to a temple and my legs did not want to do the effort. It was hot and I was breathing like a heavy smoker. The walk was again beautiful and it was wonderful to move again more. Up at the temple we had a picnic, walked down to the pass, had a look at the Stupas and drove down to Punaka. The pass is at about 3100m and this city here at around 1200m. Here I am staying at a pretty hotel with a grandios view over the Dzhong which I’ll be visiting tomorrow.
    I had a candlelight diner with some American ladies that were here for botanical and cultural reason. Candlelight because the electricity goes out every now and then, funny.
    I also had several phone calls with Lilian who had a stay in Delhi for a couple hours. All in all a very entertaining evening.
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  • Day15

    Thimphu II

    May 11, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ 🌬 25 °C

    Today we first visited the memorial stupa that was a dream of the third king, but he passed away before fulfilling that. So his wife did it two years after his death in 1974. A wonderful stupa, we could even go inside and see the figures. As in all holy sites you are not allowed to take pictures and you have to take off your shoes. After that we went up to see the big buddha overseeing the town. It was built and sponsored by the Chinese and honestly, it didn’t feel like being in Bhutan visiting that place. Nevertheless impressing sight. Then Tenzin made us see the oldest Dzong constructed in 1626 a bit further out of the city. Beautiful building with so much detailed paintings and woodcraft. The highlight of the day for me were the Tarkins. We went up to the reserve that was a zoo before. They didn’t like the idea of having animals in captivity so they closed to zoo. Since the Tarkin stayed around they decided to do a reserve. There are also other animals in the park but just few of them. The Tarkin is a very unique animal. In their belief one of the guru (I’ll tell more about that particular guru later on) after a meal took the head of a goat and the body of a pig and made the Tarkin. It is the national animal and it really looks funny. We went then for lunch, had a chat with another Swiss couple on tour with the same treking company as we were and visited the weekend market. That one was in the old days only open on weekends, since the demands grew higher it is closed now only on monday and tuesday. Bhutan banned plastic bags so you get everything in a stoff-bag. We could do that in Switzerland, too. After the market we were again free. We went for a last shopping trip, a coffee and a little walk. It is the last evening of Lilian since she is flying back tomorrow. I have another five days in that amazing country. I will have to take my own picture now since Lilian did the job for me. I am a very lazy photographer as Tenzin pointing it out very accurately. After diner we had a cocktail at our favorite spot in Thimphu.Read more

  • Day14

    Thimphu I

    May 10, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ 🌬 25 °C

    Thimphu I
    After a good night’s sleep after no waking up tea we had breakfast at the hotel. We already miss the food of Nima, our cook on the trek. We are still amazed what delicious meals we got served during those 9 days. We were picked up by Tenzin to visit different museums. The first one was called ‘simply Bhutan’, it was a some houses where the bhutanese culture were explained. For example, house building is with mud, so they stamp the mud. Since they will inevitably kill insects by doing it they sing a song of forgiveness. We could taste Ara, the local wine made of rice and also butter tea. During the tea session they danced and sang for us. We were the only tourists in this big room and we felt akward. Tenzin said later he had fun watching us because we looked a bit lost. I guess we were. The dancing was lovely. We then could perform some archery, I failed particularly, Lilian was a natural. I like this kind of museums. Next was the handcrafts museum, or more showroom since there are young people learning one of the 13crafts that are existing in the buthanese culture. Quite impressive. The funniest moment was when a Indian lady stopped Lilian and me. First we thought she wanted to take us a picture of her, but no, she wanted a picture with us. That was a comical situation.
    The afternoon was lazy and full of time to spend and just wonderful.
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  • Day13

    overwhelmed

    May 9, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Again sunny day, delicious breakfast - a wonderful day ahead. Tenzing said the way would first be a climb, then all the way down and again a climb. He was very right. We got up through again forest high above the river to a dzhong that was under renovation. We passed again a prison camp. Oh yes, we slept once just next to one and then passed already one yesterday, with one guy getting his hair cut. Anyway, we walked allllll the way down to the river again and then after maybe 3.5h we had the last waterbeak and then up we went again. Gosh it was steep! And hot! And long! But as you know it is just a matter of time that the ascent is done and we reached the street. The government plans to biuld streets for sll the villages. We heard them working with dynamite. The part that we were walking on had been constructed already 10 years ago but not really being useful because not finished. We had lunch at the side of the road and then no idea how long to walk until the car. It seemed long. Since after every ridge maybe it would be there - but not. Wel walked for another 1.5h until we heard our horses and saw the jeep. A table was again installed for us, we got snacks and drinks for successfully finishing Jomolhari Trek 2.5. We made a picture of all the crews, gave the tipps and then said goodbye to the horseman first, he would return in three days walk back to Paro. The jeep was loaded with the whole stuff, Lilian and me in the back and the rest of the crew on the rooftop. I can tell you, the road was anything but smooth since the second car had to wait further down. We switched car and said our goodbyes to the cook Nima, Phub who served tea in the mornings and Zanpho who carried our lunch. All of them including Tenzing did way way more then that. You feel that they are a good team and it was amazing what they all did for Lilian and me. I am in awe. The car ride took about 1.5h down bumpy toads through forests, little villages and then again down at the Thimphu river in direction of the capital. Tenzing suggested to open the windows so the car wouldn’t smell like there were yaks in it. I had no idea what he meant ☺️. We were dropped at our hotel and then welcome back to people, cars, houses, noise, we were a bit overwhelmed being dropped back into civilization. Even though Thimphu is not New York. But after those 9 days where the only sound you hear are either dogs, yaks, birds or the river it was quite a change. Shower was heaven, coming out of it the smell of the dirty clothes way more intense, huiuiu. Laundry it is then. We went then for a coffee in the very fancy cloud9 café. We felt
    like on another planet. The feeling still clings. It didn’t get me like that in Nepal. Probably because it was more populated, being in lodges and not that exposed to nature like we were during those days. We were so lucky that Zyklone Fany didn’t hit as strong as thought. The timing was just perfect. Lilian and me, the whole crew made the trek without needing that heavy first aid kit. It feels like those days were taking place somewhere else. I guess they somehow did. Again a incredible time I got to spend with wonderful people
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  • Day12

    maybe the last tenty-night, maybe not

    May 8, 2019 in Bhutan ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    We were both awake at 5o’clock because the yaks were thinking that the grass around our tents looked yummie. In a tent it sounds like the yak is in your tent. Lilian thought about getting her stifks, i was more fatalistic, in cause the yak decides to walk through my tent, there is not much to do anyway. Well, nothing happened at all so we had our normal morning routine, just with the change that we would leave at nine since the day walk was not that far. Again under the morning sun we strolled out of the valley, passed a nomads house where there was supposed to be a dog that likes to bite. We didn’t see him, luckily. Coincidentally I had dreamed last night that a cat had bitten me in the finger. But nothing happend and the path was an up and down sgain in the forest, with rhododendrons blooming and the river once left hand sided, once on the other side. Now the Adele song Hello pops in my head, I had songs in my head the whole trip while walking trough that wonderf scenery. We were again very alone. At the campsite everything was ready including our toilet-tent. It is the small blue one, with a zipper to get in and then it is a whole in the soil and voila. In case you wondered. It was very moist in the tents most of the time and with the cold you had no idea if the things are wet or just cold. Now at 3500m the things start to smell with more intensity, Lilian and me are often discussing if it is worth to put on clean stuff since, well, we are not that clean. It is actually a very good sign that this is all we have to worry about. Diner was again a feast with chocolate cake in the end and even some peachwine. I got almost drunk, well, not drunk but a bit tipsy. We had a lot to laugh about. Tenzing came to tell us what the plan was fo tomorrow and it turns out that we would walk all the way to the street, having a car picking us up and the back to civilization aka SHOWER! No, actually there is no problem with not showering for 9 days. That probably counts just when you are with people who also do not shower for 9 days 😊Read more