Bhutan’s beauty and colors has redefined my standards of natural beauty and has stumped me throughout my trip. The hike to Tiger’s Nest was epic and the fatigue after witnessing this natural wonder was mind blowing. To say that I was tired would be an understatement. Tiger’s Nest Monastery hike exhausted me in the best way and for the first time in years I fell asleep without reading and this for me is nothing short of a miracle.
Early to bed, early to rise has so far been true for me in Bhutan, and as I headed down for breakfast I was greeted by a magnificent rainbow as soon as I stepped outside. I am a city girl and I confess I have never seen such a dark clear rainbow. I was awed by the colourful display and my guide Pema smirked at me saying rainbows are just normal here. Looking longingly at the rainbow with dreams to find the bags of gold at the origin of the VIBGYOR, we left for the Chele la pass. Chele la is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. It’s 13,000 ft. above sea level and is famed for the surreal views over the Himalayas.
Ninety minutes of sheer natural beauty later, we reached the Chele La Pass. Along the winding hill roads we had a mild drizzle and fog. Fog translated into reduced visibility and slowed our progress, but the clouds and fog definitely increased the beauty. As we climbed uphill, the drizzling rain stopped and the clouds cleared and suddenly we were above the clouds. The valley was filled with clouds and it looked like a beautiful fluffy mound of pristine white snow and cotton. While I was admiring the view we reached the pass. Sun was shining bright and yellow here and just like us, the mortal humans, it was above the clouds. The fluttering flags in white and multi colors gives a very surreal feel to the pass. The otherwise pristine natural landscape is pierced by some electricity poles and wires making it human and believable.
I lucked out in terms of weather because clear skies mean that you can see the 22,000 ft high ice-clad peaks of Mt. Jumolhari, the most sacred peak of Bhutan. Seeing these lofty peaks from a distance is something you must do when in Bhutan.
The white peaks against a clear blue sky paint a picture that you will never be able to forget. No amount of scientific advancement, architectural development, structural wonders can beat this natural beauty. The atmosphere here is so clear, bright and pollution free that you can see across for miles and the feeling is amazing.
After taking in the view for a while I decided to take a walk along the pass to see the other side. The opposite side of the pass has thick forest cover and unlike the snow clad peaks, here you see the lush green peaks of the mountains. Mother nature has put all her elements on display here. While walking I came across a cart vendor selling light refreshments, coffee and Thupa (a traditional Bhutanese hot drink). Unlike most hot drinks like coffee, tea etc Thupa is not sweet. This is a thick broth like salty, medium spicy drink. The experience of a hot spicy beverage was really unique and unlike any I have ever had before.
Carrying my glass of uniqueness, I wandered along the treks of Chele La pass to enjoy this slice of heaven. I found a peaceful spot, sat there and started contemplating about my job, hobbies and life in general. The thing about natural beauty and peace is that, it will force you to introspect and make you melancholic. Some deep thoughts later I decided to go search Pema and begin our journey back to Paro.
The lush green valley was now awash with bright sunshine bringing out the hues of greens in the vegetation. On the outskirts of Paro city I was greeted by the sight of three clear rainbows. Until my visit to Bhutan I had never seen more than one at one time and seeing three rainbows at once fascinated me. This called for pictures and Pema got busy clicking.
It was around 2 by the time I reached Paro and Pema suggested that I could have late lunch at a local restaurant that he suggested. I went there to have lunch and after my mouth burning experience of Ema Datshi, I decided to go for mixed vegetable datshi with sticky red wild rice. This dish was mildly spicy and very very tasty. I loved the cheese flavour with rice and vegetables. To this date I cook this dish at my place as it is yummy, easy, tummy filling and protein rich at the same.
Lunch restaurant was located in Paro market and after lunch I started wondering in the market to get a feel of the local city. To know more about my shopping experience and tips, you will have to read my next blog. After wandering in the local market and interacting with locals I decided to head back to my hotel as I was feeling sleepy after all the rigour of the past days.
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Upon reaching my hotel, I was informed at the reception that they had arranged traditional Bhutanese dance programme for all the guests. With that information I headed to my room for some quiet time and nap before dinner. I must say Bhutan air, food and atmosphere will cure of insomnia because any time of the day I am sleeping like a baby. After an hour of rest, I headed down for dinner and folk dance programme.
The music was really calming and the dragon dance brought the inner Game of Thrones fan in me. There were other fellow Guajaratis staying at the hotel and we all observed that the footwork done by the folk dancers was very similar to Gujarati folk dance ‘Garba’. Nothing can unite Gujaratis like ‘Garba’, and we took it upon ourselves to teach them few Garba steps and also introduced them to Gujarati folk music. This led to all of us making merry and dancing and spending an energetic evening.
Tired, happy, energized and sad that my stay in Bhutan was coming to an end, I went to my room to pack and get ready for my early morning flight back to India. In my next blog post I will highlight some interesting observations about Bhutan, an ideal itinerary for a 7 day Bhutan trip, packing tips and most importantly shopping tips and tricks to make your trip to Bhutan as easy and enjoyable as mine has been.
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