I chose not to read about life in Bhutan outside general tourist information to breathe in all the country has to offer upon arrival. I wanted to savor the newness of my experience firsthand. And I am ever so grateful for my intuition, because as you might expect Bhutan has not disappointed, happily providing a proper space for time to fall away, quite literally.
I went so far as to leave my wristwatch behind so that I could be present in each moment. And thus far, every moment has been rich with texture, color and contemplation. Absent of any expectations of what this trip might reveal, I find myself on a quiet retreat, pleasantly lost in a place absent of time.
Tuesday began with daily yoga practice and breakfast followed by a hike to Tango Monastery located on the mountainside of northern Thimpu. Our guides at Bhutan Tours and Travel have been gradually introducing us to the Himalayan altitude, every day preparing for our hike to Tiger’s Nest. The hike to Tango included, with its steep trail and wide switchbacks, enveloped in a canopy of walnut and pine trees, flowers and fern. Peppered throughout the dirt road are mantras and Buddhist sayings, guideposts of encouragement for the traveler.
Dangspa explains how the circuitous trail represents the spiritual path to enlightenment, one interpretation is depicted in this mural of an elephant on his journey to paradise. With each step closer to purification, the color of his hide turns from gray to white.
About halfway to Tango, we discover an hermitage built into the mountainside. We scale a narrow stairway carved out of stone and wood to reach the meditation room. The expansive view is breathtaking. Dangspa leads the group in meditation as nearby, mosquitoes suspended in the air in front of us battle one another, and a ginger cat settles under a stream of sun. (No photography is allowed within the temples so you’ll have to use your imagination.)
Afterward we head back to Thimpu for our first official Bhutanese lunch, it was quite a spread of local dishes starting with roasted rice and butter tea. The meal featured red rice, mushroom soup, pork and chicken specialties, spinach, sautéed vegetables and the country’s delicacy Ema tadashi (also known as chili cheese).
We visit a weaving arts center and observe artisans as they craft fabric for traditional Bhutanese clothing.
Later in the evening, we visit with the Choden family at their home in downtown Thimpu. It is a full house with Thinley, Pasa, their mother, sister, niece and nephew together with our tour group of nine. They so graciously pose for a family photo.