No other country can be like Bhutan

3 October 2018

One of our guides said that “No other country can be like Bhutan,” and the more I learn about this small monarchy (on the verge of democracy) the more I find myself in agreement.

We started our day super early—so early we literally had to jump the fence to gain entry to Buddha Dordenma. The locals refer to the site as Buddha Point and many of them were exercising on our route. Maile guided us on a walking and sitting meditation just as the sun rose over the magnanimous statue glinting in the light.

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Cyndi, B, Maile, Maureen, Candace, Yuki, Claudia, Yas & Andrea

I was especially fond of the peacock carving and Yuki, a fellow yogi pointed out seemed, to be channeling Lady Gaga in this photo:

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We visit Simtokha Dzong next, the first dzong built in Bhutan. Men entering the dzong must add a sash to their traditional go — there are four colors used: Yellow for the King and Chief Abbot; Orange for Ministers and members of Parliament; Blue for District Heads and white for commoners, as Pasa and Dangspa model for us here:

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Pasa and Dangsa white sashes

On our way to Punakha, we stop for lunch at the Dochu La Pass hoping for a clear view of the snow-capped peaks of the Bhutan Himalaya. The hills are covered with a light mist while Dangspa spins the tale of the Divine Madman’s journey through the pass, confronting three ogresses and saving a young boy and his yak. The pass is home to 108 chortens (also known as stupas).

Even on our return to the pass later in the week, we find the hills covered in mist. We stop for a washroom break, and one of our fellow travelers Maureen channels her inner dog whisperer, attracting strays with handfuls of granola.

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Maureen aka Dog Whisperer

Stories about the Divine Madman, one of Bhutan’s famous saints, paint an outrageous and salacious character, renowned for his crazy sexual antics as a way to provoke the Bhutanese to discard their preconceptions. We hike to Chimi Lhakhang dzong, built in his honor after subduing the ogress on Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom.” This is represented by the extensive phallic artwork on buildings at the complex as well as in the surrounding village.

Monks are performing a blessing ceremony when we enter the temple, after making a modest offering the monk blesses us with the lama’s wooden and bone phalluses and archery set to protect us on our journey.

We end the evening with yoga and dinner at our riverside retreat, Punatsangchhu Cottages.

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