TRAVEL GONE WRONG: WHY 4 MONTHS OF NON STOP TRAVEL MADE ME HATE TRAVEL!

TO TRAVEL NON STOP FOR 4 MONTHS NON STOP! That was my travel fantasy when I was still working in Navi Mumbai in a 9 to 5 corporate job (Fine, make that 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. job). Sitting at my desk all day, I would dream of packing my bags to never return. My day dreaming would be assaulted with more official excel sheets (some of which I used surreptitiously for making my travel plans for next few months). Circa 2016! As I mentioned in an earlier blog, 2016 was a magical year for me travel wise.

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Me at Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

Thanks to my new freelance lifestyle, I had the freedom to realize my dream of traveling non-stop. I had accepted a bit too many professional invites for Press Trips and planned many of my personal travels as well. So from August 2016 to November 2016, it was non-stop travel for me for 4 months. Between this period, I showed up at my brother’s house (I was staying with him till then) only for few hours. I would be back home only to wash and change clothes, rest or deliver already delayed projects before starting my next travel. I remember before my Amazing Trip To Ladakh, I took a post midnight cab to home, picked fresh clothes, unpacked and packed my luggage again and leave before 5 a.m. to catch flight to Leh. Within those few hours, I crazily packed my bag, answered mails and even submitted assignments. As I was unpacking and packing I realized much of my room resembled a war zone. I wasted a lot of time to find my things. Because I had had no time to organize my life!

COMPLETE GUIDE TO PARO TAKTSANG AKA TIGER’S NEST MONASTERY IN BHUTAN

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Offbeat Bhutan : Cycling in Unseen Thimphu

Since November end to present day (February 2017), I have been declining Media Trips because I want to concentrate on my writing, earning and other pursuits in life.  I will start traveling again hopefully towards the end of February 2017. Till then, I just want to be at peace. I used my sabbatical from travel well to write more articles for print travel magazines and newspapers, to burn lot of food every day in my kitchen (I am a hopeless cook), play with my friend’s dog, catch up on movies and dining with my friends, organize my desk. I caught up with food festivals, film festivals, book fair and restaurant hopping in New Delhi too. I had spent quality time at 2 of my friend’s quiet homes and offices to write pending blogs. The month of December was most productive as I wrote around 20 blogs in December alone, most of it on Jordan and Bhutan etc. I also managed my finances and raised pending bills and earned more. I further augmented more wealth for me by landing up for assignments for me. On one of the days, I wrote 4 articles in a day! And oh, I caught up on a lot of sleep too. It was a creatively satisfying phase and I hope to repeat it again.

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Click to read about the mystery behind Penis paintings on walls of Bhutan near Chimi Lhakhang

I have realized that I can’t be location independent. I realized that my fantasy was just a fantasy! When I actually tried to live my fantasy of traveling non-stop, I ended up cancelling my own trips. After being on road and in air for so long, I had realized that I do like a base to come back to. (Coz बाबा को base पसंद है). I also realized that no matter how much I love travel, it is not the only thing I want to do. I was itching to read lots of books, even newspapers (I am known for reading 2 months old newspaper even when not traveling), catch up on Bollywood and world cinema (I saw 15 Iranian films in between), meet old friends, spend time with parents and nephews and nieces. On most of my travels in this period I carried books to read. Not even once did I get time to read those thanks to my packed schedules during travel. I talk to my parents in Lucknow daily on phone since 2008, when I left home. I had to request them to hang up because I was too tired (mentally) to even talk)

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I went to a remote village Sehore in Madhya Pradesh to see how Delhi girl Sanjana Kaushik is changing lives in rural India.

Even places like Ladakh, where I had planned 16 days trip started to make me restless. Even though it was my first time in Ladakh, I was constantly craving to get back home. This, when I don’t even like Delhi or Ghaziabad, my adopted home since 1 year! I realized I started to enjoy travel less and on every travel, after a few days, there were moments when I just wanted it to end right there. Perhaps if I was a newbie traveler, I would have still enjoyed it but after having traveled to more than 150 destinations in India since 2008, most of it solo travel in shoestring budgets, I was near saturation. I didn’t want to kill travel for me and since December 2016 I took a strict sabbatical from Travel. Not very long ago (Till just a few month ago), I used to crave for such a trip. From being Fired for travelling too much in 2015 to Tired of travelling too much in 2016, I had seen a paradigm shift in my travel aspirations within a year, a bit too fast. Henceforth, my focus this year onwards is to choose my official trips carefully.

  • I don’t want to travel for more than 10 days in a month.
  • I also want to travel more and more with parents, friends.
  • That said, I realized how much I crave to go back to my original Solo Travel Style. I did manage some amazing Solo Travel experiences last year. I hope to plan some epic solo travels for myself this year.
  • I want to choose my Press Trips more carefully. I should be charged up about the destination before committing.
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Taj Balloon Festival near Taj Mahal Agra was the highlight of my trips.

This break from travel was also important because I finally shifted to my own rented apartment in January 2017. When I shifted from Navi Mumbai to Ghaziabad to stay with my brother in November 2015, I knew I would move out within a year. But I was unable to even find time to go apartment hunting because I was hardly seen at home. Much of January was spent in organizing my life and cutting the clutter. From August 2017 to January 2017 (staying at 2 of my friend’s homes) I was literally living out of suitcases and backpacks wearing the same set of clothes over and again. It was fun and challenging but also cumbersome.

Before Ladakh in September, a Media Trip to Bhutan for 10 days happened to me in August. After enjoying Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Haa Valley at leisure, I spent quality time with parents at Mussoorie and Landour.   September was marked with 16 days in Ladakh. After Ladakh, I made a solo trip to Mumbai, Bangalore and Agumbe, Ikkeri, Kaledi, Shimoga, Jog falls in Karnataka. It was a mix of flights, rickety buses and sleeper class trains. My train to Mumbai from Delhi was not even sleeper class. It was an overnight Chair Car journey in Gareeb Rath.  September was indeed my busiest month.

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Did you know about the Corn Village Bhutoli in Mussoorie? Mosaic Hotels helped me find!

By the time it was October, I had started cancelling my own travels. Never before had I stood at a railway platform with my backpack and cancelled my own tickets. As I sat in metro to Nizamuddin railway station, I was boggled by the amount of work pending. The horrific visions of messy desk and room nagged me further. Upon reaching, I just cancelled the sleeper class train ticket to Surat on my cellphone and returned back to home. I promised myself to travel to Surat next winter to sample the seasonal dishes Ponk and Oundhiyo. Never before in my life had I done something like this. I even cancelled my much awaited trip to Kolkata on Durga Pooja in October. I had wanted to do it since eons. When I was so close to realizing that dream, I cancelled the ticket myself because 1) I was tired and 2) I had so much of freelance work pending). Before this, I explored Madhya Pradesh (Satpura, Bhopal, Pachmarhi, Sanchi, Sehore and Bhimbhetka.) for 7 days. I also stayed at parents’ home in Lucknow for sometime during Diwali. I had plans to visit nearby Ayodhya, Faizabad and Varanasi but I was too tired and just wanted to chill at home and eat some comfort food made by mom. November was all about hot air balloon ride near Taj Mahal and a quick trip to Boat Festival in Goa. I almost said no to these 2 invites. But it was so tempting I had to go. This was the time when I started to slow down. In reality, my 4 month long non-stop travel thus had brief moments of rest at home, thanks to the cancellations.

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Alongwith Naropa Festival, I also attended the Ladakh Festival in Leh.

I don’t know if I will travel like this again (Though I still have some crazy travel plans) but for now I want to take it slow. Kudos to those travelers who spend months on road! Before this trip, the most I had travelled at a stretch was one month in Nepal in 2015 (Everest Base camp Trek and Kathmandu). I remember I was itching for a base even then.

It taught me that we should all understand what personality types we are and make travel plans which suit our personalities. I would love your views on this. Does the same thing happen to you as well or do you love living out of suitcases and backpacks? Do let me know in the comment section below.

This song from the Bollywood film Lootera sums up my current state of mind well.

ना उड़ने की इस दफा ठानी परिंदो ने भी वफा जानी. शिकायते मिटाने चली; सुबह बेदाग है!”

(“Having decided not to fly, even the birds learned to stay this time! I answered all the complaints; the morning is spotless now!”)

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I took some time off from Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart and went to see Sanchi Stupa. Mesmerised, I spent all day here.

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Spotting Gaur aka Bison and other wildlife at Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

OFFBEAT BHUTAN: HOW CYCLING NEAR TANGO AND CHERI MONASTERY HELPED ME DISCOVER THE UNSEEN THIMPHU!

TANGO AND CHERI MONASTERIES in Thimphu and Cycling in Bhutan are often overlooked by the tourists in Bhutan. Our car covered 15 kilometers (30 minutes) from the Thimphu City to arrive at the gushing Wang Chu River.

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The bridge that leads to Tango and Cheri Monastery, Thimphu.

Some furry street dogs rested under the huge penis painting on the wall. (Read here about why they paint penis on the walls in Bhutan?) The wooden bridge transported the tourists on the other side. A huge painting of Guru Ringpoche dwarfed everything around it. Hundreds of small stupas in bright colors laid on the foot of the painting and in the crevices and cuts of the mountains. Devotees put these as offering along with Bhutanese and Indian notes which no one steals. There was absolute silence in the air except the chirps of the birds and the sound of the river. The air was even fresher than the pleasant capital city of Thimphu.

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Due to paucity of time, we decided not to hike up to the Tango and Cheri Monastery. Though I am sure it must have been an exciting hike. The lack of tourists makes it an exclusive experience to be enjoyed in solitude or with a loved one. Bhutan Bookings, the group with whom we were traveling, carried cycles for all 5 of us bloggers in a separate vehicle. As soon as the cycle was allotted to me, I wasted no time in hitting the pedal. 2 of us decided to walk the entire stretch though.

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The rest of us started together and then kept finding and losing each other as we rode on our pace and stopped at our own whims. The best thing about cycling is that it offers a more immersive experience. Rather than just passing through your destination, cycling helps you slow down, observe things minutely and absorb more. I did not know that Thimphu has great locations where one can cycle. Thanks to Bhutan Bookings which made us discover this joyful activity.

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We passed a rural hut, built entirely from wood. It was a departure from the official Bhutanese architecture. I stopped to see the hut closely. As I turned my head I was scandalized to see tiny structures peeping from green mountains.

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The monastery looked like the Tiger’s Nest. What made it different was the fact that a) there were many buildings in concentration, b) the mountain was greener and of course, c) the fact that it is easier to reach there. The river and the street docile dogs were my constant companions in the initial stretch. The air was perfumed with the dense foliage everywhere. A lone monk passed by. His maroon robe complimented the yellow flowers and dark green hills.

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We made a pit stop near a small Stupa for water. There was no way we were not stopping at the bridge ahead. I parked my cycle on the wayside and stood on the bridge. I was gobsmacked at the volume of water which gushed noisily through the dense forest on either side.  The prayer flags fluttered over the violent river. A little ahead another religious shrine stopped me in my tracks. A woman with few kids was offering prayers. A little ahead was the dramatically installed water powered prayer wheels.

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The inclines became steeper by now. I pedaled harder only to be rewarded with breath taking views of the verdant valley before. Charming bridges, clear water, tiny houses and tall prayer flags waving elegantly in the distance gave it a dream like quality. I decided to sit here for few minutes. Soon, all my other friends joined me, including those who chose to walk the stretch. We spent some time here and decided to call it a day. The cycles were loaded again in the vehicle and we drove off to have an authentic Bhutanese Lunch in the Folk Heritage Museum.

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Prayer wheel powered by water. We came across this while cycling in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Soul Window Tips:

  • Wear loose pants. Cotton track pants are best.
  • Carry water bottles. There are no shops en route.
  • Wear helmets.
  • No need to be scared of the street dogs. They are few and are docile.
  • Keep at least 2 hours extra to hike up to the Tango and Cheri monasteries.
  • It is great activity to be enjoyed with friends or family.

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Responsible Tourism- My Moral Policing

  • You are passing through a village. Don’t disturb the locals.
  • Don’t litter the place.
  • Don’t play loud music. Enjoy the silence.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THESE BLOGS ON BHUTAN:

A QUICK TREKKING GUIDE ON TIGER’S NEST MONASTERY AKA PARO TAKTSANG

WHY THEY PAINT PENIS DESIGNS ON THE WALLS OF BHUTAN

DRAYANGS: THE DANCE BARS OF BHUTAN

THE HAA VALLEY: BEST KEPT SECRET OF BHUTAN

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PARO

MUST DO THINGS IN THIMPHU: 30 EXCLUSIVE PICTURES

WHITE WATER RAFTING IN PUNAKHA: WHEN I JUMPED IN THE RIVER

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Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

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L to R – Dipanshu, Swati, Manjulika, Parnashree and me on completion of the cycling trail near Thimphu, Bhutan

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

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I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

TIGER’S NEST AKA PARO TAKTSANG IN BHUTAN- QUICK TREKKING GUIDE AND TIPS!

The below article is in a chronological order, based upon my personal experience. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below and I will answer them.

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Creative shot of Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang.

TIGER’S NEST OR THE PARO TAKTSANG IS THE FACE OF BHUTAN. Most have nurtured a dream to climb up the monastery, which from a distance looks like it will fall anytime from the high mountains. I have been to Bhutan 2 times (Such is the pull of the country!) I could not visit the Tiger’s nest the first time in 2014 because I was traveling with parents for whom it was not possible to trek. The option of taking a mule up to the Tiger’s Nest was there but they were not too keen. I looked at it longingly from a distance and promised myself to return to Bhutan one day for realizing my dream of trekking up to Tiger’s Nest if nothing else.

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Paro Taktasang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery peeping from the prayer flags

15th August, 2016: Perhaps I was destined to trek to Tiger’s Nest on the auspicious occasion of Indian Independence Day. As our van stopped at the base of the Tiger’s Nest, a touristy market welcomed us. Some of us bought a Rs.50 walking stick. We were 5 bloggers and 2 representatives from Bhutan Bookings.

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Beginning of Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek- Of Pines and mules

7:35 a.m. Scores of pine cones lay scattered on the ground as we started the trek to Tiger’s Nest. Mules, waiting to be hired, rested nonchalantly. Tiger’s Nest looks like a tiny speck from here. A row of prayer wheels housed in small rooms built in traditional Bhutanese architecture was the first man made structure we passed. Powered by flowing water, it added to the tranquil atmosphere.

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Prayer wheel powered by water is housed in this room. En Route Tiger’s Nest Monastery trek

8:00 a.m. Clusters of tiny mushrooms cushioned the sides of pathways.  The view of Tiger’s nest was our constant companion. Half an hour later, we were rewarded with sweeping views of the valley below and misty mountains on the other side.

Pictures above (L to R) Way to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Shadow of the quirky prayer wheels, Tiny mushrooms (Please click to enlarge)

8:41 a.m. There are benches built for those who want to rest. I preferred sitting on the stones during the breaks. Nearby is a large compartmentalized tank where the horses stopped for their water breaks.

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Me blowing the quirky prayer wheels fashioned out of bottles. En Route Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek (Pic: Parnashree Devi)

8:57 a.m. We arrived at a giant prayer wheel surrounded by large boulders and prayer flags of all colors. I loved the quirky prayer wheel somebody fashioned out of bottle waters. It had ‘wings’ and was dependent on fast winds or a little blow by humans. Few minutes later, we entered a modern gate. 20 minutes later the muddy path had become rocky in patches.

Pics above (L to R) : Our guide Sonam resting on a bench en route Tiger’s Nest Monastery; Rocky patches

10:00 a.m. We arrived at a mysterious building. It was built around a cave. It’s door was locked but there was a wooden ladder which opened in the window. I climbed the ladder to see a dark room housing idols and prayer paraphernalia. Incense smell seduced my olfactory system as I pushed my nose against the metal net. Just when I thought there were no human inside, a monk looked at me from inside. A board told me that His Holiness JE Khenpo Geshey Guenden Rinchen was born here in a cave in 1926 (Fire Tiger year). People nick named him Dragphugpa (Cave man). He was a Buddhist scholar and for 10 years he served as the abbot of Tango Monastery in Thimphu. Just 3 minutes ahead is a view point where trekkers can safely take pictures of the Tiger’s Nest.

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The cave Temple just before the view point en route Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

10:22 a.m. After a stop of few minutes we resumed trekking, this time on proper steps with metal railings. Few years ago this was a rough trail. The construction helped people navigate the tricky part of the trek. This stretch has the most ups and downs and perhaps due to this reason the steps were built. “It was pretty rough when I visited it solo many years ago! It’s quite easy now!” An American told me, who was trekking this time with his grown up son. 20 minutes later, I passed a cemented seating area. Skipping the rest, I moved on, impatient to reach the Tiger’s Nest. A Japanese pointed out to me a large formation on the rock below the Tiger’s Nest. It looked like a human form. He told me it is said to be a mythological figure.

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The waterfall. Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang is just an hour away!

11:00 a.m. We arrived at the most exciting part of the trek. A large waterfall cascaded from the high mountains. A bridge helped pilgrims cross the gushing stream powered by the waterfall. Prayer flags of all colors were tied in haphazard fashion everywhere as if celebrating something. Perhaps celebrating our arrival at the Tiger’s nest which was just an hour away! 10 minutes away was a cave where Khado Yeshi Tsogyal practiced Vajrakilaya. A powerful tradition which is practiced to removes obstacles; overpower evil forces and leads to compassion and spiritual cleaning.

Pics above (L to R): Can you identify the human image; the second cave temple just before Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

12:20 a.m. We arrived at the steps leading to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Cameras, Mobile phones, weapons, liquors, tobacco, drugs explosives and any inflammable object are not allowed beyond this point. We submitted our cameras, mobile phones, sticks, extra clothes and day packs in the locker and proceeded ahead after a security check. It is also not allowed to wear sleeveless outfits, shawls or Bermudas and half pants beyond this point.

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Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery

As I climbed the steep steps to the Tiger’s Nest monastery, I arrived at a dark room. The perfume of incense and juniper wafted in the air, lending it a mystical aura. I visited all the temples in the monastery, silenced and awed by its aura. The breathtaking views of the valley made it all the more soothing.

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Me unable to hide my happiness on coming so close to Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. One more dream come true! (Pic: Parnashree Devi)

1:24 p.m. We arrive for lunch at Taktsang Cafeteria. A Bhutan Tourism outlet, it is a relaxing place to have lunch post the trek. It has both indoor and al fresco dining option. I suggest you sit at the outdoor benches for a view of misty Tiger’s Monastery. Lunch is buffet style. There are clean loos too.

Lunch Nu 390; Tea/Coffee with biscuits – Nu 100

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The cafeteria. We ate here while returning from Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Soul Window Tips:

  1. Eat a heavy breakfast. You will be burning a lot of calories.
  2. Wear loose cottons and comfortable shoes. Trekking shoes preferred though it is an easy (for me) trek.
  3. Carry light woolens. I did carry but I did not need it. (I trekked on 15th August)
  4. Don’t wear sleeveless shirts/tops and half pants. You will not be allowed inside the monastery.
  5. Carry water bottles (at least 2 liters per person)
  6. Carry Small snacks like dry fruits, cookies, health bars.
  7. Carry a light day pack to hold all the things.
  8. Walking stick helps, though it is not much required. In case you buy it from the shops at the base, it would be great if you could return it to them for free. This is what we did.
  9. Always give priority to the horses and let them pass the path before you do.
  10. Carry plastic to protect your electronic in case it rains.

MY MORAL POLICING ON RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING:

  1. If you are fit, there is no reason to hire a mule. It’s unpleasant for you as well as the mule. Trekking on foot also helps you observe a lot.
  2. Don’t litter. It is a sensitive zone. Though there are huge bins installed every few steps, I suggest you collect all the garbage in your bag and take them down yourself. If all the individuals take initiatives at their end, it makes a big difference at the end.
  3. Don’t talk loudly or scream. Let’s maintain the sanctity of the place.
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Tiger’s Nest Monastery aka Paro Taktsang

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE THESE BLOGS ON BHUTAN:

WHY THEY PAINT PENIS DESIGNS ON THE WALLS OF BHUTAN

DRAYANGS: THE DANCE BARS OF BHUTAN

THE HAA VALLEY: BEST KEPT SECRET OF BHUTAN

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PARO

MUST DO THINGS IN THIMPHU: 30 EXCLUSIVE PICTURES

WHITE WATER RAFTING IN PUNAKHA: WHEN I JUMPED IN THE RIVER

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

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Me en route Paro Taktsang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery. (Pic by: Dipanshu Goyal)

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

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Dipanshu gaining height. This was shot half an hour after the trek to Tiger’s Nest Monastery began.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

RAFTING IN PUNAKHA: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I JUMPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER!

MY CO TRAVELER Dipanjan just did it. It was tempting and I was itching to do it too. We were in the middle of the swelling river when Dipanjan jumped all of a sudden, holding on to the rope and his dear life.

“Guys, I wanna do it too!” I protested

“No you are not doing it”, they said in a chorus.

This was repeated 3 to 4 times.

“Please, please , please!”

“OK, fine go ahead, just hold the rope very tightly!”

“Can someone click my pictures while I am doing it?”

“No, if you want to do it for the pictures we are not!”

“Fine, chuck it, I will do it anyways!”

 

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The starting point of our rafting session!

I bought few seconds of pause, making sure IF I REALLY WANT TO DO IT? Not reaching any conclusion, I finally jumped in, safety vest intact! Someone screamed crocodile seconds before I jumped! As soon as I jumped, the water pushed and pulled me violently, nothing was in my control except a tight grip on the rope. Though I knew there were no crocodiles in the river, somehow my primal fear made me imagine a croc will pull me in and swallow me whole in next few minutes. Fear is the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind; most of it imagined! I stopped running my imagination wild!  Within moments, I started to enjoy the dip in the deep river. I don’t know swimming and yet I did not want to come out. One person from the boat held my rope tight as I tried to find some balance in the rough river. My co-travelers cheered me on, much of which was lost on me, thanks to the chaos of the choppy waters.

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Our group! (Pic: Dipanshu Goyal)

After few minutes of gasping for breath, I signaled my group leader to pull me in the boat. It was the first time I tried white water rafting and what an experience it was. After a long time I felt alive. Of all the genres of travel, adventure is my true love.

Our rafting began on a calm note. We were taken to a location where the water was not rough. After a round of instructions (which I uselessly perfected only in the last 5 minutes), we readied ourselves for an adventurous morning! It was fun for me because I had never attempted rafting before. Our raft moved up and down as we passed through flags fluttering in scenic hills, kids playing in a distance and our tent by the river.

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Me at our camp side. We spent the night here chatting and laughing! (Pic: Swati Jain)

Somewhere in midway, I started humming a slow song while the raft navigated the calmer water. Gradually, the haha and hihi of my friends started to fade even though I was sitting next to them. Over the years I have mastered the art of stealing my ‘Me Moment’ and cocooning myself from human interactions even if it’s temporarily. As I lose myself to the scenery around, a dragonfly hovered at my face as if dancing to the song I was singing. The dragonfly vanished after strutting his/her stuff. The white prayer flags at the distance were the next victim of my imagination. They fluttered violently as if dancing to my tunes. That was the moment I felt a strong connection with Bhutan. My personal and intimate interactions with clouds, river, mountains, flora, fauna always leave me with spiritual growth. These are the moments when I realize there is much love, rhythm and harmony on this planet.

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Our raft as seen from a bridge. At the start of the raft!

What makes rafting in the Po Chu and Mo Chu rivers of Punakha memorable is the fact that its route includes the Punakha Dzong, famous for its unparalleled beauty. As we passed the wooden bridge which connects the Dzong to the mainland, tourists waved at us from the bridge. Rafting in Punakha offers unique views of the Dzong not possible from land.

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Our breakfast table by the camp side.

As we safely reached the landing point near a hotel, I decided to stay longer in the river. I lied down alone, the body below my face submerged in crystal clear water. Few kids and street dogs gave me company. It is moments like these why I am addicted to travel and adventure.

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We stayed here! Next to the river!

In the evening, we huddled near our tents. Some of us wanted to have beer and one of us volunteered to chill the beers in the ‘Natural Refrigirator’. The ice cold water of the river was where the ‘fridge’ was created. A nest with stones was created on the side of the river. The flowing water of the river turned it cold within hours. We dangled our legs in the river and chatted the night away. It was a secluded place which meant we could laugh over pakoda (fritters) and beer till way past midnight. I even joked, “I hope one of us falls in the river while laughing.”

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Ever chilled your beer like this?

MORE BLOGS ON BHUTAN:

SECRET BEHIND PENIS ART ON THE WALLS OF BHUTAN

THE HAA VALLEY: BEST KEPT SECRET OF BHUTAN

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PARO

MUST DO THINGS IN THIMPHU: 30 EXCLUSIVE PICTURES

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The place silences you (Pic: Swati Jain)

My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

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Rafters (Pic: Dipanshu Goyal)

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WHY IS EVERYONE SO CHILLED OUT AT PENIS ART ON BHUTAN WALLS: CHIMI LHAKHANG

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I HEARD FEMALE GIGGLES as I was concentrating on taking pictures and videos of huge phallic signs on the walls of Bhutanese homes. “There are so many of them, in a variety of colors and designs. It’s weird.” The white woman quipped. Many people from (supposedly liberal) western countries were as aghast on seeing phallic symbols as the (supposedly conservative) Asians. Chimi Lhakhang is the place associated with such symbols. Though you can see phallic symbols across Bhutan, you find more of such symbols near Chimi Lhakhang.

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The penis images painted on walls are outrageous. Some have ribbon tied around them; some are shown engulfed by a dragon. Some are even shown ejaculating.  I was amused to see penises with eyes, wings and hands as well. Each one of them is erect and comes with hairy testicles (Some ‘shaved’ too). You can’t afford to miss them thanks to their explicit nature and size (From tiny ones to as large as an adult human).

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As I walked on the lush green hilly terrains to reach Chimi Lhakhang, I was amused by graphic pictures of phallus on the walls of homes and shops. Some of it was aimed at tourists, some authentic. Kids played nonchalantly in the shadow of the wall art while men and women went about their work, not embarrassed of passing such symbols every now and then. In conservative Asian cultures, this is an aberration, even a mild shock!

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Prayer flags fluttered wildly in the unending rice fields as cows grazed nonchalantly in the undulating fields. A dog followed us throughout as we negotiated narrow dirt tracks and open drains to reach the Chimi Lhakhang. Women roasting ‘bhooja’ (Dry Snacks also popular in India) in an incongruous hut filled the air with a comforting fragrance and warmth.

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The cool breeze slapped our cheeks and we would take pauses to soak in the tranquility of the place and admire its raw beauty. Tens of red robed kids were chanting under a tree in their al fresco school.

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As I entered the temple, a child monk approached me and blessed me by softly banging a 10 inches wooden penis on my head. It got me curious and I asked my guide Sonam the reason behind the mystery.

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Sonam transports me to 15th century. Lama Drukpa Kunley (1455- 1529) popularly known as the divine madman of Dragon lineage established the monastery in 1499. Folklore has it that he subdued a cannibal demon goddess with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. Following this event, the monastery was established on a hillock in Punakha by his cousin.

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A famous poet, monk and Buddhist scholar, he introduced an alternative school of Buddhism in Bhutan. A connoisseur of wine, women and finer things in life, he broke the tradition and introduced a school of thought which was unashamed of sexuality and encouraged his followers (mostly women) to shun greed and embrace a honest and spiritual life. His sexual adventures are the stuff legends are made up of. It is said that he even employed intercourse as a blessing to his female followers. Through his unorthodox teachings, he enlightened those who listened to him. His influence is still palpable in Bhutan. The lama Kunley saw the hillock (where the monastery is situated) as the ‘breast of a woman’.img_1008

Even today, childless couples head to Chimi Lhakhang to seek cure for their infertility. Also known as the ‘infertility temple’, locals come here to seek blessings. The wooden penis, which the divine madman brought from Tibet is used to bless the women who seek to cure the couple’s infertility. Couples also come here for the naming ceremony of their children.img_1105

The penis figures are also known to ward off the evil spirits and gossips which explain its presence on the walls of the households. However, I was told that in urban areas of Bhutan, the numbers of such figures on walls are dwindling thanks to the growing prudishness and self censorship. Also known as the ‘mad saint’, his unprecedented teaching style was laced with humor, songs and socially unacceptable behavior. He popularized the depiction of erect penis figures outside houses along with a flying wooden penis on the top of the main entrance of the house, much like the ‘toran’ popular in India.

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MORE BLOGS ON BHUTAN:

THE HAA VALLEY: BEST KEPT SECRET OF BHUTAN

ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PARO

MUST DO THINGS IN THIMPHU: 30 EXCLUSIVE PICTURES

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Tips:

  • Carry Water Bottles. There is a uphill path at the end of the walk which leaves you thirsty.
  • Wear shoes and not slippers. Beware of puddles and open drains.
  • Talk to the locals. They might end up offering you some ‘bhooja’ from their kitchen.
  • Wear hat and goggles since Punakha is warmer than elsewhere in the Paro-Punakha-Haa valley- Thimphu circuit.

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How to reach:

  • Our car left Thimphu at 9:00 am and reached Dochu La at 9:45 a.m.
  • After a break of 45 minutes, we left Dochu La at 10:30 a.m. and reached the road leading to Chimi Lhakhang at 12:15 p.m.
  • At 1:30 p.m. we reached Chimi Lhakhang. Though people take 30 minutes to reach Chimi Lhakhang from the approach road, we stopped many times en route because it was gorgeous.

The walk from approach road to the Chimi Lhakhang top is through an easy trail near the village Sopsokha. It is barely 10 kilometres away from Punakha. We left Chimi Lhakhang at 2:45 p.m.  and reached Punakha Dzong at 3:15 p.m.

My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

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Where to Eat: I would advice to eat at the many restaurants as you you start walking on the dirt tracks. This will give you the energy to keep going! I ate a sumptuous buffet (Noodles, Ema Datshi, rice) at Chimi Lhakhang café. Sit at one of the window seats which overlook the green valley. Beware of the large wooden phallus decorated dubiously at a corner in the washroom though.

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When to go: I was twice. April was slightly hotter than August. I preferred the breezy August weather. It was not cold in either of the months. All you need is light cotton clothes. Morning visit advised.

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Buy: You can take a phallic souvenir from the many shops. Key Chains, Show pieces, even a penis wearing a gho(local dress) are some of the interesting picks.

Pics above: (L to R): Kids playing oblivious to the graphic phallic symbols, the variety of penis ‘for sale’, the wooden penis above the door of a shop.

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Guide To Paro Valley – Why you should go to this dreamland in Bhutan!

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Paro is a charming little town of Buddhist Bhutan, tucked away in a remote corner of the world, unspoiled by globalization and the frills that come with it. Paro is a unique town which can be called a hybrid between a city and a village. It had most modern frills balanced by the peace and serenity of a village. The nightlife is not much and the shops close early in the night. It’s pristine and surrounded by beautiful hills all around. If you ever fantasized about a utopian world, Bhutan is the place to be. Bhutan , as is widely known is a nation obsessed with Gross National happiness rather than gross domestic product. Do discover this landlocked kingdom before everyone else does! Do discover before it ceases to be “The Last Shangri La’ of the world! Chasing happiness is just another excuse though!

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Paro is a small town and most of the destinations can be easily navigated on foot. A cab and a driver are important to access some monuments on hill tops, otherwise with a scenery and pleasant weather such as this, it calls for long walks. OK, make that romantic walks if you are on honeymoon! My walks and conversations with my cab driver revealed some secret vantage points and point of interests generally not mentioned in regular guide books.

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DAM VIEW RESTAURANT

Address : Near THPA Dam, Phuentsholing to Paro road , Chukha

The dam view restaurant offers great view of the Dam and the Chukha Hydro Power plant. Request the restaurant manager to open the door of the banquet hall (which is generally closed) for better views of the valley and dam. But that’s not the only reason to make a pit stop at the reasonably priced joint. The food and ambience here is equally good. I had my first taste of Bhutan’s national dish, Ema Datshi, a chilly based curry rich in cheese served with rice and lentils and a ‘kimchi’ like salad. There was a ‘hog all you can’ policy on rice and salad.

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BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF PARO AIRPORT:

 Stop at PARO AIRPORT BIRDS EYE VIEW, the best vantage point to see the small town in its entirety. The 1st impression of Paro is promising and leaves you anticipating the discovery of its secrets. Needless to say, it gives the best view of the Paro airport. Wait for some time and you can see the dramatic landing and take offs from here.

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PARO RIVER SIDE PROMENADE

 Address : Dop Shari Valley, Take right at the tail end of the bridge that leads to Dumtse Lhakhang, On the approach road to Sangachokhor and Kuengacholing,Paro

The promenade along the bank of river is used by the villagers to commute. This side of the bridge is mostly rural unlike the urban market area of Paro. You will see small charming homes and acres of agricultural lands and rose cheeked chubby kids heading leisurely to school. I envied the idyllic country lifestyle as I walked on the promenade. It gives you dramatic views of the Dzong above.

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THE MAIN MARKET STREET built in 1985 is the most modern representation of Paro. It is lined on either side with small stores selling mainly grocery and handicrafts. The shops are well organized, uniform looking and strictly adhering to traditional Bhutanese architectural style. Most shops have a huge window serving as cash and carry counters. The panels and windows are painted exquisitely with Bhutanese folklore elements giving the market a unique character. In case, you happen to be in Paro on a weekend, its Sunday market is a must have experience. A walk down the lane is a must.

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KICHU LHAKHANG

 Address: En route to Tiger’s nest

The Temple has an old world charm. Cocooned away from the main city area, this place had a dream like quality. The purple jacaranda flowers on white rough walls and apple trees bursting with tiny white flowers make it dreamy. In the inner courtyard of temple, the silver and gold plated butter lamp in a glass takes around 20 kgs of pure butter to light up. Right behind the lamp is the orange tree which bears fruits round the year. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals and ornately carved wooden windows.

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ARCHERY GROUND

Address: Near main market, Paro

Find local men practicing archery here, Bhutan’s national sport. Even if you miss seeing a proper tournament, there are chances you may catch a practice session played out by the roadside. The hills near the Tiger’s nest resort is often used for practice sessions. Every village here has their own teams. The game is associated to manliness and is passionately followed by the locals. You have to see it to appreciate it!

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PEMA GIFT SHOP

 Address : En route Tiger’s nest monastry, Paro

Always fancied dressing like locals? It housed many handicrafts and dresses exorbitantly priced at touristy rates. However, do go for a affordable Rs.100 per head to learn to wear a Gho (for men) and Kira (for women) and click pictures once done. For those willing to try their hand at archery, there was small set up where one could try for Rs.100. The stage was set in a room with dry grass, in a bid to give it an outdoor feeling. It was decorated with flags and gaudy flowers and a “Take memories from Bhutan” banner. This was the most touristy one can and one should get in Bhutan.

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NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BHUTAN:

 The museum offers great panoramic views of the Paro valley. It was born out of the need to preserve, organise and represent Bhutanese heritage, tradition, lifestyle, art, culture, wildlife! The thangkas are as ancient as 16th century. The heritage gallery is more engaging one with its strange collection. The most unusual artefact was the 19th century Horse’s egg and horse horn. These are said to have special powers and bring good fortune to the person who owns it. The other star attractions are traditional water timer, iron chain crafted by saint Thangtong Gyalpo and the eerie stuffed snow leopard!

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DUMTSE LHAKHANG AKA JANGTSA DUMTSEG LHAKHANG:

Address: Dop Shari valley, approach road to Sangachokhor and Kuengacholing, Paro

Again most tour operators and guidebooks skip this unusual Buddhist temple built in the architectural style of a chorten. It was built in 1433 by Thangtong Gyalpo. He is popularly called ‘Iron Man’ since he is credited with building 58 iron chain suspension bridges across Tibet and Bhutan.

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NYAMAI JAM

Address: Below Paro Dzong

The sheer beauty of the traditional wooden bridge below the Paro Dzong calls for a pit stop. It’s built over Paro’s Paro Chuu river. The present structure is a reconstruction of the original which was washed away in 1969. The bridge also features in the movie Little Buddha by Bernardo Bertolucci. It offers great views of the dzong and the scenery around. Walk on the bridge and see locals and monks use the bridge to access the Dzong and the nearby areas. It also lends beautifully to unusual photo-ops.

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Rinpung Dzong : The best stop in Paro is the imposing Paro dzong. Dzongs , the fortress temple of Bhutan are huge multi purpose buildings built in ancient Bhutan and Tibet. The Dzongs typically comprise of a huge courtyard (Dochey) in the middle surrounded by administrative offices, monks’ residential quarters, temples (Lhakhangs) etc. The courtyard generally has a soaring central tower called Utse. The Dzongs are massive, white colored building. Due to their sheer grandeur and extraordinary architectural style, these are now a major tourist attraction. Come in April for colorful festival Tsechu.

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How To Reach: You can fly directly to Paro in Bhutan or fly to Bagdogra Airport in India and take a road trip.

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Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

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HAA VALLEY – EXCLUSIVE PICTURES AND STORY ON THE HIDDEN PARADISE OF BHUTAN NO ONE TALKS ABOUT!

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Offbeat Haa Valley in Bhutan. Way to our Homestay in Haa Valley

OFF LATE I HAVE OFTEN BEEN caught dozing off during the cab transfers. Blame it on my expanding girth (Delhi Belly?), my growing age or 8 years of travel. As our van moved from Paro to Haa valley, a series of exclamations woke me up. The travel bloggers in our van were sighing at the misty Chele La Pass. I peeped out of the window, eyes half closed, to see a series of white flags fluttering wildly against a grey sky. Before I imagined that I was still sleeping and this is just another ‘unreal’ dream, my blogger friends jolted me out of my stupor and forced me to come out of van.

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These dogs greeted me at Chele La Pass! Bhutan is all about unconditional love! On the way to offbeat Haa Valley (Picture by Dipanshu Goyal)

Not caring about the slight drizzle, I moved about silently as a bunch of dogs, (tails wagging, ears stuck to its head – signs of affection) came running to me. They chose me out of all the people. I value this welcome much more than the garland and tikka welcomes at fancy hotels. It was a silent moment. We were the only people there at that time. Throughout our 10 day long journey in Bhutan, this was the only misty place we came across. At approximately 13,000 feet, it is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan and connects Paro to Haa Valley. None of us had been to Haa valley before and it set the tone for the remaining journey.

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Me at Chele La Pass. On the way to Haa Valley, Bhutan (Picture by Swati jain)

It was pitch dark and still drizzling as we reached the 100 year old restored farm house in Haa Valley. Exhausted, we were still curious how the Haa valley looks likes. Never mind, as I stepped out of the van, I inhaled the rain soaked smell of soil deeply, listened carefully to the bell which rang in a distance (A Cow? A Prayer wheel?), touched the wooden railings of the dirt track we took to reach the farm, tasted the Haa air. Sporadic lamps (Few and far between) danced in the distance. I was still not sure what Haa looked like, but I was sure how Haa felt like!

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Somewhere in Haa Valley, Bhutan!

The night was spent admiring the beauty of the farmhouse we were staying in. It was a restored house built in the traditional Bhutanese style. The wallpapers in the room were artistic and had Buddhist themes painted all over. Since it was an old style house, there were no attached bathrooms for any of the rooms. You don’t mind such things when you want an authentic experience. Cultural Immersion has always been about getting out of one’s comfort zone. I had always wanted to stay in a Bhutanese house and that wish was fulfilled here. The dinner was simple organic Thali (pre plated meal), flavorsome! A post prandial walk in the garden and midnight conversations followed.

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We stayed in this restored farmhouse cum homestay in offbeat Haa Valley, Bhutan!

We woke up early the next day for a morning walk around the village. The sounds and smells we experienced the night before got a face. We discovered it is a sparsely populated village. There were large empty stretches between clusters of mud and wood houses. In our 2 hour long walk, we did not bump into a single person. Some people did go about their chores in their houses, some tending to their farms. The houses were large and often with a big lawn, with angry barking dogs. Some houses seemed ancient. Cows roamed around nonchalantly.

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This dog didn’t like me. Fine, hated me! My Peta work, notwithstanding! At offbeat Haa valley, Bhutan

The empty wooden bridge above the water stream waited patiently for someone to justify its presence. Snow capped mountains made it all look even more majestic. The cows grazing in the green expanse next to a wooden hut made it look like Switzerland. Somewhere in the middle of our walk, I got the epiphany that we should have planned a longer stay here. It is not every day that one gets to converse with oneself and the nature in comforting solitude.

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The lonely roads of offbeat Haa Valley in Bhutan!

As we left the farm house post breakfast, an old man playing with his cat smiled at me from his second story window. The Bhutanese frame of the window and his fondness for gibberish etched the memory of this moment forever in me. A few steps, as I walked on the dirt road to sit in my van, a kid, perched on his father’s shoulder smiled and waved at me. I don’t know why but that moment humbled me. It made my city life seem meaningless. I sat in the van, slightly upset. I refused to peep out of the window one last time. Because I know love happens when you do that! People in Haa know how to melt your heart, one artery at a time! In a non noisy way!

WHAT IS ALL THE HOO HAA ABOUT?

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Good Byes are difficult! Always! At offbeat Haa Valley, Bhutan

Being an agrarian nation, 70 % of people in Bhutan live in rural areas. They depend on farms and cattle for the livelihood. Bhutan is abundant in natural resources what with green mountains, mysterious forests, voluptuous rivers accompanying you wherever you go. I got a glimpse of this even in urban areas.

I have been to Bhutan 2 times, once with parents and again with travel bloggers. I missed seeing Haa Valley the last time when I was here. Just like many others who stick to the traditional Paro-Thimphu-Punakha circuit. Haa Valley is the perfect place to experience the traditional lifestyle of Bhutan amidst a calm atmosphere. It is a great place to indulge in the backdrop of rich culture manifest in prayer wheels, fluttering prayer flags, vibrant close knit communities and a lazy languor that hangs in this village.

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Walk around the farmhouse! At offbeat Haa Valley, Bhutan

With an area of 1706.8 square kilometers, Haa is one of the smallest districts of Bhutan. It runs north east to south west, neighbouring Paro, Chukha and Samte. With a population of approximately 12,000 in 63 villages, Haa is the second least populated dzongkhag aka district in the valley.

CULTURE AND TRADITION

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Farms of Offbeat Haa Valley in Bhutan

People of Haa are called Haaps. They celebrate the New Year much earlier than people in other parts of Bhutan do. The Haa New Year called Lomba (meaning: To carry the year) is celebrated on 29th day of the tenth month (usually November) of the Bhutanese calendar.

Ancient shamanistic traditions are practiced here along with traditional Buddhist rituals. The annual ritual to honor Ap Chhundu, the guardian diety of Haa includes the sacrifice of a yak. It is accepted that doing so will ensure a year of prosperity for the haaps for an year. The deity is worshipped by the men in his form as Pholha Masang Chhundu.

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Traditional Bhutanese House in Offbeat Haa Valley, Bhutan!

FOOD IN HAA VALLEY, BHUTAN

The valley of Haa is fertile and people grow millet, potatoes, barley, rice, wheat etc. Many apple orchards pass us as we drove through the valley. I also saw farms of Quinoa ivory, Huancayo, Negra Collana.

Habi Hoento aka Hoentey is a local dish cooked during Lomba, the new year. It is a steamed dumpling stuffed with pungent grated turnip, dried turnip greens, mushroom, garlic, onion, chopped cabbage. Occasionally ginger, mustard seeds, walnut, chilli powder, salt, butter and oil seeds like poppy and sesame  are also added as per individual preference and spending capacity.

Habi Ruto: Yak products are common in Himalayan regions. It is a dried variety of Yak Cheese popular in Haa.

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The little girl who regaled us at our farm stay cum home-stay in offbeat Haa Valley, Bhutan!

POINTS OF INTEREST IN HAA:

Temples: The verdant hills of Haa are home to many picturesque temples such as 7th century old Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) in a tiny village called Dumchoe. Lhakhang Nagpo is situated above Lhakhang Karpo.

Tagchu Goemba: It is a 100 year old monastery in Lungse Kha Village and was founded by Dali Lama Sangay Jamtsho. It is said that its structure is similar to Nub Dali Dzong in Tibet where Lama Sangay Jamtsho served a tenure as the abbot of the Tibetan monastery.

Shekhar Drak Temple: Built at a foot of a cliff, it appears as if it is an outcrop of the hilly terrain.

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Switzerland anyone? I don’t know. I have not been to Switzerland! At offbeat Haa Valley, Bhutan

Wangchu Lo Dzong : Haa is the ancestral home of the Great Royal Grandmother, Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck. Her Grandfather Gongzim Uguen Dorji commissioned the construction of the Wangchu Lo Dzong, a former district center. Its structure is akin to Wangdicholing Palace in Bumthang, the seat of first and second Kings of Bhutan. Dumcho Dzong stood here earlier. It was destroyed in fire. Since it is a relatively a newer construction (established in 1915) when compared to ancient dzongs, a prefix sar (new) is often added to distinguish it.

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On the way to our home-stay in the offbeat Haa Valley in Bhutan

Dobji Dzong: This fortress at an altitude of 6,600 feet is 11 kilometres away from Chunzom. It was built in 1531 by Ngawang Chogyal. The five storied fortress stands tall atop a ridge, jaw dropping ravines descending to the basin of Pachu-Wangchu. It was a center of Drukpa Kagyu teachings.

The hill that looks like a horse: Behind the Gongzim Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School, our guide Sonam pointed to a hill. A large portion of it looked like the face of a horse. We were told it is a natural formation. There is a suspension bridge near the school.

The view from my #SoulWindow is away from the touristy frills!

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The hill that looks like a head of a horse! At the offbeat Haa valley, Bhutan

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

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Ghost Town? At the offbeat Haa Valley, Bhutan

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

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Love is all around you in Bhutan. The unconditional variety! (Picture : Dipanshu Goyal) At Chelela Pass. On the way to the offbeat Haa Valley in Bhutan

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