Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Bhutan: Day 5

by Kathy 24. May 2009 19:05
<< Day 4: Bike Lessons and Beauty on the Way to Tashigang | Day 6: Waterfalls and Icy Roads to Bumthang Valley >>


Switchbacks Galore to Mongar


Bhutan only has one road that runs across the country east to west, beginning in the southeast corner and snaking north to Tashigang before veering westward; after zig-zagging over a succession of steep-sided mountains, the road eventually reaches the capital of Thimphu and heads south again, toward the Indian border.

Before we began our westward journey today from Tashigang, we would continue riding north for approximately 16 miles to visit Gom Kora, the sacred meditation site of Guru Rimpoche (who allegedly introduced Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century, and is viewed by many Bhutanese as the “second Buddha”).

I was eager to test out my new technique of starting the bike. I careful went through the proper procedures with the compression release switch and ended with a long, gentle kick that swept the kick-start lever all the way from the top position through to the bottom. The bike roared to a start! I was so elated! I was able to successfully start my bike on the first or second kick for most of the remaining journey.  I felt so empowered and will always be grateful to Fred for his humorous insight last night.

Our first stop before leaving the hilly streets of Tashigang was the small circular downtown plaza, where we took some photos. Here is Ben with his video camera:

(Once again, the wonderful photos that Ben took today with his camera were all lost. However, now that my time was no longer consumed with trying to figure out how to start my bike, I actually whipped out my camera on occasion and snapped the photos that you see here.)

Our motorcycle gurus, Sono and Gyan:

The Bhutanese people had built a temple and monastery at the Gom Kora site, which was nestled in a narrow valley.

The temple:

We could see some monks having an outdoor meal at the adjacent monastery buildings.

We walked down into the temple area to see Guru Rimpoche’s meditation spot. The detailed paintings on the temple building were beautiful:

We passed by the fertility chorten, which had a small black rock that had been rubbed smooth and shiny by the hands of many pilgrims who had visited with the hopes of having a child.

Behind the temple is a humongous rock that is the purported meditation site of Guru Rimpoche. Our guide Dorji explained the stories behind the various markings on the rock.

One part of the rock has a long white impression shaped like a spoon:

This impression is said to have been made by a large cobra snake that reared its head when it came out of a rock crevice near where Guru Rinpoche was meditating.

Dorji also showed us the sacred cave where Guru Rimpoche’s meditation occurred; inside you can see rock impressions that are purported to be of his thumb, his hat, and his body. We all got a chance to climb inside the cave and look at the impressions and the crevice from which the cobra emerged.

Ben took his turn:

We also viewed the inside of the temple. No photos were allowed, but here is Paul at the entrance:

After leaving Gom Kora, we rode south and then started westward, winding above this river:

We ascended the series of switchbacks nicknamed the Yadi Loops:

(I downloaded this last photo form the Internet.  Click here for the photo credit.)

There was a pretty “rest house” near the top of one mountain; however, the interior was completely empty when we peered through the windows:

This woman and her three children were resting by the entrance sign:

Among the tall trees, we stopped to visit another beautiful temple and monastery. 

Our bikes parked along the road:

The temple:

Some young monks were on the porch of the monastery; we were surprised to hear the sounds of a video game blasting from one of the rooms (but the monks are kids, after all . . . ).

Across from the temple was a small building with a cow next to it:

I never stopped marveling over the houses located on their plots of land far up on the mountain sides:

After many curvy miles of giggles and “woo hoo’s”, we arrived in the town of Mongar. The tall apartment buildings were a bit of a shock after all of the tiny villages that we had seen so far in Bhutan.

Here is our hotel:

From our hotel window, we looked down upon a small local market, with fresh vegetables:

Archery competitions are a popular form of entertainment in Bhutan. We watched these men shoot their arrows . . .

. . . and then the men ran across this large field . . .

. . . and kept running across the field . . .

. . . until they reached the target to see how well they had done.

We had a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains, with some remote houses perched on the sides:

The buildings in Mongar were also visually intriguing:

Ben and I walked around and had some long conversations with a few of the locals. We found the people to be reserved and respectful, but very friendly when we approached them.

Before coming to Bhutan, I had read the book “ButterTea at Sunrise”, a memoir by a German woman named Britta Das who spent a year working as a physiotherapist in the Mongar hospital. I had really enjoyed reading about her experiences and descriptions of the rustic environment in Mongar. Across from our hotel was the entrance to the medical center (next to the white sign):

I walked down the path to the medical center, but I didn’t go far. Some of the medical buildings looked new, and Britta had written about the new road through Mongar and other construction projects that had been occurring at the time of her departure. I wondered whether one of these structures was the hospital where Britta had worked:

As evening approached, Ann and I met three children next to the archery field:

The boy was eight years old, and the two girls were seven and eight, respectively. I gave the children some pencils, paper and sharpeners, as well as postcards from my home town. In return, the children insisted that Ann and I each take one of the small oranges that we were carrying. (They said, “You have to take one, Miss!”) They were very sweet, extremely smart, and articulate. The girl in the red Mickey Mouse sweater said that she had learned about Mickey from television. She also said that her parents are “split”, and her father lives somewhere in the United States. The boy said that his mother was dead and that he had two televisions in his house, as well as horses in his village. They were very curious about us, and we talked for a long time.

As incredible as the views and the riding were today, with all of the switchbacks and rhythmic curves of the road, the highlight of the day was meeting these three vibrant children. I love—and need—to travel to different countries; however, it is the memories of people who I have encountered along the way that make my heart sigh when I think about a specific place.

<< Day 4: Bhutan; Bike Lessons and Beauty on the Way to Tashigang | Day 6: Bhutan; Waterfalls and Icy Roads to Bumthang Valley >>

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin