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

Bhutan: Day 8

by Kathy 26. May 2009 14:22

<< Day 7: Festivities in Bumthang Valley | Day 9: Punakha Dzong and the Capital, Thimphu >>


High Road to Wangdi Phodrang


We were back on the motorcycles today. I was happy. I had really missed all of those curvy roads yesterday. At the hotel, the chase trucks were reloaded with our gear:

I climbed up the ladder going over the hotel fence to take a photo . . .

. . . of a cow trotting by . . .

. . . and the house across the street.

These colorful flags stood guard in the morning haze as we made our final preparations.

After a short ride, we stopped briefly at a local textile mill:

We watched a woman make some weavings:

The mill had a small store packed with woven shawls, rugs, scarves, and some beautiful wooden masks.

A small child was watching shyly from a distance, so I brought out my postcards and other items:

Soon, another child hesitantly joined the first:

The houses across the street were fascinating to me, with their diversity in materials (stone, wood, thatching, and tin).

The mountain air this morning was quite chilly. We stopped for some hot tea at the mountain top that marked the border of the Bumthang district.

Tsring poured us all some hot, delicious milk-tea:

Ben and I:

Dave and Ann:

The mountain pass had a sign thanking us for visiting the Bumthang area, and also warning about the dangers of AIDS.

We zig-zagged our way to the town of Tongsa (also called “Trongsa”), where we stopped for a while in the town center.

Nothing but smiles from me!

There was a sign congratulating the new Bhutanese king’s “ascension to the Golden throne”:

This old dog was soaking up the sun by our bikes:

We rode our motorcycles to this look-out point.

We had a fabulous view back towards the town Tongsa, as well as the Tongsa Dzong, which is the largest dzong in Bhutan.

As we continued our ride, we were treated to a view of the northern Himalyas, with a dusting of snow.

We stopped for a buffet lunch at a restaurant by the river. A note about the food: The Bhutanese, as a Bhuddist nation, do not eat meat, and their traditional food is extremely spicy, with chilies as a main ingredient. However, the food that is served to foreign visitors is very different. We ate many buffets in Bhutan, generally consisting of the same foods: small pieces of cooked tender beef, green beans, pink rice (Bhutanese), small potatoes, a cooked chicken dish (served off the bone, often with some type of vegetable), and various types of sautéed vegetables. The food was consistently quite good, although having the same foods day after day left me wanting a bit of a change after a while. A few times, our buffet had a dish that is a Bhutanese favorite: cooked chilies and cheese. Early into the trip, I put some of this dish on my plate. Before I could eat a forkful, however, I took a bite of rice that accidentally had some of the cheese sauce on it. I like spicy foods, but the tiny bit of cheese sauce set my mouth and throat on fire. I was a bit wary after that and shied away from the chili dishes.

After lunch, we continued on our never-ending, swervy-curvy road to the Chendebji Stupa. (A “stupa” is very similar to a “chorten”—it is a spiritual monument that contains Buddhist relics.)

Our road:

The stupa grounds:

Ann and Fred sharing a fun moment:

A closer look at the stupa:

And closer still—it was beautiful!

The “third eye” was considered unusual at the time that this stupa was built.

The Chendebji Stupa was constructed in the Tibetan style, with a square base, large dome shape, and pointed top portion. It was built in the 17th century by a monk who saw a similar stupa in Tibet. The monk carved the stupa onto a radish and brought it back to Bhutan, but the radish became shriveled. So the monk built this large stupa to show the Bhutanese people what he had seen.

The white color of the stupa, combined with the prayer flags and shadows, against the blue sky was really stunning:

Next to the stupa was a small monastery:

A river flowed nearby:

We continued our journey up through the Black mountains, and reached Pele La pass at the top, at approximately 11,150 feet. It was covered in colorful prayer flags and had another Tibetan style stupa.

Pele La pass marks the boundary between the central and western parts of Bhutan. Because we were entering the western portion, which has the capital as well as Bhutan’s only airport, we were encountering more tourists in vans and buses. There were several groups of tourists here.  With all of the extra people, Ann and I (as “potty partners”) had to walk a long way to find some private bushes.

There were a couple of vendors at the pass, selling weavings and other souvenirs. Their children were so beautiful, with inquisitive and bubbly personalities.

While handing out pencils and other things to the children, I wondered if they were attending school; none of the children spoke English, even the older school-age boy. (The children also looked like they hadn’t bathed in a very long time, but that is not an indicator of school attendance--or lack thereof.) I demonstrated how to sharpen one of the pencils, and then showed the children that they could use their pencils to write or draw in their pads—I drew a silly dog. The children roared with laughter and crowded around, gesturing for me to draw something more. I drew a simple cat, which brought more giggles of delight. The children kept asking for more and more drawings; I drew a house and a flower, and then handed off the pad to Ann, who kept the kids entertained with more drawings. When we left, the kids had moved onto another female visitor, who actually created a very good drawing of a yak.

The road ahead called to us.

Down, down, down, we rode. I was flying along on the bike, completely in sync with the rhythm of the road and the universe.

On long downhill sections, Ben’s bike started cutting out on him—the engine would suddenly die. We pulled over near the bottom of the mountain, and Gyan and Sono set to work to diagnose the problem and made the appropriate repair.

We could see the nearby river:

We continued onward. Here are some farmhouses with their terraced fields:

We arrived at the town of Wangdi Phrodrang as dusk was falling. Our hotel is in the background here:

As I was getting off my bike, a young monk was walking by. He came over to me and was staring at the yellow leather fringe on my jacket. He reached out hesitantly as if he wanted to touch it, but then quickly withdrew his hand. I held out my arm, with the fringe dangling, and told him to go ahead and see what it felt like.

He stretched out his hand and gently stroked the fringe pieces, a slow grin spreading over his face. I asked him if I could take a picture, and he nodded (he never spoke). He was very handsome:

As I was unloading my bags from the bike, a large group of school children walked by. I started handing out pencils and other items to a few, and then was suddenly overwhelmed by a large cluster of outstretched hands, along with calls of, “Please, miss! Here! Can I have one?” There were more children than pencils and other supplies, unfortunately, and I gave away every last thing that I had.

These two young women walked by with the school children. The taller girl was bold and asked for a pencil and paper, and later a dollar (I told her that I didn’t have any money to give her). The woman holding the baby was soft-spoken and seemed very curious about where I was from and what my life was like in the United States. She lingered, and I sensed a certain wistfulness as she watched me gather my helmet and belongings and walk off toward the hotel.

Our hotel room was clean and comfortable.

It also had numerous mysterious wall switches in various locations. Ben and I played a game of guessing which switch controlled which light. We flipped every switch and could not get the bright overhead light to turn off. We even tried flipping switches in different patterns. No luck. Then, near the floor, we discovered an outlet with a plug in it. We looked at each other, and Ben pulled the plug. The light went out . . . and our hoots of laughter echoed in the darkness.

<< Day 7: Festivities in Bumthang Valley | Day 9: Punakha Dzong and the Capital, Thimphu >>

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Map of Our Journeys

(click the map to enlarge)
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