Just back from...Bhutan
Our Bhutan expert Sejal recently returned from her journey into the remote kingdom of Bhutan, known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Here, she highlights some of her favourite moments from the trip.
I arrived in Punakha on a hot, humid day. This (unexpected) view high above the Punakha Dzong was picture postcard perfect accompanied by fresh pomegranate juice from the orchards at Dhumra Farm Resort, a delightful place to stay in this former capital city of Bhutan.
As someone who loves spicy food, I relished every meal in Bhutan. They love red chillies in all shapes and sizes and every meal is served with a small bowl of ‘ezay’ a chilli relish that ranges from mild and fragrant to super spicy. My favourite ezay was made of these ‘daale’ – small, round chillies. Don’t let their cherry-like appearance fool you – they are HOT!
Best night's accomodation
The Gangtey Lodge was one of my favourite’s in Bhutan. I was greeted with a welcome song, written by the staff of the hotel and sung for every guest that check-ins. I woke up to the sound of the morning prayers at the Gangtey Goenpa (monastery) and sipped my coffee while taking in this gorgeous view of the valley. Everything about this hotel is a superlative experience from their hot stone baths and massages, to deliciously prepared fresh meals, sweet, thoughtful and courteous staff and possibly the most comfortable bed of all.
Best activity / excursion
At the misty Chele-la pass, early one morning, my very knowledgeable Bhutanese guide, Leki walked me through a Lung Dhar ceremony. Representing the five elements and five senses, the set of flags are blessed in a sacred ceremony by monks. Prayers and wishes are written on these flags and then hoisted high above the ground. As the wind is considered an expression of the mind and mental energy, when flags flutter, it is believed that blessings are activated and carried through the valleys.
Witnessing a religious festival is a riot of colour and an experience like no other. The dance and song while deeply spiritual is a spectacle of sound, movement and costume. The local’s are out in their finery carrying elaborate picnic lunches, not a sandwich or apple in sight!
Tips for travellers
Less is more - factor in some time to just take in all the gorgeous views and do little/nothing. A hot stone bath is a wonderfully relaxing experience and very typically Bhutanese. The herb-laden hot water is soothing in more ways than one and aching muscles and bones instantly relax.
The weather, I travelled in mid-September, and with Blessed Rainy Day around 22nd September, there was more rain than I expected. It was gorgeous all the same when the clearing mist gave way to gorgeous views like this one taken from the hilltop National Museum, overlooking the town of Paro.