When Crooked Trails travelers Bill and Cindy joined their friends John and Debbie to plan an adventure together to Bhutan, they were seasoned travelers, but Bhutan was a new destination to them. Last October, the four of them made the journey all the way to this high Himalayan nation. They touched down in Paro, where they were met by local guide Fin, and began their exploration the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Cindy and Bill have kindly agreed to share the following photos and quotes about their experience.
“The visit to the Haa Valley was overall the most memorable part of the trip. We spent 2 1/2 days with Dicke and her family. While there we toured the area and got a good introduction to what life is like for farming families in Bhutan. We experienced life in their household, ate with them, and tried to communicate. They were genuine, lovely, hospitable, down-to-earth people. Grandpa, Wongchu, was a real hoot.
Our experiences in the Haa Valley were too many and varied to recite in full. Our first full day there we got a tour of the house, then hiked up to see the local monastery, then hiked to Fin’s mother’s home where we had lunch. Dichen Om (Fin’s mother) fed us the most amazing lunch and meeting the family was fun too. Then Dichen led us down the local trails to the home of Rin Dorji. A local celebration was being held there—one that each household gets to host each year. This evidently was not one of the most prosperous homes in the village. Matter-of-fact we thought at first that it was a temporary dwelling—Fin informed us that it was there permanent home and that the man of the house was a lay monk who was not very hard-working and drank—evidently a problem with many of that group of the ex and lay monks. Witnessing the monks perform their ritual, and then the visiting with the neighbors was very interesting. The following day we went up to Tego La Pass and scrambled to the top of Laptsa Ten Gong. Unfortunately our offering made there did not bring good weather or views. We had a pleasant evening sharing a special dinner of dumplings (similar to mo mo’s), and pictures of our families and Seattle. It was very sad to say goodbye the next morning.”
When we asked Bill & Cindy to share something that they learned on this trip which they feel has changed the way you see the world and/or yourself, their response was:
“Bhutan’s attempts to measure Gross National Happiness along with Gross National Product symbolizes its struggle to balance progress and modernization with maintaining its heritage and culture. Does progress necessarily mean loss of happiness? Sometimes it seems so. We in the modern world get so caught up in the having and acquiring of things we seem to be loosing our sense of family and sense of what is really important in life. We hope that Bhutan will be successful in their attempts to remain the “happiest place on earth.”
When asked how the trip measured up to their expectations, they said:
“We maybe expected Bhutan to be a little more like Nepal. We were pleasantly surprised to find a country that seems to have been very fortunate in its leaders. Unlike Nepal, Bhutan’s kings have conscientiously worked to look after their peoples’ welfare. Roads and electricity are gradually making way into even the most remote village. The Bhutanese people seem to revere their leadership. Buddhism is alive and well. From the point of view of some of the refugees (Nepal, Tibet, India) who have settled in Bhutan these efforts may sometimes impinge on their rights. Bhutan’s leadership is looking after its own people. Others who move there can come along for the ride.”
We also asked Cindy and Bill if they felt that Crooked Trails lived up to it’s motto of environmentally and culturally sensitive travel. In response,
“This is one of the main reasons we travel with Crooked Trails. The choice of guide was incredibly fortuitous. Everyday Fin tried to give us opportunities to see his country thru his eyes. He obviously loved his country and everything it has to offer. He talked about global warming as a reality to them. He shared his (and our) enthusiasm for plants and wildlife. He shared his family and home. He tried very hard to educate us in his language (we found it a very hard language to learn). It was because of him that we feel that we came away from our visit with some understanding of what it means to be Bhutanese and appreciate the vast beauties of the country.
Fin worked very hard to throw in little extras. Once he realized that we appreciated some of the national dishes, he always ordered an extra dish made in the traditional way. The usual tourist food could be a little bland and boring. In Jakir he took us to a local restaurant. After our trek, he treated us to a traditional bath to soothe our aching bones. In all, we thought the activities and accommodations to be better than expected. Traveling light is advisable. We enjoyed the homestay tremendously. Getting the opportunity to participate in the local Haa celebration and the festival in Jakir were also very memorable.
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to experience Bhutan and its people! It was an outstanding trip. We look forward to other adventures with Crooked Trails.”
And thank you, Cindy and Bill, for sharing your insights and beautiful photos with the Crooked Trails community. You represent the best of us!
Want to see more of this photo collection from Bhutan? Head over to the photo gallery on our Facebook page!
Share this Post