Bhutan

Snapshots From Shangri-La

Random. Utterly random.

The dogs of Bhutan are weird. Ultra-weird. You know, if you go up into the mountains, they are practically indistinguishable from foxes. A few more thousand feet, then they are practically indistinguishable from wolves. Which is just a wee bit disconcerting.

The city dogs though are just plain weird. Take your typical Indian street-dogs for instance. Haring it across the moment they see the slightest sign of traffic. As if their bloody lives depended on that one mad dash across the street. Which, to be fair, it probably does.

The Bhutanese branch of Canis Lupis Familiaris though, seem to possess none of this unseemly haste. These chaps will just park themselves in the middle of the road, and stare at all incoming vehicles with a peculiar mealy-mouthed sadness. Propah Hamlet types. Willing ’em blasted cars to go on and do their worst. And they won’t move. Not an inch.

And I Stop and Stare

At times, I see stuff which really cracks me up. This signboard’s right up there:

The Incredibly Funny Placard

Not teasing animals, in forsooth, is an admirable sentiment. But not when the animal in question is this:

A Takin. Wondering whether or not to be pissed.

A takin, as per popular legend, owes its origin to an act of veritable legerdemain. The redoubtable Lama Drukpa Kunley (aka The Divine Madman) upon being urged to perform a miracle, fused a goat’s head on a cow’s torso. And lo and behold, the animal trundled across to the meadows to forage for herbiage. True Takin-style.

Be that as it may, a takin is also possibly the placidest, the most unflappable, and the most singularly unconcerned-looking creature I have ever come across. To wit, many might there be beasts to be bothered by a goodly banter, but surely doth not a takin stand arrayed amongst them 🙂

The Bard once said, What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Methinks that’s utter faff. Imagine if Romeo’s name had been Rentomendarkwapipachu instead. Juliet would’ve happily spent the rest of her life as Mrs. Paris. As opposed to causing general misery and heartburn all round.

Well the point is, there are at times, certain names which get your goat. Take this hotel for instance:

And this one's for you, Mr. Freud.

Unearthed it while randomly roaming around in Paro. Inconspicuous though it might be, it is by no means hidden. Hell, its just off the main road! Bloody hell, its off the only road Paro has!! And more importantly, one would think that the entire point of having a hotel, is that it should be anything but hidden.

Or perhaps, I am missing the entire point. If there is one place in the world, where an establishment can call itself “Hidden Hotel”, and get away with it, its gotta be in The Last Shangri-La.

In Bhutan, Do As the Bhutanese Do

A typical Bhutanese platter looks like this:

Thimphu_Hotel_Lunch

And, that, milord, eez scrumptious.

Just to give you an idea:

  1. The Bhutanese go in for cheese with a vengeance.
  2. The Bhutanese go in for chillies with a vengeance.
  3. And the portions served are humongous.
  4. In short, IT IS AWESOME.

One would think that with the amount of grub on offer (and their capacity to hog), the Bhutanese would be topping the world obesity charts. But then, one would think wrong. I swear, I didn’t get to see a single pot-belly in the 8-10 odd days I spent hiking and being all touristy in Bhutan. Not even ONE.

Ain’t their fault actually. Punakha apart, I don’t think I ever encountered a single other place, which could be termed flat, flat-ish, or even anything vaguely approaching flat. It was all either uphill or downhill. (Interesting non-sequitur by the way, this might explain Bhutan’s current position in the FIFA world rankings. Imagine, one misdirected kick, and the bloody ball lands somewhere at the bottom of some mountain.)

And automated contraptions in Bhutan, by common perception, are meant for chickens, for friggin nancies, and suchlike. (Another interesting non-sequitur by the way, Bhutan’s probably the only country in the world which does not have traffic-lights. They tried installing a few in Thimphu, but residents complained that they were a little too impersonal.)

Which, basically means, that you walk. All day long, all year round. WHICH IS AGAIN AWESOME. And boy, these guys can walk. I used to think I was reasonably fit. Not anymore. Not after I went hiking, pretty much lost it after the first couple of hours, and then saw Bhutanese guides run circles around me as if they were in a friggin playground. Not after I met titchy school-kids, all nattily attired in ghos and kiras, walk some 10 odd kms everyday to go to their schools.

So, in Bhutan, you do as the Bhutanese do. You Hog. And Then You Burn ‘Em Calories Off on Some Random 15 km Trail. Much, much good 🙂