Friday, 8 April 2016

Bhutan musings

I feel like we have been in Thimphu for three or four days, rather than 24hours. I've just been back to the Ambient cafe for some lunch (delicious) and a break from my travelling companion. Lunch was a salad of raw carrot, cucumber and red cabbage with sharp vinegar, a peppery mini omelette with red onion and herbs on a mound of broken rice and a bowl of black bean dal (I added chili, so good!).

The flight was delayed out of Kathmandu, so I settled in to the 'wait' mode that I found when I spent 12 hours in a bus full of fish (dried) in Madagascar. There was also one chicken. No toilet stops, no food breaks (though I did lean out the side of the bus and buy three bok bok (fluffy balls of fried dough covered in sugar) from some children at some point.

The flight was delightful (they gave us two bags of snacks), and the descent into Paro airport was spectacular. Then coming in through the airport was the fastest, cleanest, politest air travel process I've experienced. And then my bag was right there waiting after immigration.

Karma came to pick us up and the drive to Thimphu was a delight. He saw my ukulele and asked me if I could sing and said that the children would expect me to play for them, so I might get a crash course in getting comfortable playing in front of people.

He left us at our hotel, Kham Sum Inn, which is lovely. And we went straight out for a walk.

There is one main street in Thimphu, so I figured we couldn't get lost and we went for a wander. We saw the traffic police and and all the shops and some men playing a came called 'Cannonball' which is a bit like pool, but with flat discs instead of balls.

The air here is soft and clear. Out of town it smelt sweet and sometimes incense-y, in town there are open drains, so you get the pong of rotting refuse, but unlike everywhere I've been with drains like this, you also get overpowering top notes of chili. There are lots of cars, so you also get wafts of exhaust and petrol fumes. Apparently there were hardly any cars five years ago, but that has changed.

On the way home, we got lost.

Dinner was the first chance to try Bhutanese food and I ordered 'Beans Po' and was told it was quite mild. It nearly blew my head off.

Today we were being picked up to meet the program organiser at 9.30, so we headed down into town to 'Ambient cafe', which is bloody lovely. I admit that I had the granola - I struggle to be adventurous at breakfast time.

We met the organiser who is fabulous. She told us about how upset some foreigners get when they get here and everyone isn’t super happy (GNH misconceptions) and that it is not shangri la here. It sounds like the Bhutanese feel about those two things the way Australians feel about ‘oh, do you ride a kangaroo to school?’ She pointed out that even if they are bhuddist, everywhere you go people are people, most are nice, some are okay and a couple are horrible.

Then the driver came to take us Kira shopping. We need to wear formal dress at the school, we are not required to wear the Kira (national dress) because we are volunteers, not government employees like the rest of the teachers, but I decided it would be easier and cheaper than trying to get stuff at home. (I was right). Our driver helped pick colours and he has a very good eye. Every time I pointed at something he said 'no, I think this will be better.' So I think I will be far more stylish than usual.

My travelling companion was able to buy her outfits pre-made in the fabric shop, but I am too tall so we had to take uncut fabric to the tailor to have them made up. All together it will be about $50AUD for the two outfits. I'll be sure to model them for the blog once they're done.

When I write it out like this, it doesn't seem like so much, but everything I do is full of unexpected sights and sounds and the mountains are huge around us and the altitude makes even the short walk up from town hard work, I puff and carry on like little fat pony who has been out in the paddock for a month.

I don't know if they have any more planned for us today, but tomorrow we are going to go and see a bhudda (it is large and golden) then start the drive to the valley the school is in.

Now I am going to eat this ginger cookie on the bed and no one can stop me.


Laurie Spry said...

Just loving tagging along with you on your travels! Seriously, you should write a book; you have such a wonderful way of pulling us right along with you on these strange and wonderful adventures. Now I am searching for the horror stories of your travel companion but alas I fear you edited them all out. Hopefully you'll soon be overwhelmed by lovely children and your fashionable wardrobe and the past will just stay there!

Ceels said...

Thanks, Laurie!

Drew McLean said...

Great read CKing. I'm going to keep up with your blog this time!
You're going to be so fit by the time you return home!

Birgit said...

Wonderful reading, as always, Ceels. What an exciting adventure you are having.

Ceels said...

Thanks, Guys! It is pretty amazing so far :)