I won’t lie in saying that my first and perhaps, the only reason to pick the tiny, little-known Himalayan nation of Bhutan was just that – it is “little known” in my wide circle of friends who take to travel almost as their default physical and mental function, like eating food or sleeping. My closest buddy Shaun has been to Nepal and Kashmir but that’s pretty much how close anyone in my circle has gone to the Himalayas.
However, unlike Shaun and the other adventure junkies buds of mine, I wasn’t looking to trek through the narrow passages, climb peaks, or zoom down the snow-clad mountains with my ski boards on. What I was longing for was some solitude in a place, visiting where would also generate some curiosity from my friends – something I rarely mind.
By the time I was set to land in Bhutan, I must admit I was pretty exhausted having flown for more than 24 hours, which excluded a brief stopover in India for transit. As the announcement of the imminent landing hit my ears, I pushed myself to open my eyes for I didn’t want to miss the spectacle of a breathtakingly-beautiful valley as our plane slowly descended toward Paro Airport, which is located in the valley itself. And it was a gorgeous sight indeed. The pictures I took in those moments are today the most “liked” pictures on my Facebook wall.
Upon landing, I and my husband Richard were greeted by a very affable Wangchuk Thogma, our driver for the trip, who really was a perfect representative of the humility that all the other Bhutanese people we met during our trip. I was compelled to think if their humility was indeed their key to ‘happiness’ – something Bhutan somehow measures on the lines of Gross Domestic Product.
For most part of our stay, we relished the tantalisingly lush greens environs of this country. According to some estimates, Bhutan is a home to over 750 species of birds and 5300 species of plants. To sustain that kind of biodiversity, it has over 62 per cent of its land under the forest cover – and that makes it simply a heaven for the naturalists like Richard.
Among some of pertinent tourist places we went on to see were the Paro Museum, the National Library and the Folk Heritage Museum, the Punakha dzong, and the Taktsang monastery. Each of these places had a very distinct feel and we couldn’t help being spiritually overwhelmed by the Buddhist tradition. Richard, in all his seriousness, said he wouldn’t mind being born a Buddhist in his ‘rebirth’. Another beautiful aspect that intrigued and later fascinated us was the flying phallus symbol hung on house doors that signifies fertility.
Having spent nearly 10 days in this magical land, both Richard and I felt we were going back as different individuals – definitely more at ease with our inner selves. Upon reaching back, I got the curiosity and attention I craved before visiting Bhutan. The only thing was I needed it much less now.