Bhutan: A Place of Colours and Vast Land

I am taking advantage of the New Year break to continue my post about Bhutan, the last entry of which was written in May 2022. O.M.G… time REALLY flew by! The thing is, every time I log into my blog, some things went haywire. It’s chaotic and such a hassle. The ‘perfectionist’ in me has to make sure the main layout & some pages are at least fixed before I even proceed with writing a blog post. So FINALLY, here we go.

We visited Gangtey Goempa Monastery (the only temple in Bhutan that has Tibetan architecture), founded in the 17th century but built in the year 1613 on the top of the hill in Phobjikha Valley. The name of the monastery is derived from ‘Gang,’ meaning hill, and ‘tey,’ meaning top. It felt more like a mountain rather than a hill because the only hill we have back home is Bukit Timah Hill, which stands at 163m. 😄

Gangtey Goempa Monastery

Gangtey Goempa Monastery

Privately-run Gangtey Goempa Monastery is self-funded and is currently undergoing rebuilding & repainting due to the damage caused by the 2011 earthquake. The annual Black-necked Crane Festival typically takes place from the first week of November until mid-March when the cranes spend their winter in Bhutan and return to Tibet as the winter season ends. Here are pictures of what the Black-necked cranes looked like. Using the spotting scopes, you can have a closer look at the Black-Necked Cranes at the Information Centre. 

We had lunch at one of the locals’ homes, where we got to see what their homes looked like. One of our guides even stepped into the kitchen to help cook noodles for us. They were like a big family. Nothing beats homecooked food, so needless to say, we had a wonderful lunch. Later, we hiked through the Gangtey Nature Trail, enjoying a spectacular view of the vast Phobjikha Valley. It was an easy 2hr trek through the village, their cows and the pine forest.

Gangtey Valley aka Phobijkha Valley
Jump shots are a must

The land stretched out so expansively that it seemed as though it was a drone shot of us looking, making us look like miniature figures. In reality, I was simply trailing behind on elevated terrain. Despite the absence of greenery, the view remained breathtaking!

The horses far away looking too cute like old school miniature toys
The horses far away looking too cute like old school miniature toys and checkout the meandering streams!
Rice fields in Paro Valley

After spending the night at ABC Lodge in Gangtey, our guides had to drive us back to Paro, which was a long 5-hour journey. Along the way, we stopped by the roadside on higher ground, where we could admire the beautiful shades of green in the paddy fields. It wasn’t the harvesting season during our visit; rice harvesting only begins in October. We could also see Paro Dzong aka Rinpung Dzong which was built in 1646 on the hillside.

In my previous post, we wore the traditional Kira during our visit to the National Memorial Chorten. But E wanted to try out the costumes worn by Bhutanese men. We concluded that we probably liked the menswear better, looks more comfortable. :D

Paro Dzong (Rinpung Dzong)

Cool looking ticketing booth for Paro Fortress
Cool looking ticketing booth for Paro Fortress
❤️ this shot of the monk in red robe and E in red top
❤️ this shot of the monk in red robe and E in red top

During our fortress visit, some paintings included the Wheel of Life, and Tashi shared interesting stories about the human and animal world, as well as life after death.

In Bhutanese Buddhism, it is believed that if one is selfish, greedy, and commits bad deeds in the living world, they may suffer in their next life as a hungry ghost with an extremely thin neck, unable to swallow, thus perpetually experiencing hunger and thirst.

The first destination for humans after death is hell, where the lord of death awaits. If you have consistently been a good person and performed many virtuous deeds, you will encounter the lord of death as the god of compassion, and your soul will be guided along the white path.

Conversely, those who commit evil deeds will perceive the lord of death as a demon, and their soul will be dragged along the black path. This black path, also known as hell, consists of 16 stages of suffering: 8 stages of burning and 8 stages of freezing.

Bhutanese believe that being reborn as a human is preferable because human beings have the freedom to choose their actions, whether good or bad. In contrast, animals lack this freedom and often suffer due to their inability to reason and their tendency to kill one another.

They also believe that the good deeds you perform ultimately contribute to your karma. For instance, if you eat on behalf of someone hungry, that person will remain hungry, reflecting the principle that karma is individual. While you can certainly perform good deeds for others, actions like seeking forgiveness on behalf of someone who has committed wrongdoing do not affect their karma. Interesting how each country’s beliefs within the same religion can vary significantly across different countries.

I hope to complete my last Bhutan post soon and spare my friends from the long wait. Past trips after our Bhutan trip are piling up too. 😝 My upcoming post will cover the unforgettable tedious hike to Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, perched on the cliffs of Paro Valley. A journey to Bhutan would be incomplete without experiencing the awe-inspiring beauty of the Tiger’s Nest. #nopainnogain

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