well bhutan isn't a place where you can just show up and travel around on your own. you must book a tour with an official government approved company just to get a visa allowing you to enter the country. there is only one airline (with a whopping 2 planes in its fleet) that flies there and they offer a few weekly flights from kathmandu (and 3 other cities in asia). and take note, if you are flying from kathmandu you will have a great view of mt. everest on the way (be sure to sit on the left side of the plane)! yep, no need to have booked a mountain flight. you get a bigger window and better view when traveling to bhutan. who knew?
Also, i continued my vacation vegetarianism during this part of my journey... meat is all imported into bhutan from india. this is because it is a buddhist country and it is illegal to slaughter animals there. interesting that their beliefs do not allow them to slaughter food yet they are perfectly ok with importing food that was killed in other countries. hmmm... and very hot chilies are used as a vegetable rather than a spice.
oh and the love of that male body part extended into the temples as well. while visiting a temple, bhim asked me if i would like to be blessed by the head monk there. i said "of course!" like most folks, i could always use an extra blessing or two! so, anyhow, this monk takes a very large wooden you-know-what and has me bend over and rubs it on my head while chanting something. my guide, bhim, then exclaimed "holly, you are now fertile!!" what???? i replied "um, can i have a do-over? i would prefer a cute boyfriend blessing instead.... or new career success blessing... or something else... fertile??? not so much...."
oh, and i haven't mentioned one of my favorite parts of bhutan. you may have noticed from my photos... they have an official outfit. yep, the men wear this short bathrobe looking costume called a go and the women wear a longer skirt with a jacket called a kira. western clothes are allowed as long as they aren't doing anything official (like working or visiting a bhutanese monument or monestary).
oh, and like every great sport, they had cheerleaders! gals singing and dancing in traditional bhutanese style. complete with a band!
people have asked if i enjoy traveling alone or wouldn't i rather traveling with someone. well, yep i would love to have someone awesome to travel with. the bummer is not so many of my friends are interested in traveling to the places i want to see so my choice is often travel alone or don't travel. normally it's not a big deal to be alone because somehow i always end up meeting interesting people while abroad. well, bhutan was a little different. because of the strict government control on visitors you aren't really ever alone and without your guide. that makes it a bit tricky to get out there and meet people. but i am happy to say i did meet someone cool to hang out with during this trip! i was surfing my ipad in the hotel bar (the only place to access the wi-fi at my hotel) and started chatting with this really cute guy. turns out he is a pilot from south africa (what is it with me meeting so many cool people from south africa on this trip???) and is on assignment working for a start up airline in bhutan. anyhow, after spending hours chatting and sharing our experiences in bhutan i invited him to join my guide and me the next day on what was supposed to be an amazing trek to a beautiful dzong on a cliff called "tiger's nest."
|a view from our starting point up to the tiger's nest (see the teeny tiny white spec in towards the top of the middle hill?)|
|ahhh prayer flags|
|no, it wasn't that cold. just another bad vacation hair day...|
|beautiful waterfall in the rocks and a rainbow!|
|my indiana jones style trekking companion!|
|midway through the hike to the dzong|
sonam trophel restaurant. oh and the owner has some photos of herself with demi moore and matt dillon who both visited many years back. of course this intern gal had to have one taken too. you never know, i may just end up some famous hgtv designer deserving of a place on her wall of fame... i'm just sayin', you gotta put it out there right???
|the stairway to bhutanese food heaven!|
where was mr. south africa you may wonder? well, he was laughing is butt off and video recording this on his blackberry. he threatened to post it on you tube but as i write this i don't think that has happened just yet. let's just say what happened in bhutan can stay in bhutan... somehow i don't think my awesome moves will translate as well on video... when i told my guide about it the next morning he seemed a smidge appalled. i later learned from some new friends in kathmandu that we were at a bhutanese version of a strip club. how would we know that? there was no removal of clothing and i promise that the dancing was exactly like that of the cheerleaders, nothing suggestive at all. and yeah, now that i think about it there were only guys in the audience but that doesn't really mean anything, right? oh, bhutan... such a funny little dichotomy of what is painted on their buildings and what is considered risque in their clubs...
|me demonstrating for bhim my jumping photo idea|
|and he was a great sport for joining in!|
oh an before i forget, while in bhutan, i encountered these women weaving the most intricate beautiful cloth! the bhutanese are known for their amazing woven textiles and i can see why!
sad weaving project to shame...
i returned to kathmandu christmas eve and had a lovely dinner with my new young australian friend and then christmas morning breakfast before my very long journey home. we met this fabulous 77 year old woman from india who joined us. she had the greatest personality and the most positive energy anyone would be drawn to. she shared with us her words of wisdom - stay positive and good things will happen to you. i have to say, she's right and those are definitely words to live by whether you are 17, 40 or 77 (our ages). and a great thought to keep with me as i enter into 2012. oh, and if you are in kathmandu i highly recommend you stay at the hotel courtyard. that's where i met these gals! i found it online and picked it because of all of the stellar reviews it received on trip advisor. and i have to say they were right. it was the best hotel of my trip and the owners, michelle and pujan (or punjab, as i kept accidentally calling him because of my love of the movie annie), are awesome and create a really homey atmosphere tucked away from the hustle and bustle of kathmandu. i highly recommend room 308.
|my christmas morning breakfast companions at the hotel courtyard|
and two were sitting right next to me! of course i had to take a covert photo with my ipad. yeah, perhaps i should see someone about this monk obsession....
still recovering from jet lag but back to my regularly scheduled blogging next week... and get ready! i have a pretty cool first diy of 2012 up my sleeve....
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until next time...
the (formerly almost) 40 year old intern