Friday morning we woke to the sounds of…nothing. It’s amazing being out of the city and milleu of Kathmandu. We ate a breakfast of toast, rice pudding and eggs in the same wood, bamboo and thatched outdoor dining room we had dinner in the night previous. The boys ran around the yard and had a great time.
I must digress here. I had “channeled crazy” as Jean put it, moments before our departure, creating travel “passports” for the children, complete with visa pages, which they fill with merit stickers when completing an activity with sufficiently good behavior (completely subjective by me). I’ll be referencing this as the days progress.
Our plans were ambitious, and we hopped into the little Toyota Hiace van to head into Thimpu. Down the mountainside (foothills here in South Asia, against the backdrop of the Himalayas), passing cows and dogs more than people on the smooth, paved switchbacks.
In town (KTM people: no trash, no horns, like Thamel on a saturday busy) we navigated the clearly marked and well-maintained roads to park and change some USD to Ngultrum, and browse the stamp gallery. Kate and the boys sent a postcard to Kip.
We started our day at the National Library, looking at the modest room of shelved books downstairs and then the unbound, stacked slips upstairs. We were able to keep the children from destroying Bhutan’s national literary treasures. Stickers awarded, much to Jean’s chagrin. (1/1)
The school of painting we went to next was out for the summer, but the gift shop was open for business, so we gave it that in spades! I found a Bo and Kira (traditional men’s and women’s outfits) for wine bottles. I have a feeling that the girls will be confiscating them for their barbies. Stickers awarded. (2/2)
Next up, Takin Zoo, which had Takin, Bhutan’s national animal, and a type of large deer. The Takin looks to be right out of The Dark Crystal or Willow. In fact, much of the landscape, clothing and Anglo pronunciation of words appear to have played a large part in the inspiration of the latter.(3/3)
After the zoo, we went to lunch at a restaurant in town, another buffet-style affair. Creaky wooden floors, wooden paneling, such a refreshing change from the concrete and paint of KTM. Bhutanese food seems to be made up of a few staple dishes: rice, minced beef with vegetables (onions or chilis), noodles with vegetables, sliced chilis in cheese, and maybe another mixed vegetable dish. We got out of their with only one spilled glass of water, courtesy of me.
After lunch we drove to near the large golden staue of Buddha overlooking Thimpu. We couldn’t actually drive to the statue, gifted by a Singaprean businessman, as the grounds are under construction, but it did give us a great view of the valley. The boys ran a good hundred feet along the road amongst the occasional microbus, scoring them zero sticker. (3/4 boys, 4/4 girls)
Last on the tour was visiting Thimpu Dzong, which opens to the public at 5:30. The grounds were immaculately kept, and we passed through the security gate. We entered the courtyard and then climbed the steps to the temple inside. Removing our shoes, we passed over the threshold and listened to Dordgie speak about the various icons and depictions of incarnations of Buddha. Amazingly, Eleanor held it together even after an entire day of touring, not without some whining and kvetching. (4/5 boys, 5/5 girls)
Dinner was at Lhaba and Lenny’s apartment, and we were treated to drinks, snacks, and an amazing dinner. We met some other members of Lhaba’s family and had a great conversation while the children played with their daughter, Kia.
We returned to Chuniding late that night, at nearly 11.
Casualties: the national bank only changes $100 bills printed on or after 2003. Dzongs require one to wear collared shirts or jackets and long pants or skirts when visiting. No charger for point and shoot either.
Successes: no broken bones? Or gastrointestinal distress?