Bhutan | Lango & Thimphu

My plan for Bhutan was fairly simple from the time I planned the trip. I wanted to reach there, figure things out as I go, and spend a good 2 weeks - to just be. I wanted to spend some time in a remote village, and some time in a busy city. And I did exactly that. I did nothing more than read my books, sit outside in the sun, and walk for long hours on quiet roads, to just be. 

I spent 7 days in Lango, a small village 7km ahead of Paro, at a homestay. Lango, just as the rest of Bhutan, is surrounded by mountains. There is only one road that passes through Lango - the one that takes you to Paro, and the entire village is built around this road. There aren't further smaller roads inside. There is a narrow river parallel to the road, a small stretch of which is adopted by a school to clean and protect from further pollution. It is probably one of the cleanest rivers I've seen in a populated locality. The frequency of cars passing by is probably one per a minute, and to my surprise, every third card was an expensive, high-end model.

This was taken from a Monastery in Paro. The tiny 2 way road parallel to the river continues for about 7km to Lango.

A bridge along the river. It was extremely windy the entire time I was there. I spent a good hour a day walking by the river everyday.

The homestay I was living in was built beautifully in the Dzong architecture, had a garden with 3 dogs, a stone hot steam bath, and a wood cutting workstation. The father of the owner of the farm stay, an 70-year-old man was an ex Indian army officer who was posted in Bhutan during his youth and fell in love with a Bhutanese woman. The woman only knew Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, but always asked me to show her the cover of the books I was reading. It was very odd for her to see visitors that were not constantly moving around visiting the many monasteries in Bhutan. 
Each day that I was there, the old man was outside in the backyard at 8am cutting and carving wood. He would continue to do so till 11am until the sun was too strong for him to take. He would then sit next to me for half an hour on a wooden table-set he himself created a year ago, and talk to me about his life. He wasn't very interested in the books I was reading, but would always ask me what I was writing about. He told me all about his younger years and much about Bhutan. He told me how it should have been snowing in Bhutan this time of the year, and how beautiful Bhutan becomes when it snows with all the green virgin mountains covered in a blanket of snow. He explained to me the troubles of living in modern-day Bhutan, but also how the past is an illusion of a better time, and that life constantly changes; all in very simple words of course. With the outside world influencing the people of Bhutan through television and the Internet, the country slowly lost its original culture. As tourism grew, and the people here learned about the outside world they started becoming greedy. He complained about how expensive schooling and education is in Bhutan. The tourism industry and working at the hydro-electric station is the only source of income for the average population in the entire nation, so he forced his grandchildren to study outside. One of them is in China, and the others in India. 

I ate Bhutanese dishes for dinner every day, which for an Indian vegetarian is difficult! All their dishes are spicy and are cooked in cheese gravy. You'll have no shortage of chillies, cheese, and potato the entire time you're there! As tourism is their only source of income, I'd say everything was fairly overpriced; I wished I had a bicycle to explore the road beyond Lango, but when I enquired the price in Paro, he asked me for 1.5K a day! Renting a cycle for 6 days I could have instead bought myself a new cycle! 

I spent another 7 in the capital, Thimphu. Thimphu is the busiest, most populated city, and yet, it's certainly less crowded and far more silent than any popular hill station in India. The city has only 3 major roads. The traffic rules are enforced to give pedestrians the highest rights, just as in any European nation. You are not allowed to horn and must wait at every zebra crossing if a pedestrian is waiting. My subconscious act of waiting for cars to pass had a hard time adjusting to cars waiting for me! I stayed in a very westernized hotel in Thimphu, right opposite the Clock Tower Square, the city center. I spent most of my days in cafes and on the stairs in and around the Clock Tower which was fun. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting to do in Bhutan, but I got a lot of time to read books and write blogposts. The reason I stuck around is probably because The Clock Tower Square reminded me of Barf├╝sser Strasse, a place in Switzerland we used to cross in the tram frequently as a child. I spent long hours at Thimphu Cafe everyday, and became good friends with the owner. He was a young chap, with a very stylish hairdo, much like the rest of the population in Thimphu. He complained to me about how the increase in tourism and the greed for money made people in Thimphu very selfish. About 10 years ago, there weren't half as many hotels on the road outside The Clock Tower. Funnily enough, I didn't take a single picture of the Clock Tower.

From all that I had read and heard of Bhutan, I thought of it as a culture preserving land, untouched by modernization and with monks walking all around. Thimphu is far from this idea. It was ironic to see how there were so many cafes that were designed so similar to any cafe in say Bangalore, that sitting inside it was difficult to figure out if I was still in Bhutan. The night-life is as active as any India metro city, and liquor is widely available and is cheap. The 4G Internet is excellent and surprisingly no websites are blocked. They even have a full sized football pitch with spectator seatings.

Imagine playing here, surrounded by the mountains, while it's super windy and drizzling. Probably the most beautiful football stadium I've seen!

I couldn't help but laugh at this! This is the last thing I was expecting in Bhutan. What happened to all the zen from meditation and letting things go bs?

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Note to self: Don't be embarrassed taking pictures! I wish I had taken more photos, and that I blogged this at the time I was there. Writing about this 2 months after having visited the place made it very difficult for me to write this.

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