Bhutan Trip, Day 4

April 3, 2006-

Back up into the mountains again. The heavily forested mountains kind of remind me of the Ozarks. I saw a strange sight too. While we were hiking, I saw what was undeniably a prickly pear cactus. I thought that it only lived in North America, in hot climates, but I guess I was wrong.

We finally stopped at a village still under construction. We arrived just as all of the workers stopped to have lunch. They all ate with their hands, and they scooped rice and meat up together. Their lunch break was about thirty minutes long, and afterwards they dumped all their leftovers onto the ground. Immediately all the dogs and crows swooped in to eat. I remembered something very interesting about crows. When a crow finds something to eat, he doesn’t start eating, instead, he calls the other crows too eat too. It’s a wonderful survival tactic; I wonder how it evolved.

Speaking of evolution, I have a great idea for a computer game. It’s where you start out in a certain habitat, you control a certain animal or plant, and the goal of the game is to adapt and evolve to survive. I think that it would be a fun and educational game. Sort of along the same lines, I think it would be fun to turn Collapse by Jared Diamond into a computer game. In this game you would control a group of people, and the goal of the game would be to develop your civilization without it collapsing.

We drove back into the mountains ate more traditional Bhutanese food for lunch. One of the dishes was a vegetable that I had never seen before. I asked what it was and they told me that it was ferns. I didn’t even know they were edible. After we ate they drove ahead and we hiked down the path to meet them. While we were walking, I looked to our left and saw monkeys down in the valley. When I looked more closely, I could tell that there were two kinds of monkeys. One kind of monkey was small, had short brown hair, no tail, and a hairless pink face. The other kind of monkey had long, silky black and white hair, a long tail, a black face, and a white mane. There was a lot of the first kind of monkey, I’d say about a dozen. Some of them had babies with them and they jumped around in the trees. Of the second kind, there were only three or four. They stayed on the ground and watched us the whole time.

We walked down to yet another small village to meet our guides. It didn’t look, smell, or in any way really seem different from the other villages. Mom bought some hanging cloth-made ornaments for next year’s Chinese New Year. While Mom was buying the ornaments, I looked around outside. In the house just next door to the shop, there were four men watching a national geographic television program on hyraxes. Strangely, two of the men were inside watching, while the other two were just looking through the window. The people inside the house didn’t seem to mind them at all.

Bhutan Trip, Day 3

April 2, 2006-

After breakfast we took another long and winding car drive. The mountains all around with bridges in between them make me think of what the Inca Empire must have looked like. After a dizzying journey we finally stopped at a small village that raised cows and grew rice. The scenery was beautiful! Rice patties were on every side of us! We had to walk on upraised little dirt paths the whole way.

Not all of the terraced fields were of rice. Some of the patties were full of just plain grass and cows grazing. To keep the cows from climbing from patty to patty they had ropes just long enough to keep them from eating the rice. I was just about to point out the length of the ropes to Dad when all of sudden, one of the cows stretched out his tongue and wrapped it around a stalk of rice. Man it was funny! I guess the farmers measured the length of the cow but forgot to include the tongue.

We followed the path up through another part of the town on the other side of the rice. It’s amazing in a world with television and internet, that somewhere people still get by so simply. The path went up a mountain, and when we got to the end there was a monastery. One of the things I like about Buddhism is the art. It is so full of color and energy. Karma told us the names of all the gods in the pictures and what they represented.

We got to see a lot more artwork when we went to a zone, a sort of castle used for both religious and political purposes. The area was so huge and empty that I think it would be great for filming an action movie fight scene in. On the eaves were pigeons all cooing and looking down at us. I thought that was cool, and Dad said that was because I haven’t seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds yet. As I was walking through the courtyard, I noticed that there were a lot of bees flying around. I looked around to see where they were coming from and I caught sight of the largest bee hive I have ever laid eyes on! It had to twice as large as my torso, and there were literally hundreds of bees flying every direction.
We listened to the monks chant for a while before we returned to the hotel. The dinner was no different from all the other meals we have eaten. Just as we were finishing our meal, a cat ran into the restaurant from outside. I got to pet the cat, and an equally friendly dog too.

Bhutan trip, day 2

April 1, 2006-

This is probably the first year I have ever missed April Fools Day, but it’s okay because there was really nobody to fool. After breakfast today, we went up to the mountains around the city where people hung prayer flags from trees and poles. Our guide told us that there are two different styles of prayer flags: Bhutanese style and Tibetan style. Both are pieces of cloth with prayers written on them, but the Tibetan flags are multicolored and hang from horizontal strings stretching from tree to tree, whereas the Bhutanese flags hang from vertical wooden poles.

Not far from the area where we saw the prayer flags, was a takin reserve. A takin is a kind of animal that looks somewhat like a cow or yak crossed with a llama or camel. Scientists say that the takin is so unique that it is in a family by itself. According to a Bhutanese legend, the takin was created when “The Divine Madman”, after asked to perform a miracle, roasted and ate a cow and a goat. After he finished eating, he put the skull of the goat on top of the cow’s skeleton and the pile of bones came to life as the takin.

We went into town to eat lunch at a traditional Bhutanese restaurant.
My favorite dish there was a spicy peppers and cheese dish. After we finished lunch, Karma wanted to take us straight to the textile museum, but we convinced them to let us go to the market instead. I loved the market; people were everywhere selling fruits, vegetables, and cheese which they placed on top blankets and under tarps. We filmed the whole place as we walked around it, dogs, kids, and all. One of the most interesting things that we saw was a tourist showing a video camera to some kids. They were fascinated by it!
The textile museum was nice. We learned about the traditional Bhutanese garments and how they are made. The traditional tunic for men is called a gou and the traditional dress for women is called a kira. Both are made by weaving, and the patterns are made by inserting new threads while weaving. We bought some textiles from the museum shop as well as some music. We went back to the hotel and ate a dinner that was pretty much the same as yesterdays.

Bhutan Trip, Day 1

March 31, 2006-

I had a near celebrity encounter in the Bangkok Airport today. We were waiting to board the plane to Paro, Bhutan, when we noticed a group of people in soccer uniforms holding what looked like a press conference. They were close enough to speak to, and I knew that they were a famous team, but I didn’t know who they were, and while I was trying to find out who they were, they left. Finally, I found out from one of the reporters that they were Arsenal football, and that they were recruiting in Thailand.

The food on the plane was a lot better than the food on other airlines, because it tasted like Indian food. On the flight I read the book “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, more specifically the chapter on the Vikings in Greenland. The book said that the Greenland Norse didn’t survive because they didn’t experiment with different food gathering tactics.

We had a short stop in Kolkata (Calcutta), India before we landed in Paro. The Airport there was very simple. There is only one runway, one baggage claim, and one metal detector, which is kind of weird for a national airport. We met the tour guides just outside the airport; their names were Karma and Nim. We tossed our luggage in the back of the van and drove down a winding and bumpy road to the Capital city of Bhutan: Tienphu, the only capital city in the world without stoplights. The hotel was very nice, it had a nice sort of friendly smell to it and, since I was sleepy, I slept through the afternoon.

Dinner was good. It tasted surprisingly unlike Indian cuisine. It wasn’t quite as hearty or spicy; A bit of a disappointment there.