Yaks, Monks and Rice – Just Another day in Thunder Dragon Land

I just got back from dinner with my Bhutanese guide and driver.  It was clear they believe that the streets are paved with gold in America! Each cornered me at one point during the evening to talk about working in the US.  Each said it was their dream, and each referred to other Bhutanese who have done the same and come home with money falling out of their pockets. They want to work in restaurants or do manual labor. “Is it possible?” they both asked.  A strong believer in not squashing dreams, I told them, “Of course is possible.”  I just hope the visa is.

So I understand this country a liiiitttttle more each day. Although I still don’t quite have a grasp on the meaning of “Gross National Happiness.” When I asked my guide he said, “I can’t explain it.”  Brilliant.  However, I can deduct that this concept was created to emphasize not the monetary wealth of the nation, but rather the richness of its citizen’s lives.  Bhutan promotes cultural heritage, preserving the environment, good governance (became a democracy in 2008) and sustainable economic development – all things they feel are required for people to pursue a meaningful and happy life (yet both my guide and driver want to go to America…just an interesting observance).

General StoreTypical General Store in Bhutan

Bar in General StorePursuing happiness? Head to one of the local watering holes (note: a blond bar keep is less than typical)…

Inside General Store…which are always attached to a General Store.

Here Choki is looking for something general in the General Store.

Rice Fields

A close up the the rice fields.

Rice Fields

70% of the populations is engaged in agriculture. Rice is a staple in the Bhutanese diet and their largest crop.

Jen and RiceI took a hike through the golden fields.

Prayer Wheels at Fertility TemplePrayer Wheels at the Fertility Temple

I seemed to have landed myself in another country that is a bit worried about my marital status and lack of children.  In an attempt to help me, my guide brought me today to an auspicious fertility monastery and temple.  He told me that I should pray for a baby to come in a “few years.” He even had a blessing done over me.  It involved a large penis being tapped to my head along with a few other objects.  Apparently the penis was symbolic of Lord Buddha’s penis.  That should do the trick! We will see what happens… in a few years.

As we walked out my guide added, “You may be even blessed with a Bhutanese husband!”

Young MonkA young monk in the temple writing a prayer mantra.

MantraHis beautiful handwriting.

Young MonkAnother young monk studying mantras.

Bhutan is a bastion for tantric Buddhism.  Monks stay out of politics and continually pray for the well being of the nation and people.

Young Monks at Class

These young monks were sent to the monastery by their parents.

View in Bhutan

 Another beautiful view in Bhutan (fyi – the bandwidth here is in the negative range, so I have to use small picture files…will upload more dramatic versions when back on the European continent *this is a note months later now…I did upload the bigger pics!!*).

I took this picture on our way to the remote Phobjikaha valley.  A narrow, rocky, mostly dirt road was our path over the mountain pass.

Bhutan Buffet

The famous Bhutanese Buffet!

This is how I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ugyen, my guide, is always happy to be my dining partner.  If I don’t invite him, he has to go eat simpler food in the back with other guides and drivers.

My Daily Bread

Lunch and dinner predictably includes rice, a chicken dish, a potato dish and vegetables.  I am in the land of chili peppers, but they keep the spicy level at zero for us tourists/guests.  Ugyen does make me eat spicy food samples from time to time though.

Interesting tid bit, the Bhutanese do not kill animals.  It is part of their religious practice of non-violence and compassion. All the meat they eat is imported in from India.  So the chicken I eat twice a day is Indian chicken!

A Yak!

A yak!

Another Yak!

These are the guys that produced the milk that produced my rock hard cheese!


Nyimgmapa monastery.

Dates back to the 17th century.


The valley surrounding the monastery.

Building a House in rural Bhutan

This is how a house is built in Bhutan!!

These women are collectively stomping and pressing down the mud walls with their feet and wooden tools.  Everything is done manually.  Simultaneously, as I took this picture, 5 men were moving a big wooden beam across the street to use in the construction of the house. Incredible!

Building a house in Bhutan

The best part was when all the women gave me big smiles and waived as I was leaving.

Keeping Warm

Brrrr…it is cold here! Thank goodness for the fire…the only source of heat at this 6000ft altitude.

Room with a view

My room with a view.

Room with a view

My bed with a fireplace…which I now need to go stock-up on wood for tonight.

Buffet Breakfast in the morning :).

Bye from Bhutan

  6 comments for “Yaks, Monks and Rice – Just Another day in Thunder Dragon Land

  1. Wavatar
    October 29, 2012 at 2:42 am

    No more penis taps..that stuff works! If you need a kid fix visit me in beautiful northern california wine country….are you tempted???

    • Wavatar
      October 29, 2012 at 8:41 am

      Just let me get back to the North American Continent and I will be right over! 🙂

  2. Wavatar
    October 28, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Hello Jen! Thanks for writing this blog, it’s always helpful to hear people’s experiences.

    My husband and I are undecided whether to visit Bhutan this winter or not. We’re very well traveled but haven’t made it to Bhutan yet though it has always been on the list. Either we’ll go this winter or wait until 2018 when we can visit in the Spring and see some festivals.

    The reason for our uncertainty is the fear that we may have missed the boat in terms of experiencing the ‘untouched’ Bhutan. From what I can see things have modernised over the past couple of decades (particularly with the introduction of tv and internet) and I worry we won;t get that wow feeling we expected. I’m just not sure it’ll be worth the trip and/or cost. I’m sure we’ll visit someday but I guess I wonder if there’s any rush now. What I’m asking (in a very roundabout way!) is how modernised did you find it? Were lots of people wearing ‘Western’ clothes and eating imported snacks? Did you see a lot of construction/development happening? If we waited 3/4 years to visit will it make a huge difference? Is it worth it to wait a few years to visit in a more colourful season?

    Any insight would be appreciated!



    • Wavatar
      November 3, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Phoebe! Thanks so much for finding my blog! Interesting question…cuz I think your concern is valid in a sense especially if you are so well traveled. I remember visiting my first seriously underdeveloped country (Mali) and that knocked me back on my seat…Bhutan didn’t have that same impact. It is indeed beautiful and quite quirky…but will you miss an untouched-ness (word?) waiting 3 years? Hmmm??? I do know it is the king’s goal to get electricity to all of the country by 2020. However, how I saw the country was quite comfortable (4 wheel drive jeep, 3+ stars accommodations,hot showers (except one night when we were in the lodge that only had a fireplace for heat…which I LOVED)…and not sure how much of that will be different in 3 years given that I did have wifi most of the time. I don’t want to make the decision for you, but my guide was just writing me last week telling me that next time I come back it should be the spring…Let me know what you decide!!

      • Wavatar
        November 4, 2014 at 12:29 am

        Hi Jen! We decided to leave it until we can visit in springtime in a couple of years and your response really helps affirm the decision, thank you! We will definitely go but as you say it likely won’t change drastically and as we’ll likely only go once we want to make sure it’s at the best possible time.

        I look forward to your next travel account!

        Thanks again


        P.s. Your jewellery is beautiful!

  3. Wavatar
    August 7, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Jen,

    Wonderful post at bar counter with Rock Bee brandy. Did you try Rock bee? I have seen you did tried Ara (Moonshine) local brewery form corn.

    Karma Chime
    Bokar Tours – for the Ultimate Bhutan Adventure!

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