May 11, 2008

Bhutan Diary: Page One Of Dunno How Many...

I’d promised my butter half that I’d take him to see the Himalayas, and when he had introduced me to the pristine beauty of the Nilgiris, I’d been quite embarrassed at the thought of taking him to see something like Mussoorie or Simla. Then the opportunity to visit Bhutan came up, and we jumped at it!
After a BLR-CCU-IXB (Bagdogra) flight-hopping session, we were driven to the border hamlet of Jaigaon by a maniac in a Maruti Van. Theme song: “Bangali mein kehte hain, aami tomake kamikaze” The waiter at our hotel asked: “What will you see in Bhutan? It’s only mountains and roads….nothing to see…” His idea of a vacation was probably getting tripped and pickpocketed on the escalator of Forum Mall by a group of ladies with babies and baggage, which goes to show that the grass is always greener on the other side, except that there will soon be no grass or anything green except bank notes in …
Crossing over to Phuentsholing, Bhutan was really a journey into another country! If the British Airways crew sprays pesticides, insecticides and homicides in the cabin before taking off from India, the Bhutanese folks spray water on the car tyres, leaving you wondering if they’re getting the Indian muck off or symbolically washing your feet most respectfully… I remain mesmerized and ignorant…
Across the border, everything was neat, clean, traditional, and also very modern! All those fancy Toyota SUVs and buses get into Bhutan by road through Jaigaon! Wow! We’re a conveyor belt for goodies we never get to sample!
Our first stop was Thimpu, and since Phuentsholing-Thimpu is a main trade road, we ended up in a major traffic jam caused by a landslide. Which was great, because my dearest co-passenger, who had been awestruck by the sublime grandeur of the Himalayas for half an hour, was now in a red and molten condition with wet palms and dilated pupils… Alti-Dude sickness! Having come from a family of mountain goats, I did not know what to do to help, so we just sat and counted trucks till he regained his wits. The break helped immensely!
Having road-tripped across Sikkim-Darjeeling-Kalimpong some seven years ago, I was expecting a similar experience here, but I was pleasantly surprised when the landscape was much better preserved. Architecture was strictly regulated and every little building conformed to traditional design. The road meandered though the mountains and valleys, and we spent whole days drinking in the beauty of a land that takes great care to preserve itself. Back home, my days there all seem to blend one into the other. We used to wake up early, travel almost all day, stop for lunch and a little stroll, arrive at our destination, explore a little bit, and retire early. We ran into several tourists, and with the exception of a couple and a family, none of them were Indians.
Curiously, the consistent neatness and cleanliness we saw everywhere was missing in the monasteries or dzongs, where litter and foul smells seemed to have taken shelter. Ever since I came across Buddhism in my school textbook, I had thought of it as a possible religious faith that I could embrace. Sadly for me, the dzongs, the many gods, the tussles for power, and the prevalence of myth quite destroyed that hope. Perhaps I just will continue to believe in Divine Justice and hope for the best.
Did Bhutan take my breath away? Yes! Was every possible shade of green on display? Yes! Were there rhododendrons painting the mountain faces pink? Yes! Is the art and architecture by far the most fascinating I’ve ever seen? Yes! Is it pointless to go on about all this for another six hundred and twenty-five words? Yes!
I’ll post pictures as soon as the photographer has chosen the ones he wants over at his place. You know you’re a “ghareloo babe” when you remember to put naphthalene balls in the drain before you go on a trip, and pack a sterlisied syringe for travel emergencies, but leave your camera on the table at the last moment. Still kicking myself!

4 comments:

wendigo said...

is that teeny tiny ant-like thing in the picture you? sounds like a gorgeous trip. DeepakG, please let inkyG post the long and winding dirt track photu on her blog!

Rash said...

don't crib...you've got a good starting photu at least

Deepak said...

@wendigo: yes thats her! The same pic without her looks like another ordinary waterfall - you hardly get an idea of how it was. And this cropped by about 1/3 - the origin of the waterfall was even higher.

Of course she can post whatever pics she likes - they are hers too :p

Deepak said...

@wendigo: yes thats her! The same pic without her looks like another ordinary waterfall - you hardly get an idea of how high it was. And this cropped by about 1/3 - the origin of the waterfall was even higher.

Of course she can post whatever pics she likes - they are hers too :p