Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Ultimate Bhutan Adventure Synopsis: Part I

I have just spent 18 days in Bhutan.  We flew out of Paro Airport this morning.  I took 15,500 photos, some of which I still have yet to process.  Along the way, I lost 300 do to a camera mishap.  I lost a $500 teleconverter I've had for a decade.  My legs hurt from Friday's 2000 foot accent to the Tiger's Nest, which also included an extra 760 step decent plus 200 step ascent which had to be repeated coming out.  Along the way my wife ran out of gas and we had to help he amble down the hill on worn out knees.  

I bought a few souvenirs, a local guide to birds and butterflies literally delivered to us through an open window driving past a wide spot on the road to the capital, Thimphu, a rock taken from the mountain yesterday, a book on the Bhutan obsession of the phallus, and a refrigerator magnet with a phallus on it, because, I had to buy something.

The ubiquitous penises of Bhutan 

A penis with teeth and hairy scrotum on the side of a house, have they gone...too far?

There are thousands of photos of them, but I will spare you more

The Divine Madman has an interesting history. The legendary saint, Drupka Kunley, came to Bhutan 500 years ago to expel a demon from Dochula, the same mountain pass we just crossed on the road from Thimphu. The demon took the form of a dog which Kunley trapped in the stupa atop a mound in the form of a woman’s breast, which is now his sacred site of the fertility temple. He struck the demon with his Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom, his penis, and it fell down dead. As he did so he spoke the words Chi Mi, or no dog, and there we have the origin of the name of the temple. The site was blessed by Kunley and in 1499 C.E. the monastery was built in his honor by his cousin Ngawang Choegyel, the 14th Drukpa.

Too be honest, saying anything about Bhutan in between 1000 and 1500 words is impossible.  The place is both glorious and a little sad because of expected "paradise lost" which ALWAYS occurs at such places.  We saw it happen at Grenada 30 years ago and once something it is found, it gets destroyed  Mind you they claim it to be the center of happiness.  The people do seem content, yet with everyone with cellphones, the outside world is just a google search away and with it, the temptation of desire....which is talked about in their Buddhist beliefs as leading to Greed and then Ignorance....but the lure is still there.

I took a picture for a Turkish woman yesterday who had been everywhere and criticized Bhutan for not being "authentic."  Much of the souvenirs offered claim to be authentically Bhutanese, but our bus driver admitted it is all made in Nepal or India, and none of it was authentic but I am not sure that is what the Turkish woman was saying.....maybe it was the new slavish devotion to the tourism trade both helping the country and one leading to its downfall, but alas, she did not explain, nor did I ask her to.

First, let us discuss the bathrooms.  As I mentioned earlier, this was not a trip for sissies.

We had two types of bathrooms.  Impromptu outhouses, a hole dug, a kind of portable sitting device inside a rather small tent (zipper malfunctioned right away) and what I called the "hole and hope room."  The room had a hole, you squatted, hoped you hit the hole and a bucket was nearby for cleaning misses.  Some people did not clean up, and there was never enough water.

Some of the many scenic outhouse locations...........

One location was in the garden in the back yard of Camp Cement discussed earlier.

Bhutan is overrun by dogs, they sleep all day, usually in the road, or come to beg for food, and then bark all night.  Some even have interesting houses.

 At the heart, this was a birding trip, we saw some of the sights

Punakha Dzong, a five hundred year old fort and the Temple of a Thousand Buddhas

We weren't allowed to photograph in the temple

More pictures from the Tiger's Nest.  The group that made it halfway up to the Tea House.  Five of us made it to the overlook on the left, four of us (me included) made it to the Holy sight.


We saw lots of fabulous birds....unfortunately not the best one, the white bellied heron, a bird that will undoubtedly go extinct before I get a second chance.  Why?  Well probably the development of the rivers of source for power which ironically, is sadly sent to India.  If not the damming of the rivers, it is the powerlines.  They have exposed 10 miles of river bed here totally diverting a major river at one place.  Be it the loss of water or the electrical lines connecting to it, the heron is in peril.

We did see Ward's Trogan, my bad picture

our guide Dorgi, got better pictures

My picture bad but at least we saw one.
Yellow billed blue magpie

We had a slew of warblers, quick and hard to identify.

ash throated warbler

Gray hooded warbler

Black rumped magpie arecent split from the Eurasian magpie

blood pheasant

Chestnut tailed minla

This is just a taste of the many birds, we will post another blog shortly with more birds, more sights of our Epic trip to Bhutan



  1. Looks like a very interesting trip. I think those toilets are a bit of a mainstay in many developing countries. Good for developing the quad muscles!! Agree that some of these so called " untouched " places have troubles once they start developing. A real close example would be the " malecon " in Havana. Not that great to look at now, with old dilapidated buildings, but if the developers ever get their hands on it???
    Nice birds.

  2. A minor correction: What we can see displays a hairy scrotum. We really can't see the testicles, but I'll bet they are not hairy.


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