Adventure World “Land of the Thunder Dragon”: Tour Review.

I have always been fascinated by the unique and untouched corners of the globe, places off the beaten path, the “road less travelled” destinations. One place that has held my imagination for many many years is Bhutan. The idea that a country can function with happiness being placed higher than profit, just resinates with me and I needed to see and experience this country myself. So the research began. First stop for many travellers researching a new destination is good old google. To my surprise I actually found a few tour companies that travelled to Bhutan, some of the big names are World Expeditions and Intrepid Tours, everyone knows these companies, they are large corporate companies that see a large proportion of the market. They both have great reviews and like most large organisations the usual few negative ones thrown in there as well. However the pre-determined departure dates around the time that I wanted to go did not suit my schedule, so I looked a little further, with the aid of my good friend Kylie from JetSet Hillarys. We came across the Adventure World “Land Of the Thunder Dragon” tour, they had daily departures and better still, the tour included flights return to Kathmandu.

Bhutan is such a unique travel destination, it is a Himalayan Kingdom with whom’s name fills the imaginations of travellers with magic and mystery. The Bhutanese have created a very unique way to control the flow of tourist into Bhutan and still make enough revenue to sustain the travel industry, which from my experience is growing at a steady rate. Bhutan have introduced the Gross National Happiness Philosophy which includes the famous $250.00USD per day VISA, which makes Bhutan sound like one of the worlds most expensive destinations. However this VISA/ tariff is all inclusive. The VISA includes your accommodation, food, transport, entrance fees and your local guide. The only thing that you will need to pay for yourself, are the souvenirs that you wish to purchase and the beers at the end of the day. On that topic you wont find many cheap, Chinese made souvenirs here either, not saying that they are not around, they are there and more arrive every year, its just that the Bhutanese like their local products and I sincerely hope this hangs around. I feel much better buying a souvenir that has been made locally, by locals and the money stays local. With this costly VISA you will not find Backpacker style accommodation and this is no accident. Bhutan is not a place that you can just rock up and travel through at your own leisure. You need to travel with a organised tour company however you do not need to travel in a large group. If you wish to travel by yourself, simple organise a personnel tour, you can even organise your own itinerary.

My Adventure World, “Land of the Thunder Dragon” tour started in Kathmandu. I jumped on the Druk Air Jet plane, Druk Air is the Bhutanese Airline, the aircraft was new and very comfortable. One thing I feel I must mention is be ready for the crazy landing at Paro airport. I have never seen a huge jet liner manoeuvre like that. The pilots have to thread the plane between two mountains before landing.

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The Epic Paro Airport

Once through one of the most friendly and easy going customs gates I have ever seen I was met promptly by Pelma my tour guide from Adventure World, who use a local provider called Etho Metho Tours. I was given a traditional welcome and off we set. The vehicle we were travelling in was a reasonable new Toyota Hiace van, it was clean and comfortable. Pelma was such a nice person and I soon realised pretty much every one in Bhutan is so peaceful and welcoming. On the long drive into Thimphu the capital city of Bhutan we stopped at the famous Iron Chain Bridge and I quickly figured out that Pelma both loved being a Tour Guide and that he was incredibly knowledgeable about Bhutan and Buddhism. I was about to have an amazing experience in Bhutan with this amazing guide.

Through out my tour the accommodation was amazing, every night we stayed at beautiful hotels, all with incredible views, the rooms were all amazing and they all had WiFi in the common areas. I noticed that the hotel food was a westernised version of local food. I understand that this is what some travellers want, but I much prefer to drop myself into a countries culture and really try to experience the real country. I bought this up with Pelma and every meal after that I received a little taste of what the local food was like. I new some of it wouldn’t suit my taste but I wanted to try it. To my surprise the local food is magnificent, some of it is super hot so be ready.

The roads in Bhutan are some of the most breathtaking drives I have been on and surprisingly well made. They zig zag there way around the mountainous country side and boast an impressive 6-7 bends per km. There were shear cliffs, sometimes with nothing then a few well placed rocks stopping you from tumbling off the edge, even so I always felt safe. Our driver was highly skilled at negotiating these roads and always put our safety ahead of pace.  I started to get a little motion sick in the rear seat of the van, Pelma instructed me to switch with him and sit in the front. Pelma explained that this is a common occurrence on these windy roads. Whilst I was in Bhutan many of the roads were under repair I believe this is an ongoing thing. The roads get destroyed by the extreme weather, the summer monsoon and the winter snow storms. The roads are built by hand and you get to see and watch the locals working on the roads when you get stopped at one of the many road blocks. Some of which you may be stuck at for at least an hour until they open that section up. So it came at no surprise to me when Pelma informed me that our van had broken down. This allowed me to wander around Thimphu with Pelma, I got to watch one of Bhutan’s main sports, Archery. This was amazing to watch as the competitors were really accurate and unlike any sporting event in Australia, I was able to get really close to the action, so close in fact that I could hear the bows fly past. The van was getting hammered by all the road works and ended up braking down twice more, Pelma was always super apologetic. The third time, it was replaced with a brand new Hiace van. The new van was already on its way from Thimphu to Punakha and changed out. I was pretty impressed at the effort that Etho Metho went to get a new vehicle to us.

The sites to see in Bhutan are the same site that all tourists see a bit of a tourist loop, so expect to see many other people at the main sites. We kept on bumping into the same people at each stop, at each restaurant and some times at the same hotel. I noticed at one of the restaurants when I ordered an extra coke that I was charged 100BTN then a few days later when I ordered another coke I was charged 50BTN, this didn’t bother me but I did find it interesting. As you would expect at most of the religious sites you are unable to take photos inside the buildings. This is ok, you are in a very important building and respect needs to be shown. However when I was outside the buildings or in the courtyards I wanted to take heaps of photos and film as much as I can.  I found it awkward to take photo’s as my guide seemed to be explaining something all the time and I wanted to listen and learn. I learnt that I would have to just take photo’s while Pelma was still talking, at times it felt a little rushed at these sites. We once run out of time at the Punakha Fortress due to my guide speaking to much at an earlier site. These peaceful temples bring a sense of calm over you and I would of loved to stayed at some of them for much longer and really soaked it all in. I think Pelma realised this and he took me to a less visited temple the “Dzongdrakha Monastery” in Paro. This was one of my favourite temples I have ever visited and I got that moment I was looking for. For a better insight into what happened there click here for the post and youtube video. I was able to get the cultural experience I was looking for. That was one of the most rememberable experiences I have ever had whilst travelling, and for that one moment I thank Pelma from the deepest of my heart.

 

Pelma was really good at reading how I was reacting to situations and quickly figured out what I was looking for and at every opportunity he would create something magical for me. We were at a Monastery and I had an oppurnity to interact with some of the young monks who were learning there scripts.

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The Traveller and the Monk

This was an exceptional experience, then I was introduced to two young men. These young men were true re-incarnations of the 9th Chief abbot and the 69th Chief Abbot of Bhutan. This was such an amazing experience, such an amazing thing for me to meet someone so special. Later that day Pelma explained to me to process that these two boys would of gone through to figure out who they were in a previous life, quite extraodnery.

 

 

 

 

The most famous site in Bhutan is the Tigers Nest Temple or Taktsang Monastery and when you arrive at the Tigers Nest Resort you can instantly see why.

The temple sits proudly high on the cliff face looking over the valley. The walk is an approx. 1 1/2hr hike up depending on fitness levels through rhododendron forests,however you can hire a horse if you so desire. Expect to see many people up there, both locals and tourist. Expect to wait at rooms before you can enter, but be patient it is well worth the wait. I was lucky enough to walk into a room and the Taktsang head monk began a teaching. I sat down with him and one other couple and listened, listened to his wisdom, it was another one of those moments, those moments that I was looking for.

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The Tigers Nest Temple

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Rhododendron forest at the Tigers Nest Temple

In conclusion I would highly recommend Adventure World if you want to experience Bhutan. The tour is well organised, the accommodation is brilliant and the guides are very knowledgable in all aspects of Bhutan. If you are like me and are used to travelling super cheap and using hostels be prepared for a different form of travel in this breathtaking country. Pre-organised tours are usually inflexible and this is an issue as well with Adventure World, but I was not disappointed with the level flexibility I experienced. Be ready for a little bit of the Tourist Loop mixed with some genuine cultural experiences, if you want them.

I have not received any form of payment for this review, it is the opinion of myself. I understand that others may have varying experiences of such tours, which I would love to hear about, so please feel free to comment below about your experiences with Adventure World, or any tour company in Bhutan.

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport. If you have liked this post please Like, Share and Follow. You can also find Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

One Life, One Search.

Peace Out.

Shane.

Good-Bye Bhutan, Hello Nepalese Drug Dealer. Daily Vlog: 31

I can’t believe it, my time in Bhutan has come to an end, I know that I have only scratched the surface of this amazing country, this country full of myths and mystery, I can not wait till i return to explore further. I say goodbye to both Bhutan and a new amazing friend Pelma, I look forward to the day that we meet again. You made my time in Bhutan magical, I learnt so much about your country and have a new understanding of Buddhism, thank you for your friendship, I look forward to visiting again in the future.

So I jump on the plane, this time ready for the crazy take off and it did not disappoint, super steep take off and hard banking to escape the huge mountains, a little more agile this time, we were in a much smaller aircraft. As we began to level out, i got a glimpse of the himalaya’s, some thing that I missed on the way over. There was Mt Everest, standing tall, looking over the rest of the himalaya’s, it was incredible to see the massive mountain from the air. Looking down on the epic expanse of massive himalayan range you start to see why this place is such a adventure travel hot spot. It is both huge and incredibly rugged, with massive mountains, huge cliffs and crazy rivers that rush their way down through the valleys.

#100happydays #day50

A post shared by Shane Ness (@tatteredpassport) on

I land in Nepal and ready myself for the onslaught that is the taxi run. I now know how much a taxi fare should cost, but I have no idea were I am staying in Kathmandu, I have nothing booked, I was just going to find some where cheap in Thamel. So I walk out and ask the very first taxi, “400 rupees to Thamel” knowing that I will have to bargain something, he says “No Way, its 1000 rupees fixed price” I laugh to myself, I got a taxi to the airport from Thamel last week for 400 Rupees, I explain this to him, needless to say I don’t get a lift with him, I understand and have no problems with this, he is just trying to earn money for his family and if he can rip an unknowing tourist off, he gets more than twice what I was willing to pay. I go through this a few times and get a driver. But to my amazement he says “Wait here” I soon realise that he has another fare riding with us, to which he explained to him that I was his mate?? So we make it into Thamel, drop the other fare off, I will catch up with him later, really top bloke, I find out that he had charged him 900 Rupees, So double dipping hey??? Anyway he takes me to the “Chill Out Resort” resort is a bit of a stretch, it is pretty much just a backpackers in the centre of Thamel, really nice place actually. I find out that the taxi driver gets a kick back for dropping people off at “Chill Out”, this is how Nepal works, this taxi driver has had a great morning.

I spend the rest of the day wandering around Thamel and getting myself absolutely lost. I am usually really good at finding my way around a city, but I was wandering aimlessly and had not been keeping an eye out. So after hours of trying to find my way back I bump into this bloke named Bubba, the local drug smuggler. The find out more read my early post “My Locked Up Abroad Moment”, I still can not believe that happened. So anyone traveling to Nepal and looking to chill out in Kathmandu, it is an awesome place but beware of the dodgy underbelly, it is everywhere.

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Busy Thamel Streets

 

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport, If you have liked this post please Like, Comment and Share. You can follow my adventures on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simply by clicking on the Follow button at the bottom of your screen..

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Tigers Nest Temple, Bhutan. Daily Vlog 30

Daily Vlog: 30

The day has finally arrived, today we make our way up to the Tigers Nest Temple, (Taktsang Monastery). Visiting the Tigers Nest Temple has been on my bucket list for ages, the mystery around Bhutan and The Tigers Nest Temple has intrigued the world for decades. The day starts early, I wander outside and find myself gazing across the river and up the mountain, I had no idea what the day would bring me, but I was ready.

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Wise Words

We jump in our new van and start the drive, across the river and up the windy road up the side of the mountain. We reach the car park, as far as you can make it in a vehicle, now we are on foot. I was really looking forward to trekking again, so off we went. The temple sits high on the cliff, you can see it almost the entire way up, it almost motivates you to keep going. The climb is steep and it is quite hot and humid, you are protected from the breeze by the large trees, which are almost always covered in Prayer Flags, the walk is breathtaking and we are almost the only people on the trail. Half way up there is a little tea house, a welcome break, a cup of tea and some biscuits and we are off again. Pelma asks me “Short Cut?” so we follow this really cool track off in the forrest, it winds its way straight up the side and soon meets the main track.

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Prayer Flags and Tigers Nest

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I walk under some low lying prayer flags, I can hear the wind blowing through the tree’s, then I see it, I see the Tigers Nest Temple, it is just there, across the other side of a deep valley. I am at eye level with the temple, I get this giddy feeling, this excitement crossed with complete awe. From here you can really see how steep and huge the cliff is, the temple is almost just clinging to edge, I stand there in complete silence. I soon make it to the gate of the temple after walking down the steep valley covered in prayer flags. I hand in my camera to the gate house, and enter the temple’s walls. Once inside I felt instantly calm, a smell of incense burning flows throughout the temple and across the valley. I walk into the very first room and I was met by the Taktsang Lama, I couldn’t believe my luck. The Lama invited us all to the main room and treated us to an impromptu teaching. It was absolutely amazing to listen to someone so wise speak. I couldn’t get over the fact that he would always say “I don’t know everything” he spoke about love, peace, compassion and that knowledge is everything. He said that he see’s many “Tourists” that come to see the famous temple, just to see the site but can not see, they see the paintings but can not see the art, they see the monks but not the life, I believe the few people that he spoke to, he believed were there to really see and attempt to understand. This moment mixed with all my amazing new knowledge through out my time in Bhutan have a huge impact on my life. Bhutan you have left a lasting impression on me, I look forward to when I can return and visit all the amazing people that I was lucky enough to meet.

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport, If you have enjoyed this post please Like and Share. You can follow my adventures on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simply by clicking on the Follow button at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Butter Tea with Chanting Monks.

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Fortress to protect from Tibitan Invasion

Paro has one of the most amazing ruins of an ancient well 1600’s Fortress the Drukgyel Dzong. I spend a few hours wandering around in complete awe of this incredible structure and find my myself day dreaming when this fortress was occupied and the stories it could tell. The Dzong, Bhutanese for fortress was built to

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To Protect from Tibet

protect Bhutan from the Tibetan Invasion. Exploring old ruins would be one of my favourite pass times, I seem to loose myself in the history of the place. It is great to see that the Bhutanese government is actively maintaining the ruins. They are re-building the roof in the entrance, but they are keeping the site as “Untouched” as they can, it is a refreshing way of preserving a

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Bhutanese Game

very important site in Bhutanese history. We return to Paro town for a quick Tea Break and a bit of shopping, I also watch our new driver play a local game, sorry I don’t know the name of the game. It was really interesting to watch. They flick a blue “puck” on a table and hit black and white “discs” and hopefully get them in the holes, kind of like pool or snooker.

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The breathtaking ruins of Drukgyel Dzong

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Window into the past

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Kyichu Lhakhang Temple

We drive to a 7th century temple that is still operational by the name of Kyichu Lhakhang. As we walked in the first thing that I sore was this really old lady walking around the temple spinning the prayer wheels and chanting softly. She looked over to me and smiled, a smile of compassion a beautiful wise old smile and I instantly new this was going to be a beautiful place. I walked around the temple slowly spinning the prayer wheels and getting a real feeling of peace. Inside the temple court yard there is this very interesting belief. There is a stupa and they believe that it is sinking, and that this is a sign that the future Buddha is rising.

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The Sinking Stupa and the Rising Buddha.

After Tea I had one of the most amazing experiences. We walked up the side of a cliff to the Dzongdrakha temple which translates into “Temple on a Cliff” original I know. The walk up to the temple was incredible. We walked passed a new house getting built, it was interesting to see new and old building techniques working together to build the house. I watched as one man was using a manual plainer and the other a electric one. We then

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Phallis to protect from evil demons

pass through the yard of a house perched right on the edge of the cliff, they were more then happy for us to wander through their yard. It was so cool to see how they live, they had a pile of wood stacked up and you could see all the food growing around the yard.Then Pelma pointed out to me a Phalis “Carved Penis” hanging from the roof. This is believed to protect the house from demons. As you may remember in Punakha the Devine Madman subdued a demon with his penis. As we climbed higher up the cliff we started to hear some chanting, it was beautiful and was flowing over the valley. What happened next was out of this world.

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House on a cliff

As we reached the temple we were invited inside the monastery by the monks. They were still chanting, the sound was unbelievable. My guide and I were the only two in there with a room full of monks all chanting. You could feel their devotion, they were in this almost meditative state, it was beautiful and powerful. They invited me to sit amongst them and to eat with them. They gave me their own rice and a cup of butter tea. I felt so blessed to have shared that moment with those monks, it was so special for me. I still get goose bumps when I think about it. These monks were so peaceful and had so much compassion for some one that they have never met, someone from such a different world to theirs. They invited me into their place and shared with me their food and tea, that little gesture has had a profound effect on me and the way that I see and interact with the world. These peaceful monks have changed my life. As we left the monastery I felt like I could just float to the bottom of the mountain, the sound of the chanting almost guided me, it was just…. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport and sharing this special moment with me. I hope you have enjoyed this post and the YouTube Vlog. If you have please Like and Share and comment below, I would love to hear from you. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simply by clicking the “Follow” button at the bottom of the screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Breaking down in Bhutan. Daily Vlog: 28

Living in Western Australia, the largest and most remote state of Australia I have an unique concept of distance. I have no issues driving 6 hrs over 600km from Perth to Kalgoorlie for the weekend to see friends, or driving 200kms return trip just to pick up the newspaper at work. So when the entire length of Bhutan at its longest point is a modest 306km you would think it would be a country you could see in a matter of hours. How wrong you would be, todays drive from Punakha to Paro a short 143km drive will take you over 4hrs, due to the astronomical 10-12 bends per kilometre. The roads are well built how ever they are so windy and are dotted with road works and the road blocks slow you down even more. We could only really manage a brisk walking pace of 20-30km per hour. Just to make this road even crazier it rises to a whopping 3800m at the Dochala Pass.

Once we arrived in Paro we made a quick stop at the mechanics, apparently the brake fluid was leaking, I am pretty happy that I was not aware of that at 3800m. It was interesting seeing inside a workshop in Bhutan. I have spent years hanging around workshops, so for me even this little side trip was an unusual high light. It turns out workshops in Bhutan are pretty similar to what you would see in Australia. They were clean, had similar tools and car parts hanging all over the place, the usual oil sign posted up on the wall even the vehicles were similar. Bhutan’s cars are pretty much what you see in Australia, except for the odd Indian import, Land cruisers and any type of Toyota were very popular. We had some extra time to explore Paro whilst we were getting our new vehicle, so a quick souvenir shopping spree was had. I said goodbye to Telo my driver and hello to our new driver and brand new Toyota Hiace.

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Travel for free if your a Monk.

After lunch we visited the National Museum of Bhutan at the old Paro Watch Tower, well it was in the new building built behind the Watch Tower, but up until the huge earthquake in 2011 the museum was inside the old watch tower. The old building was a beautiful traditional structure standing tall and keeping a watchful eye over the Paro Fortress. You could see the physical signs of the earthquake, the large cracks running the height of the building. I hope they can repair the damage and restore this beautiful building to its former glory.

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Monks at the Paro Fortress

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Standing Proud

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Prayer Wheel

I loved exploring the Paro Fortress, watching the local monks spinning prayer wheels, gazing at all the beautifully intricate artwork plastered all over the old walls, I always get a feeling of peace when I enter these spiritual places. From the bottom of the hill you can see all three of the structures all built in 1646, at the top is the Watch Tower, below that the Paro Fortress and crossing the river the old bridge. Then some bright spark put a power line right across river and ruined what would be a magic photo. You got to watch out for those electricians…

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You got to watch those dodgy electricians

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, If you have liked this post don’t forget to hit the LIKE button and share with your family and friends. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simple by clicking the “Follow” button at the bottom of your screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

My Spiritual Awakening at the Peace Stupa in Bhutan.

Every morning I pinch myself, I just can not believe that I am actually in Bhutan, it is just as incredible as I thought it would be, possibly even more, if that is possible? The day starts off with a drive down a crazy road down the side of a cliff, then a suspension bridge across a raging river and a hike up a mountain through fields getting ploughed by cows up to a Choeten built by a Kings Mother. Some start to the day hey???

After we crossed the prayer flag covered suspension bridge I watched a local farmer ploughing his field with the help of his two cows. My guide was a little surprised that this caught my interest. I find this style of farming, almost micro farming absolutely fascinating. Us westerners are so used to big super expensive machinery farming broad acre farms and mass producing food. So watching one man with his wife ploughing his small patch of land with his two cows and a wooden, most likely home built plough was not just a step back in time but a peek into a simpler life, a life that intrigues my imagination. As we walked through this valley I soon realised that this was a beautiful way to farm. I walked through fields of large, well cared for tomatoes, fruit trees covered in fruit and fields and fields of lush green crops. The small farms were producing such a high grade of food, with no machinery or complex irrigation systems. Zig Zaging their way through the terraced fields were tiny little streams, these were the only way that the farmers would irrigate their crops. Along the streams I noticed systematically placed rocks, these were used as gates and were moved to redirect water into the terraces and flood the field and moved back when it was complete, how simple yet so effective this was.

As we turned a corner I watched as the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Choeten grew out of the thick trees. This Choeten was built by the current Kings Mother for peace to the Bhutanese people and the world. This Choeten is very unique, not only in Bhutan but else where in the world. It is the only Choeten/ Stupa tourist are aloud to enter in Bhutan and the only one that I have ever seen inside myself any where. It was a real treat to see inside such a breathtaking building, even if it was not a ancient Stupa. It was built for peace so the immense feeling of peace as I entered came as no surprise to me. Once I made it to the top of the four stories always walking up in a clock wise direction, I could look over the vast mountain range and I felt this feeling of insignificance. How can the human race have such a massive detrimental effect on this world. Emotions came flooding in, all the horror through out the world, all the wars all the animal cruelty all the environmental destruction that we cause and we are just this little insignificant dot on the planet. I just do not understand.

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Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Choeten

As we walked back down the mountain I was very quite, my head full of emotion, I feel that my guide and now very close friend Pelma felt this and shared a traditional Bhutanese love song with me (you will hear part of the song in the vlog). I love music so this was great, I always love to hear music from the country that I am visiting. Thanks Pelma, I hope you do not mind me sharing your singing with the internet???

That afternoon I was treated to something really special, we made our way up a huge mountain, slowly navigating our way around the tight windy road to visit a magical monastery, perched high on a mountain over looking the valley and the incredibly windy road that we came through the other day. As we walked through the gate of the monastery I was surprised to see some Australian Bottle Brush growing.. The distinctive smell of incense and the sound of monks chanting flowed over the valley. The very unique

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Young Monks Chanting

sound of young monks playing and chanting caught my ear and I went to investigate. The young boys were reading their scripts in the garden next to their class room, all dressed in their red robes, their smiles were contagious. I watched for a while and when I caught a few of the kids intrigued at this tall, strange, long haired traveller I nodded and snapped a few photos. You should of seen the kids faces when I showed them their photo in the view finder, it was just one of those moments that I will never forget.

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My Monk guide

We walked up to the main temple and I was invited in on a tour by one of the monks. I was introduced to two young monks one 13 and the other 18. These two boys were the “True Re-incarnation” of the 69th Chief Abbot and the 9th Chief Abbot. This was such an honour to meet these two young boys who will grow up to be very wise old men. On the way home we visited a nunnery, perched on the tip of a mountain and in one of most windy places I have ever been, I could hardly speak.

Have you had a sense of clarity or a moment of “what does it all mean” I would love to hear about your spiritual moments whilst travelling, please comment below.

Thank you for visiting Tattered Passport, and thank you for reading my little blog. If you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share with your family and friends. You can follow Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or simple by clicking on the “Follow” button at the bottom of the screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

Giant Wooden Penis; Daily Vlog: 26

We wake early and hit the windy roads towards Punakha. We know there are scheduled road blocks due to road construction and we are expecting long delays. We get to the first road  block and wait for around 40 minutes, this is not bad as it gives me time to wander around the area and take in all the sights and smells. It was a really interesting spot to get a feal for the local people and the culture. You see the local people set up make shift markets at these road blocks and sell there produce. There is everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh corn cooked on an open fire as well as the local porridge cooked on the side of the road. I was able to indulge myself in one of my favourite pastimes, “People Watching”, giving a rare glimpse into the Bhutanese travel industry.

Once through the first lot of road blocks we made it to the High Pass and the Stupa. We are at over 3000m again and you could feel the altitude, I was still loving the extra red blood cells i had left over from my hike to Mt Everest Base Camp, making this rather quick climb to altitude much easier. I was however starting to feel a little car sick, the windy roads were playing buggers with my stomach. Anyway at the top we stopped at a Tea House were I had some morning tea. Usually you are able to see over the Himalaya’s but the clouds were so thick we couldn’t see the car park. Pelma my guide treated me to a Butter Tea and some local porridge, which is usually for new years celebration in this area of Bhutan. I quite liked the butter tea, it is super sweet but quite nice, the porridge on the other hand i was not a fan. The texture was kind of like thick gooey mud with hard grains and filled with chunks of some kind of meat. The meat part was not actually that bad but i was not a fan.

We finally reached Punakha and had lunch at restaurant that was pretty obvious on the tourist route. The car park was filled with tourist vans and the only local people inside were

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The Punakha Restaurant Penis

the tour guides. I much prefer to be in a real local resturuant/ corner shop style eatery but I understand the need or want for travel companies to provide a “Clean” or “Western” place to eat for there customers. This probably would be fine for 90% of tourists but for me, a more authentic experience is what i seek. After lunch, which I might just add, was absolutely incredible we walked up to the Chime Lhakhang, the temple of the Devine

Madman. One of my favourite stories from Bhutan is the story of the Devine Madman, who slayed a demon with his Penis, yes you did read that correctly, now you see penis’s all over town. They paint them on their house’s walls, hang them from ceilings, have them in restaurants to protect them selves from demons. Some times if you are lucky and the local Lama is around you can get blessed by getting donked on the head with a giant wooden penis.

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I Love U Kiss Me

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Epic View of the Punakha Fortress

That afternoon we went to visit the Punakha Fortress (Puna Dechen Phodrang Dzong) that was built in 1636-1639. This place is HUGE, completely amazing and set in such a beautiful location.

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Fortress Painting

I could easily of spent hours wandering around this awe inspiring building. I have been struggling to film and document the beauty that I have seen behind the walls of these buildings. You can not film or take photo’s inside any temple or fortress, so the mystery of Bhutan still alive. I can tell you that the walls are covered in breathtaking art work depicting the battles between gods and demons, or the history behind Buddhism and stories of what have shaped Bhutan. Each temple will have a different local deity and there is no way that I could ever remember them all or even begin to understand Buddhism to that depth. I did find each story super interesting and I always got something special from each story.

 

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One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Magical Takin’s and A Man with a beard. Daily Vlog: 25

I wake up early and have to pinch myself, I am actuality in Bhutan. I have a great breakie over looking the breathtaking Thimphu River and the Olympic Stadium. Our first stop of the day is the Changangkha Monastery and the celebration of the passing of “The Man With The Beard” sorry I don’t have his Bhutanese Name. The Man With The beard is loved in Bhutan and you see his statue everywhere. The celebration was an incredible site to see, it was an opportunity for me to see real Bhutanese Buddism celebrations first hand. All though I could not take the camera in side the monastery i can tell you it was incredible. I let the scent of incense the sound of bells and prayer wheels along with the power of chanting wash over me. I felt blessed to have been able to share this moment with the 100’s of locals all celebrating in that monastery.

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The coolest and my new favourite animal in the world

Have you heard about the national animal of Bhutan the Takin? A half Cow half Goat looking creature that has a very unique local story of how it become? The Man With The Beard who came to Bhutan from Tibet and brought with him Tibetian Buddism was not loved nor recognised as anyone special. He was mistreated by the local religious people at the time, however this did not bother him. One night at dinner he was given only the bones of a cow and a goat to eat. He said some very powerful words over the bones and the Takin appeared and walked out side. Since that day The Man With A Beard has been worshipped in Bhutan. I love hearing these mythical stories of  the countries that I visit. They give you a little insight into the history of the land and its culture.

Bhutan has really had a profound effect on myself, I really love its peaceful and unspoilt landscape. My guide Pelma took me for a walk through the forrest. One of the most peaceful places I have ever been. I could easily of stayed there for hours. We walked along this track and appeared at the Tango and Wangditse Dzong monasteries. They are currently in a full on restoration project phase. They burnt down due to a Butter Lamp incident. This was a common occurrence through out Bhutan. So many times i had seen monasteries with fire damaged areas. Now a lot of the monasteries have a separate area for the butter lamps. I found it fascinating that these monasteries are both a tourist spot and still getting used constantly from the locals for worship. Bhutan has a very interesting concept behind tourism and seems to work for them. These sacred places are still enjoyed by the local people. I would always see local kids, parents and grand parents laughing and enjoying the great weather. It was very refreshing after the chaos of Kathmandu.

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Amazing Bhutan

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Bhutanese Prayer flags over Thimphu

Our van boke down so we had an opportunity to walk around Thimphu for a few hours. Pelma showed me the Archery competition, which i found very interesting. The competition is in this field in the middle of the town and you can just wonder in and watch. There is not fencing or barriers stopping you walking across the field and i watched as people did just that many times. The local stray dogs would walk across and even lay down in the middle of the paddock and no one seemed worried. In Australia there would be so many barriers up stopping you from getting close enough to see anything and don’t forget a huge fee to watch the event.

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Bhutanese archery

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Suger cane at the Farmers market

I got to wonder through a local market place as well as the local farmers market, one of my favourite pass times. I love walking around these types of places. The smells the noise the people and the stuff. It is just a great way to see how the locals really live, how they really trade there goods for stuff that they need.

 

 

 

Thank you for stopping by Tattered Passport, if you have liked this post please feel free to share with you family and friends. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simply clicking on the “Follow” button on the bottom of the screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane.

The Land of Dragons and Happiness; Daily Vlog: 24

Today I leave Nepal for one place that has intrigued me for years, one place that I has held the world imaginations, a place that being happy is more important than the countries Gross National Product. Today I land in Bhutan, “The Land of the Thunder Dragon” and the famous “Gross National Happiness.

The flight over was amazing in itself, We could see the Himalaya’s and had one of the most impressive landings. As we were starting our decent, the captain says “For those that have not landed in Bhutan before, we bank hard to the right than the left, please do not be alarmed”. I was just like, “cool what ever”, wholly smoke, it felt like the pilot was attempting acrobatics in a jumbo. I looked out the window and the wing seamed to be touching the ground then the balanced changed to the other side, then the jumbo straightened out and landed. The expert pilot’s had to thread this jumbo through to massive mountains right in line with the airport, an impressive entrance I must say.

Once on the tarmac i was impressed with my first sight of this mysterious country. The airport is probably the most beautiful airport that i have ever seen in one of the most picturesque landscapes i have ever seen. I was later informed that the traditional style architecture that the airport was built in was law in Bhutan. Every building has to be built to look like traditional Bhutanese Architecture. This meant that every building looked similar, somehow this works and in forces that Bhutan are really trying to hold onto there traditions.

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Great airport

I easily managed my way through customs and met my guide, not a single hassle from anyone. This was a refreshing change to the chaos that was Kathmandu. My guide blessed me and we were on our way from Paro to Thimpu. The roads were in amazingly good condition and some of the coolest driving roads anywhere. They wound themselves up and around the huge mountains, the going was slow, i didn’t complain, it gave me more time to take in the incredible beauty. We stopped at the famous Iron Chain Bridge in the Paro Valley. The bridge is old, real old somewhere in the late 1300’s and is still in use today, I walked across it, it was something to see with all the intwined steel chains and the prayer flags draped over ever inch.

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The Iron Bridge in the Paro Vally.

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The Official Worlds Largest Book

After checking into my hotel and having some lunch my guide Pelma took me to visit the National Library, where i could see all the old scrolls and the Guinness Book of World Records recognised “World Largest Book”. We wondered around town and visited the Stupa in Thimphu and played a game of snooker with Pelma’s friends in this cool hidden away local snooker hall, I won!!! Anyway I am loving this amazing country, it is clean, tidy, organised and ridiculously beautiful.

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Breathtaking and peaceful

Thank You for stopping by Tattered Passport, if you have enjoyed this post please feel free to share with your family and friends. You can find Tattered Passport on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and simply by clicking the “Follow” button at the bottom of the screen.

One Life, One Search,

Peace Out,

Shane

Yay for Free WiFi! #100happydays Up To Date.

Lets hear it for FREE WiFi!!! Hip Hip Hooray… I have been loving Kathmandu but the power outages cause so many dramas. The power in Kathmandu is always going out and for long periods of time. It is both great and it sucks. It does force you to get “Off The Grid” and teaches you a lesson in separation from our computers and iPhones. But when you are trying to update blogs it can be a bit of a headache. Any way I have a window for now and who knows how long it will last.

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#100happydays #day50

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Its been a pretty hectic couple of weeks full of amazing adventures and great new friends. I have learnt so much about myself and the beautiful countries that I have visited. I am looking forward to my next port of call, Tibet. Don’t forget to follow me by clicking the “Follow” button. You can also follow my 100happydays challenge on Instagram as well as keep up to date with the daily blogs on YouTube and Facebook.

Thanks again.

One Life, One Search.

Shane