We spent our last evening in Thimphu having a nice dinner with Samdrup, who organized our tour, and with his friend Pema.
Pema is also the older brother of Sonam, our guide who traveled with us while we toured Bhutan.
They invited us to a nice looking restaurant and we sat in a private room with armchairs, sofas and a large heater.
For the first time since we came to Bhutan, we had a chance to have something different than Bhutanese food, which is not very sophisticated and tends to be a bit too cheesy and heavy on the chillies.
For some reason, Bhutan, which is an ancient culture, has not developed a great cuisine at all.
It is very surprising, since the mountains and the valleys are fertile with herbs, wild mushrooms, a variety of tropical to temperate weather fruit and organic vegetables.
The treatment of food is very simple, and the attitude towards food seems to view it as a filler and as basic sustenance, rather than a celebration of flavors, culinary talent and arts, or sensory delight.
During this whole trip, we missed the food delicacies of places like China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and of course France, Italy or Spain….
When there was a TV in our hotel rooms, we watched the show “Master Chef Australia,” which only made us drool and wish we could be where they make food as good as that….
You do not come to Bhutan for the food, you tolerate the food in order to see this beautiful and isolated country, tucked away in the Himalayas.
You come to Bhutan if you have an interest in Buddhism and wish to explore the depth and meaning of this religion…
Our last days in Bhutan passed at a relaxed and enjoyable pace.
After seeing all the major sites, it was nice to relax and observe the contemporary culture.
We had long conversations with people we met and got a sense of how those people felt and thought.
We found a great cafe in Thimphu, the ‘Ambient Cafe,’ and we enjoyed spending time sitting on their sofas and sipping our first good coffee in Bhutan.
I spent some time in a hair salon while Jules, Sonam and Gyempo, sat and waited for me in the empty salon, their eyes glued to my hair, as they observed every movement of the hairdresser who fixed my hair.
In order to color the roots of my hair, I had to go with one of the hairdressers to buy the color in the local shop, which is the only place in town that sold a good selection
of hair colors.
Those were not the salon kind of colors, just a home-color kit.
After our walk in downtown Thimphu, we brought it back to the salon and the lady applied it for me…. This is how they color hair in Bhutan.
To apply the color costs $4, and to style my hair, costs $3 plus the cost of the home color kit.
Contemporary Bhutan is developing fast despite the isolation of the country.
Most people support the development of better roads, which will allow people living in remote parts of the country to travel with more ease.
Most people who moved to the cities for jobs, still go home to their remote villages every year, to celebrate the festivals and to see their relatives.
The people I spoke with seemed to be happy.
They do not earn much.
A hotel worker like a server or a waiter, earns about 6000 Rupees per month, which is about $120.
The government offers free education, but there are plenty of private schools as well.
If a student does very well in school, the government will pay for their higher education, even overseas, including all travel costs, accommodation, university fees and food.
Some Bhutanese studied in Canada or in the USA, even at Oxford or Cambridge, with all expenses paid by the government of Bhutan.
The time has come to say goodbye to this beautiful Buddhist Kingdom….
The remote Buddhist monasteries were absolutely breathtaking.
The country is steeped in mysticism and there are many kind and enlightening teachers living here today and doing great spiritual work.
The Bhutanese people are kind and friendly, but more and more there are crimes happening, and the two jails are getting filled.
All the hard labor and low paying jobs are being done by migrant workers from India.
Those workers, who are happy to have employment, live in temporary shacks by the projects they are helping to build in Bhutan, be it a new dam to harness Hydroelectric power, or new roads.
The whole world helps Bhutan, except perhaps for China, and other developing countries that have no budget for foreign aid.
China does not help because Bhutan has close ties to India, and the relationship between China and India is cold.
Personally, I do not like the somewhat forced “Uniforms” that the Government of Bhutan “encourages” the people to keep on wearing all their lives.
Do not get me wrong, I LOVE how beautiful the traditional clothing looks, but this is not really freedom for the people…
It is the law that in order to enter any government property, a school, a Dzong or a monastery, Bhutanese people have to wear traditional clothing.
Many signs around the cities remind people to wear their traditional clothing, insinuating that letting go of the traditional clothing, means letting go of good and wholesome moral values.
The new queen herself, when not being photographed for royal duties, wears global international designers’ labels, but the photos of her wearing that designer clothing, are never seen inside of Bhutan.
Bhutan has a government that is Buddhist, and kindly with principles of non-violence and gross national happiness for all.
It is a small country with a beloved monarchy and with a king that is admired and loved, with much to protect and many good reasons to keep their heritage and values intact.
All the ills of “modern” society which include all sorts of mental illnesses and diseases that comes from living an indifferent and inert life, are virtually unknown in this
I will miss the sincerity and kindness of the people I met, and the beautiful mountaintop meditation retreats and temples….
I have learnt only two words in the national Dzongka language:
Kuzuzampo- which means: “Hello” “Nice to meet you” “Hi there”
And Karinche`, which means: “Thank you!”
Kuzuzampo Bhutan, And Karinche`…..