Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last reflections on the land of the Druk

The sand clock has dropped the last grain and now its time for me to leave Bhutan. I take with me many fascinating memories of quite a unique and extraordinary place.  I am very glad to have come while the country still maintains the feeling and integrity of an under-exploited destination.

I came looking for something different and I believe I found it. Bhutan is in many senses a whole different world from the one that most  westerners know, and yet it makes you realize at the same time how similar we all are.
I will not forget the deeply peaceful feeling inside the temples with the unforgettable smell of ancient wood and burning incense while looking at the colorful pictorial and religious history. I was salivating like a Pavlovian dog to  take pictures there but it is simply not permitted since its considered disrespectful. 

I also enjoyed quite a  bit the interaction with young monks and nuns that although they are submerged in ancient traditions they are...well....just people...(of course) They like soccer, computers, cell phones and joking around...much more than what I imagined! 
I will encourage anyone  with an appetite for off the beaten track style of travel or simple world curiosity, to make a point to come here. It will not disappoint. 
Tashi Delek Bhutan.
Penis are considered signs of fertility and fortune. They are regularly displayed in the entrances of homes.


Early morning fog

Two reds in one big green

Children asking to have their picture taken (except one)

Young Monk on old stairs
Playing in water while mom works

I found a liking for shooting electric posts in rice fields

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bhutan: Land of Dragon

Rice Fields on the Road as we leave Paro.

After a very  long  odyssey, I finally made it to Bhutan!. It took two days of travel followed by an 8 hour road trip to make it in time to the festival in the town of Bumthang.  The combined trip + jet-lag + high altitude + himalayan one lane hilly and very, very, very curvy road! was needless to say: Exhausting  (and not much appreciated by my stomach : ) ). Fortunately my  delicious breakfast of  aspirin , pepto and  dramamine did the trick.
So you may ask the question:  Why Bhutan?? Was this part of a spiritual quest to find enlightenment to my very earthly and very mundane existence???  Was this an effort to find the last Shangri-La?? Am I trying to mimic the monk who sold his Ferrari to make sense of the world? (and no...I do not have a Ferrari!).
The perhaps disappointing but truthful answer is: No. The trip to Bhutan represents  the chance to see a completely different way of life, a departure from my own relative realty and, quite simply, a chance on exploring yet another new place in our little Blue Planet (and to take lots of pictures!).
Bhutan is actually quite an extraordinary choice. A small country with about seven hundred thousand  people in population with a deeply rooted Buddhist tradition.  There are only about twenty thousand cars and only about thirty thousand people visit Bhutan each year. The king made a point on limiting mass tourism by imposing a minimum daily  fee  for foreigners to spend, thus maintaining a low impact on its country, tradition and culture. He has also made a point in focusing on “ Gross National Happiness”  as opposed to just focusing on Gross National product
Children on the road.  

About 70% of the country is covered with forests and the landscape is truly  exceptional. An expansive plethora of extraordinary imagery, colors and smells.  Its just beautiful and a photographers dream.
But so far the most  remarkable thing I have encountered, without a doubt, is the people. The Bhutanese are extremely warm, friendly, and humble. Their traditions are very rich and ample. They cherish and maintain them and its just pleasurable to see that despite the rapid changes that we are seeing in the world they have not lost their anchor point. 
There are actually many things to be learned from this Himalayan country and I am just happy to be here.


Bhutanese Monk studying in Wangdichholing.  This shot was taken while the monks were studying during the afternoon.  The light, the setting and their dedication were magical.
Wangdichholing. Study Room.

Portrait session in Bumthang Dzong

While taking the pictures one of my guides, Karma, took a picture of me.
Him and Tzering have been instrumental in making an incredible experience and I am very thankful to have them.
Young Monks Running in Punakha Temple

Double Rainbow Bumthang

Late afternoon landscape

Two young monks in Rice field.