If You’re And You Know It... Holiday!l
Doing three cities in the world’s happiness capital, Bhutan, can leave you rejuvenated for life
LANDING ON the 6,500 feet Paro runway is not easy. The plane air-kisses precariously-perched houses and high fives 16,000 feet stoic mountains. Pilots have to rely less on instruments and more on visual meteorological conditions. No wonder, there are just eight pilots in the world who are certified to land at Paro.
As one steps out of the aircraft one cannot help but notice the brazen beauty of Bhutan. She is unwaveringly untouched. Poetically pristine. Above all she is shy. Very, very shy.
Sylvia Plath once wrote, “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.”
The thing about Bhutan is that every few people are interested in it. The few that are, are besotted by it. As you unbuckle your seat belt, your mind is prepared to leave a few things behind in the plane: the hurriedness of life, the urgency of expectations and the scarcity of attention.
In his brilliant piece, The Virtue of Stillness, Pico Iyer says, “In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still. You.”
Bhutan is still. It is quiet. Its valleys whisper. Its rivers gurgle. Its mountains, mute in their majesty.
Great hotels are thoughtful first, beautiful later and efficient, lastly. As Pema, our guide and friend ushered us into the waiting car, he handed us a kit that contained candied ginger, a little something that would prevent mo- tion sickness. It was gesture tossed in thoughtfulness.
And then, without much ado, he whispered, “Welcome to Amankora.” Combining the Sanskrit word for ‘peace’ with kora or ‘circular pilgrimage’ in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, Amankora is a series of lodges punctuating the central and western valleys of Bhutan.
Bhutan’s rivers have forged deep valleys curtained by high mountain passes. Historically isolated, each valley’s scenic distinctiveness and topography gives visitors an opportunity for unique journeys of discovery between them. These are multi-faceted journeys. They are journeys of geography, of history, of culture, of food, of wellness, of calmness. Above all, they are discoveries of oneself.” The lodges are located in the valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. They are siblings of solitude, simplicity and sophistication.
We first arrived at The Aman in Thimpu. In The Honourable Schoolboy, John Le Carre wrote, “Home’s where you go to when you’ve run out of homes.” And The Aman is just that for its countless devotees. A home of a fine friend. There are no receptions. No lobbies. And the architecture overwhelms you.
Unknown to many, there are actually a lot of things to do in Thimpu. There is the absolutely majestic Trashi Chhoe Dzong, seat of the government and royal offices. It warrants a visit.
I also have a deep interest in food, so The Farmer’s Market in Thimpu was right up there on my list of things to do. It is spotlessly clean. Pick up some deviously spicy dalley paste from there. And while at it, do stock up on kargyong (smoked, dry sausages). The pork in Bhutan is pure joy.