working on a thousand circles while watching Titanic
a thousand circles
fresh pine trees for sale in our grocery
new art for sale on my Etsy shop
Christmas came early this year with a Leica camera!
Selling two original handmade rangoli art prints online at ETSY:
The small makeshift bridge at Tai Long Wan
In transit at Kathmandu
the town nuisance at Nepal
Roaming around the streets of Kathmandu
Breakfast with a view of the Himalayas
Outside the Chorten, Bhutan
Lady at Weekend Market at Thimpu, Bhutan
Breakfast with a spectacular Himalayan view
Maita taken by Miguel at Bhutan
Sharing with you all the best watercolor full body portrait I did so far.. my grandmother Feliciana Ladores in her youth. I had to redo several scans of the actual artwork. The colors are better on paper.
They say you’ve never been to Bhutan if you haven’t made the hike to the Tiger’s Nest. According to Cengay, every Buddhist in Bhutan should visit the Tiger’s Nest at least once. We read that the hike was difficult, but we didn’t realize how hard it was until we tried it for ourselves. The thin air made it difficult for us who weren’t used to the altitude. It was 3,000 meters above sea level.
* Horses were offered for tourists. We opted to hike on foot. We didn’t want to cheat our way through it.
* Cengay was just marching all the way up. He didn’t even stop to catch his breath. He only stopped because me and Miguel had to catch our breath.
* There were colorful prayer wheels along the way.
* There was a cafeteria stopover midway. Hikers usually stopped for tea and biscuits. I was listening to music while having tea. I think it was on my Sigur Ros playlist when suddenly without warning, I was already in tears. Miguel asked why I was crying. I told him everything just sank in. Looking at the monastery from afar, I said, “This used to be just a pin on my Pinterest. Now, it’s right in front of me.”
* We made offerings as soon as we reached the falls right before the monastery.
* Photo of a Bhutanese having lunch at the cafeteria.
After the hike, we checked into our Paro hotel, which was beautiful by the way. The room was overlooking a breathtaking view of the mountains.
Cengay brought us to an archery place downtown. I won a green flag and beat Miguel. hehehe
* Namge aims for a flag as well.
We had a relaxing hot stone bath at a farm house and had an authentic Bhutanese dinner prepared by the family living in the house.
Ended the night with some Bhutanese red wine..
“Grateful for one of the most unforgettable trips we’ve ever had. Bhutan was everything I imagined it to be and more. I used to believe that I’m most compatible with water…but mountain calms me more. Mountain keeps me grounded. I wish all our trips would be as spiritual and humbling as this one. Taking it all in tonight… grateful for a clear starry evening.”
Bhutan is predominantly a Buddhist country. Before we started our day, we visited the National Memorial Chorten at Thimpu. Bhutanese people usually come here for their daily prayers and walk around the shrine at least three times while chanting. There were mostly old people at the shrine. Cengay said some come before daybreak and stay there the whole day praying.
* I took a photo of Miguel coming out of the Chorten. Did I mention that we wore their national attire the whole day?
We also saw their national animal, the Takin. Such a curious looking animal with a head of a goat and the body of a cow. Legend said that the divine madman, Drukpa Kuenley ordered for a goat and a cow. He ate the meat of the goat and the cow and then got their bones. He took the head of the goat and attached it the the body of a cow and ordered it to graze, and it did. Thus, the birth of the Takin.
We also got to feed a deer.
Atop a mountain stands the largest statue of a sitting Buddha. The air was very thin and Miguel already had trouble breathing as we made our way up the mountain. You could see a panoramic view of Thimpu from the site. It was still under construction.
One of my favorite places we visited was this art school that taught painting, sculpture and embroidery. The courses were offered for four years. We got to see students at work from levels 1 to 4. It was amazing. This was their way of preserving their culture and all of their arts were related to Buddhism.
We had lunch at the city and got to try some of their famous national dishes like the Ema Datshi (Miguel’s favorite), which was basically made of chili (red, green and white) and cheese (cow or yak). Bhutanese love spicy food. You would find lots of houses with chili out to dry on their roofs. I couldn’t take too much chili so I preferred their Kewa Datshi which was made of potatoes and cheese. Chili was optional. Kewa Datshi is similar to potatoes au gratin.
* We also got to try Suja or butter tea. I didn’t get the saltiness of the tea. I preferred their milk tea with toasted rice.
* We visited the weekend market where I bought some trinkets, textile and a teapot for my mom’s large teapot collection from all over the world.
Bhutanese love archery. Cengay brought us to a professional archery site.
It was an episode of the 80s cartoon “Jem and the Holograms” that first introduced me to the Himalayas. Up until now, the song in the cartoon still rings in my head: “Shangri-laaa…where are you hiding..” It seemed like a funny start for such a distant dream. But what started as funny or even distant has now been conquered.
Miguel and I never thought of being able to go to the Himalayas. It was just one night while talking about our silly dreams and bucket lists when suddenly we thought of why not making it our project — to go to Bhutan. The three month preparation of our Himalayan adventure was harder than we thought. First, there were no direct flights to Bhutan. One had to make a stopover to Singapore, Nepal or Bangkok to access the small country. Second, it required a visa that did not come cheap because of government preservation fees.
*photo taken by Miguel at our renegade overnight hotel at Kathmandu
We decided to go for a stopover to Nepal and maybe explore the city for a day, and a long weekend at Bhutan — the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Aboard Druk Air from Nepal to Bhutan, we got our first glimpse of the Himalayas — Mount Everest. Miguel told me that he never thought or even dreamed of seeing or being near Mount Everest. We were both in awe. We took the advise of Mr. Gautam, our Nepali agent, and got window seats on the left side of the plane.
*view of Mount Everest from the plane
Now apart from the Jem and the Holograms memory…I also knew about the popular monastery in the mountains of Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest, which I had always wanted to visit. I also knew that they have their own “Kate Middleton” — Her Royal Highness Jetsun Pema Wangchuk. We also read that the airplane landing to Bhutan was considered to be the most dangerous because of its sharp turn and a short runway strip. Only a number of trained pilots were allowed to fly there.
The first breath of fresh Bhutanese air as I stepped out of the plane was invigorating. There was so much space. No tall buildings, no congested areas. Just vast space, high mountains and clear atmosphere. This was exactly what we both needed coming from the concrete jungle that is Hong Kong.
We were greeted by our guides, Cengay and Namge at the Paro International Airport. Our first stop was Thimpu capital. And the first order of business was getting ourselves dressed in their national costumes — the gho for the men (pronounced as goh) and kira for the women (pronounced as kee-rah).
*crossing the bridge to Thimpu.. The colorful flags are prayer flags. They are usually adorned near water. People believe that the wind carries the prayers written on the flags to all parts of the world for good fortune.
Cengay said that it used to be compulsory for everyone to wear the gho and the kira. But up to this day, almost everyone you see outside still wears the national costume. It was quite a sight. I somehow felt like I was in another world like Star Wars.
Happy Halloween from Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop