Leaving Santa Fe was bittersweet, after a wonderful visit of almost three months. I felt satisfied that my trip to the US was successful. I saw many loving friends. I was able to clear storage and give away most of my belongings. I got the new website up for White Tiger Bhutan Tours, and planned 10 new itineraries in Bhutan and Tibet with the tour director. I renewed my passport. Yay! I finished the final edited manuscript of my channeled book “Buddha Speaks”. And fortunately my dear friend Andrea Adler found a literary agent for my six books. He is excited to offer these unique books to publishers. Hooray! Life is happening very fast. Now I’m moving on, and not sure when my next visit to the US will be.
A fabulicious Christmas Dinner with my friend Andrea was a 2-pound Cornish hen stuffed with savory veggies, Brussel’s sprouts, gravy from pan drippings, and a very intense chocolate coconut dessert. Yum!
My journey to Bhutan started at the tiny Santa Fe airport. I left Monday morning and arrived Wednesday afternoon. The trip took me through Denver, Frankfurt, and Delhi, arriving to Paro in about 38 hours.
In the Frankfurt airport I met this charming gentleman. I wanted to ask him so many questions about the universe. But alas he was very quiet. I had to get to my gate, as too many people wanted to take their photos with him.
I arrived New Delhi in pretty good shape. My friend Nawab, who works for the hotel as an escort, met me at the gate and began performing miracles. He helped me arrive efficiently to the Airport Holiday Inn via back hallways, smaller security checkpoints, and hidden passages in the airport. He checked me in for my flight the next day, bypassing thousands of tourists waiting in line. I was giggling and running after him as he sped through the corridors wheeling my luggage, greeting his friends, opening secure doors and elevators. He miraculously finessed my overweight issues. I had over 130 pounds of luggage in three suitcases (everything I own in the world). I ended up paying nothing for excess baggage on the entire trip. Miraculous!
If you ever travel to Delhi, you will arrive at night. You MUST ask me about requesting an escort to navigate the airport quickly. The escort can do early check-in for your connecting flight to Bhutan or anywhere. Do not wander the airport waiting hours for your next flight. Go to the hotel and get some sleep. Otherwise you will be hopelessly lost in the vast Delhi airport (trust me on this, you’ll never find the hotel) and you’ll spend hours waiting in line.
Thanks to Nawab, I sailed through immigration and got 6 delightful hours of sleep before my flight to Bhutan the next day. Oh, and he invited Lama D and me to his upcoming wedding! But he’s not sure when it will be, since his parents are still searching for the right girl. Yep.
I woke up rested. This painting in the airport hotel reminds me of the SouthWest.
Breakfast at the Delhi airport was chick peas and vegetables, unfortunately sautéed in GMO soy oil, which makes me quite ill. I discovered it late, and so didn’t finish my breakfast. No worries, I’ll be very well fed in Bhutan. Everyone in India uses the cheapest cooking oil. Sadly GMO soy oil is fake food, more like motor oil, inviting chronic diseases that cause much suffering.
BTW the Delhi skyline has about 200 feet of visibility. This is not fog. It’s just extreme pollution in the capital city. Although the air inside the airport is somewhat filtered, I always try to get out of Delhi as quickly as possible.
Landing in the Paro airport takes an especially skilled pilot. Sandwiched in a valley between forested mountains, the airport has a narrow approach and one of the shortest runways in the world, requiring a steep dive and rapid deceleration. It is said that only 17 pilots are authorized to land a plane in Paro. The two local airlines that may fly into Bhutan are Druk and Tashi airlines.
Arrival in Paro is orderly and quiet. The Bhutan airport is immaculate, decorated with traditional Buddhist symbols, dragons, geometric designs, and the lineage of kings.
We drive an hour to the capital city of Thimphu, where I’m staying with Ghalem, Lama D’s sister.
Bhutan’s largest statue of the Buddha sits on a hill overlooking Thimphu. I am home.
This is my sister-in-law Ghalem with her daughter Palay. Ghalem is a lovely person and I adore her. More than that, I trust her and rely on her completely. Ghalem (ga-LEM) is the owner of our tour company, White Tiger Bhutan Tours. I’ll be staying with her for a few weeks. She lived in the US for six years and speaks perfect English.
Thimphu is quite chilly, ranging from 20 to 35 degrees F. I bundle up and go out on a walk every day to explore the neighborhood. Apartment buildings are beautifully painted with sacred symbols and animals.
Getting into my cold bed at night was frighteningly intense. Fortunately I brought a hot water bottle from the US that came in very handy. It held the heat for 6-8 hours!
We live on the 5th floor of this apartment building. Climbing stairs is wonderful exercise, however bringing my three suitcases all the way up was a bit more challenging.
Today the electricity went off in our apartment building, so the tiny space heater doesn’t work. As fate would have it, the water pipes also froze, so there was no running water either. The landlord lives right across the hall, a kind man. He has the same issues, along with most buildings in Thimphu. For us that meant flushing the toilet with a bucket, no bathing for 3 days, and no yoga. I decided to bundle up and wait patiently for electricity, heat, and water.
Ghalem took me to a home store and I bought an electric mattress warmer. When we have electricity, I can turn it on 30 minutes before bed, and it heats the mattress quite well. Then I turn it off when I get into bed, to not be disturbed by EMF’s. But with the surrounding air in the house below freezing, the bed soon gets very cold again. By 2:00 or 3:00 am I’m shivering again. What to do?
Fortunately, we have lots of Suja, Bhutanese butter tea. This is tea whipped with homemade butter and salt. It keeps you warm on a cold day. It is served with crispy Zow, toasted rice from the family farm. So I’m drinking Suja all bundled up in my long coat, hat and gloves. But every day I feel a little bit weaker. Then on the last day I woke up with a sore throat and runny nose. I requested to find a hotel with heat and hot water so I don’t get sick.
On the way to check out hotels, we stopped at a dental check-up for Palay, Ghalem’s daughter. It was interesting to be in the Thimphu hospital, very clean and professional. The hospital entry is adorned with homage to the Fifth King on the left, his son the young Prince, and his father the Fourth King on the right. The royal family is very beloved by Bhutanese.
Whew! Ghalem and I found a quiet hotel on the hill above Thimphu with heat, hot water, and electricity. OMG, it even has a carpet where I can do yoga and qigong exercises. I can work on my computer to finish the books, and take walks in the forested hills. Through a friend, Ghalem arranged a nice price of 1500 Ngultrum, which is $21 USD per day. Lama D will be joining me soon. I’m sorry to be a spoiled American.
This is my breakfast of omelet and vegetables sautéed in butter. The hotel kitchen is well staffed. It seems I’m one of very few guests. They’re willing to make me food without GMO soy oil. I request mustard oil or butter, both were traditional in Bhutan until recently. I’m feeling better, no runny nose or sore throat. Yes, I am forced to accept my plight as a spoiled American. It is amazing to me how Bhutanese people can live and thrive under difficult conditions. This is a testimony to their rigorous upbringing, a healthy Buddhist attitude of equanimity, unprocessed foods, and generations of experience.
Next week we’ll be going to Lama D’s family rice farm in Punakha, three hours away. It is a terraced mountain that is lower in altitude and warmer than Thimphu. This is where the annual family puja is celebrated every January.
Last year at the 2-day family puja, many monks came to chant, and my two cousin monks played the long horn called “dungchen”. I can’t wait to see what kind of photos I’m able to take this year!
Thanks for checking in. I’ll be posting every week whenever internet allows. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!