Online travel company MakeMyTrip, in collaboration with the Bhutan Government, is offering summer holiday packages from May to July this year. Book you holidays to Bhutan now at http://www.makemytrip.com
The last Shangri-laVisiting Bhutan is a journey into time travel. Mystical and untouched by modern shenanigans,this is where spirituality is a way of life. A gentle demeanour and a red toothless grin (thanksto the doma or tobacco) greet you as you go from wonderstruck to maybe a wee bitchastened about taking tradition and nature for granted. The sight of prayer wheels beingswung at marketplaces, monasteries and dzongs lying in the lap of the Eastern Himalayasunder the flying dragon or “druk” stay etched in memory. As the blue poppy, the nationalflower, flutters, Bhutan opens its doors to tourism. Albeit, a cautious one. The count ry wantseclectic travellers — who embrace philosophy and protect this “Last Shangri-la” thanks to itsuntouched soul.Away from modern influences, this time capsule has people subsisting on land, living hardlives, but they are happy as they quantify success with gross national happiness, not GDP.Take a step back, embrace the slow pace, stop for a butter tea (if you like salty chai!) and
listen to old Hindi songs (yes, the Indian influence is everywhere). Bhutan is a reverie ofsoulfulness that asks for responsible tourism. Traffic-free roads take us to Dzongs orfortresses reflecting a life worth preserving.The wind chill is at its peak, as we amble towards Tashichhodzong or fortress of gloriousreligion. This is where the fifth Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) Jigme Khesar NamgyelWangchuck was crowned in 2008. Cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The original dzong wasbuilt in 1216. Walk into the dzong, as men dressed in ghos and women in keras pass by.Admire the woodwork and artistry. And try Ema Datsi, a preparation of chillies in cheese withred rice or Kewa Datsi (potato, cheese and chillies).A good night’s sleep rejuvenates us for Punakha. We stop at the Dochu La pass and the 108Chortens. With the Himalayas forming an awe-inspiring backdrop, the sparkling 108 Chortensare a tribute to the earlier King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. Thousands of prayer flags flutter, abelief that the wind gathers spiritual power and helps ward off evil.Bright red rhodendrons dot the drive to Wangdue Phodrang as we are told about theSnowman’s trek (49 days), the most difficult trek in the world. Wangdue Phodrang Dzongwas built in 1638. As most dzongs are the seat of monastic learning, tradition has it that afamily sends one member to become a monk. The Guru Tshengy Thondrol, depicting GuruRimpoche, is unfurled on the final day of the Tsechu festival here.Next is a sight to behold. The Punakha Dzong or the Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong. Onan island between the confluences of two rivers, a male called Pho Chhu and a female MoChhu, one can see the impulsive female as it meets the sombre male!On the way back, we spot various phallic symbols. They are signs to ward off evil and helpfertility. Drukpa Kinley, also called the Divine Madman for his sexual practices, is behind thispractice. Taktsang Monastry also called Tiger’s Nest sits glorious and peaceful on the edgeof a 1,200m cliff and is the unofficial symbol of Bhutan. It is the seat where Guru Rinpochemeditated on his second visit to Bhutan in 747 CE on the back of a tigre ss.An arduous trek gets one to a vantage point where you can sip hot tea and even get a localBhutanese massage with rock salt. The monastery in the rocks is serene as monks chant.Emanating peace and happiness. Bhutan’s tagline, “Happiness is a place” be comes ever soreal.Getting thereMake My Trip has started special charters. A seven night package at `33,333 (from Delhi)and Rs 39,999 (from Mumbai).Permits are required for travelling and entering monuments so this works wonders.Accommodation: Thimphu has Taj and Terma Linca.What to buy: Bhutanese whisky K5, local rum or ara. A handwoven stole, Yak cheese, deshupaper and Buddhist artifacts. Prices are steep.