Paro Dzong and Bhutan musings
After rushing down the Tiger’s Nest (see previous post here), we couldn’t find a taxi to drop us back to Paro. And we had to walk several kilometres before we reached the taxi stand on the highway. But by the time we made it to Paro Dzong, it had closed for the day. A Dzong is a combination of religious place and administrative building, and the one in Paro is also a tourist destination for its intricate paintings and cultural items. Since it is a religious place too, it is accompanied by quarters for Monks. We spent several hours here photographing the massive building from outside, and observing the monks do their rituals. The next day we were to leave for India, and reach Yuksum, for the ‘big trek’. We were in Bhutan hardly for three days, but the impressions it left are big. Here are just a few random observations of this Buddhist kingdom nestled between India & China, fairly deep into the Himalayas. So, to Paro Dzong and Bhutan musings.
- Bhutan discourages backpackers from visiting their country because it does not want the local culture to be diluted by western tradition. There are strict rules for non-Indians coming to this country, by way of high tourist entry tax and compulsory guide booking for the entire duration of the trip.
- Hotels are fairly cheap in Bhutan, and most are decent with clean rooms. We easily found rooms in the range of Rs 1000 – Rs 1500 per night for 3 people. Food is cheap and don’t be surprised if you notice locals starting their day with a bottle of beer. While its a deeply religious country, I guess drinking alcohol is forgiven:). There are so many liquor spots in Thimpu, that I suspect everyone opens one by default and alongside they also sell groceries, electronics and other items.
- Most locals are well educated and speak English fluently, including taxi drivers. Similarly, almost everyone we met could understand and speak Hindi, though its not taught in schools at all. A major reason attributed to this is the popularity of Indian cinema and TV serials. Most restaurants and hotels we went to were playing Hindi serials.
- Women are more active than men. Almost all hotels we stayed in, and restaurants we ate at, were ‘manned’ by women. Similarly, most shops were also run by women. Unlike other Asian countries, bargaining is not common here, shopkeepers and sellers will not push you by lowering their prices, nor pursue you to purchase items.
- People here seem to be high on fitness. In Thimpu itself, we saw several outdoor gyms, even one at the top of Sangi gaon, which is a place no one goes except trekkers like us who want to explore off-beat places. Youngsters are also high on cycling, and we encountered a few of them fully clad in professional gear.