Tag Archive | life

Why I fell in love with Bhutan

I was on cloud nine for seven days while in Bhutan. It took me another seven days to recover and get down to reality.

I can’t remember exactly how I got drawn to Bhutan. But I can recall watching a documentary and was captivated by the scenery. I also read about the Gross National Happiness, a concept very unique to Bhutan as it was the idea of His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. GNH speaks volumes of how Bhutanese value spiritual and well-being over economic progress or worldly materialism.

So why have I fallen in love with this Kingdom? Let me try hard to put it into words.

Up in the sky, Bhutan will greet you and bid adieu with exhilarating panorama of the Himalayas and snow-capped mountains. If you are flying from Bangkok, make sure you get a window seat on the left row (right from Paro).

View of Himalayas on flight to Bhutan-001

Photo taken on flight from Paro to Bangkok

Usually, the drive from the airport to a city is dull and tiresome. It took us about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Paro to Thimphu. But nope, it was not boring at all because we drove along hills with lots of apple trees in bloom; I thought they were cherry blossoms. How about this old house above the riverbank?

Rochogphel hotel Thimphu Bhutan-001

Paro to Thimphu Bhutan-001

Photo taken on the way back to Thimphu from Paro the day before my departure

I just loved to look at the fog-covered mountains. It’s the same sight I would marvel at on my journey to Punakha. But with the forest filled with blooming rhododendrons, I felt I was in Pandora. Remember Avatar?

Rhododendron bloom in Bhutan on the way to Punakha-001

Very few countries in the world can match the richness of Bhutan’s flora and fauna. Thanks to their serious environmental protection and conservation I enjoyed watching a monkey sitting on the side of the road; a huge colorful bird that hopped on a tree, I can only wish I knew its name. But when I saw the yaks (I had mistaken them for takins, Bhutan’s national animal and known to be an extremely rare mammal) I had to ask the driver to stop the car so I can run after them up in the hills.

Takin Bhutan's national animal-001

I have this strong affinity with ruins. A lot of people find them uninteresting, lifeless. I find them full of wisdom, exuding aura of the ancient times. I’ve been to ruins in India, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia so I didn’t want to miss Drukgyel Dzong in Bhutan. I was dumbfounded. I have no words to describe and will rely on the cliche, “a picture paints a thousand words.”

Drukgyel Dzong in Paro Bhutan-001

Bhutan may be full of natural beauty but hey, the country is not just about that, it is full of art masterpieces too! In Punakha Dzong I have seen the world’s most magnificent temple. We were not allowed to take photos, sorry folks. I like it that way though, to keep its sanctity and solemnity. But here are some photos around Punakha Dzong showing very intricate designs.

Punakha Dzong Bhutan-001

Punakha Dzong interior-001

Punakha Dzong-001

I also had a bit of a shock when I saw penises, lots and lots of them, either painted on the walls of buildings and houses or carved on woods. My friend, understanding my amusement, explained that phallus is a religious symbol and is believed to ward off evil and brings good luck.

Phallic drawing Paro Bhutan-001

carved phallus Bhutan-001

Above all these, what truly captured my heart are the people. The Bhutanese are very warm and hospitable people. They are calm and patient. Around them I feel so at ease, it must be because they emit positive energies. With them I was reminded to savor the moment and not rush through life.

Mary Antonette Abello_Bhutan-001

On weekends they go out to play while most of the time I slack in front of the TV or drown on the internet. I passed by people playing different sports but when I saw an archery tournament, I let my driver have snacks so I can watch the game. I felt bad to have him wait at the car.

Bhutanese playing archery-001

I’ve seen a lot of young Bhutanese hone their crafts at the 13 Traditional Arts School (Institute of Zorig Chusum). I learned that most students came from underprivileged families. The school is financed by the government including their board and lodging. I asked one boy why he got interested in tailoring. He said he wanted to be an international fashion designer. They may be poor but why do they look more content and happier than those rich kids who showcase fancy items out of mommy and daddy’s pocket?

13 Traditional Arts School Bhutan-001

Institute of Zorig Chusum Bhutan-001

 

Photo taken at a ceramics shop in Paro

Photo taken at a ceramics shop in Paro

I admire how spiritual Bhutanese are. You will see many of them turning the prayer wheels, both young and old. They have a prayer room in their house; light incense for each morning’s prayer. Prayer flags are found all over the place.

Prayer wheels monk Bhutan-001

Prayer flags in Bhutan

I rarely see Bhutanese who wear modern clothes. Most of them wear their traditional dress, gho for men and kira for women. This makes the cultural experience in Bhutan distinct because at this modern period, you will see how Bhutanese go about their daily lives the same way from many decades ago.

Bhutanese girls-001

I have not seen nor experienced a wild nightlife similar to that in Bangkok during my whole stay in Bhutan. Although I did relish this stunning view of Tashichoo Dzong and Thimphu skyline.

Thimphu in the evening

In Bhutan I was able to reconnect on a deeper level with mother nature, with my spirituality and immerse into the quintessential of human connection that our technology-driven world has so often neglected.

And just like in temples where I was forbidden to take photos, my most memorable experiences with people very dear to me are beyond words. I will just let my heart keep it locked in until I come again.

More photos are available in my Facebook. Click here.

P.S. If you want to visit Bhutan, I recommend Almost Heaven travel agency. It’s owned by a friend so I can guarantee you are in safe hands. If you are in Bhutan, I encourage you to watch my friend’s latest film Kushuthara – Pattern of Love. And if you are a bookworm, then grab copies of Sonam Kinga’s books!


Becoming the monster I abhor

Plato quoteA friend introduced me to her colleagues who were visiting Bangkok over the weekend. One of my joys being away from home is to meet old and new friends visiting Bangkok. Touring them around is also my way of getting to know Thailand better.

All of them –my friend’s colleagues—were nice and fun to be with. But one of them is just extra warm, it’s like her heart is full of kindness which radiates from her sweet smile and soft voice. She’s the oldest among the group, much like our mother. But really, I felt so at ease around her that I couldn’t help but mention it to my friend. That’s when I heard an interesting story.

My friend said that she has never really spoken to that lady except for work-related matters. “People say her personality used to be like that, kind and loving. But she suddenly changed about two years ago. They say she suddenly became aloof. She doesn’t talk to people anymore except for work. Even after meetings, she doesn’t join her colleagues for a cup of coffee. She became strict and unfriendly, very opposite to what she used to be. Even people who have been so close to her, who have worked with her for over 10 years couldn’t understand what has gone wrong with her. She was like that for two years and now she is back to how she used to be, kind and friendly.

I got curious. I told my friend; maybe that lady has gone through very challenging trials in her life. And tough times always bring out the worst in us. And I smiled at the thought that I had my own share of unleashing the monster in me.

I hate confrontations. Whenever I encounter misunderstandings with people, I would opt to stay quiet and not defend myself even if that means I have to take the blame. I could not speak out for myself because sometimes it would mean revealing the other person’s mistake and I could not stand that a person is humiliated or hurt because of me.

My colleague once told me, “nobody can stand up for you except yourself. You can’t just let people abuse you.” I also read somewhere that staying silent and suppressing your emotions is not good. It will eventually take its toll on your health. But I was stubborn. Until one day, I just lose it.


I was overly stressed at work and was facing a lot of problems in my personal life too. I had been suffering from insomnia and I couldn’t eat well. I just don’t have the appetite for any food. I knew something was wrong with me. I was aware that I was not being myself. I just don’t know how to stop the negativities. I cannot decide whether I have obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder (see, I have already made my own psychological diagnosis hahaha). Kidding aside, I knew now that I could have been better if I had enough sleep then.

But anyway, in that not-so-good episode of my life, I turned into the monster I abhor. I made this stupid argument with someone and ended up saying words I could not imagine coming out from me. Now that I’m over those dark hours of my life, whenever I think about it, I would regret why I had not dealt with the negative situation positively. But regrets don’t come first and feeling it would not help either.

I believe that the first step to move on is to forgive ourselves and accept that we are just humans; we are not perfect and we are bound to commit mistakes. Like what Rahim Khan said in the book The Kite Runner, “there’s a way to be good again”.

People who we see as bad, people who are cruel and unkind are people who are hurting inside. They need our understanding and love, not our hatred and scrutiny. And when this happens to us, let us not forget to appreciate those people who stayed by our side, the people who never gave up believing in us when the rest of the world slummed its doors.

Withering plants and relationships taken for granted

 

My weekend was spent mostly cleaning my room, doing the laundry and reorganizing some stuff. Little did I know it will lead me to a more profound lesson.

While mopping my veranda, I noticed that one of my potted plants died. The other three were wilting. It must be because they don’t have enough soil and the weather is too hot these days. To keep the rest from dying, I uprooted the dead one and put its soil unto the other pots then watered the plants.

This is not the first time I had a plant die because I did not have time to nurture them. I always forget to water them even if I can see them every time I go out of my room. Whenever I remember, I just pour water on them without really giving it extra care like sprinkling the water and cultivating the soil.

While I was filling the other plants with soil, I realized that it is actually a good analogy of how we sometimes treat our relationships be it with a lover, family or friends.

Sometimes, we take people and relationships for granted because we know they are just there. Sometimes we don’t make that extra effort to reach out to them because we are too busy with other things. And when we do, we do it just for the sake of doing it — talk for the sake of talking — without really giving our all. And we may not be aware but they do notice it. They know when we are not paying attention or we are distracted.

Like plants, relationships should be nurtured and cared for it to thrive. If we continue to take it for granted, it will gradually wither and eventually die. If you see it withering you are lucky, you still have the chance to save it. But what if it’s already dead?