Nilufa & Family, Bangladesh, October 2016

I have learned how to be more patient. While I was going to Taktsang monastery, I was in very slow pace. Leki was with me till the end. I did not see a single sign of annoyance on his face. They are following what Buddha taught by their thinking, works and smiles, to find happiness. Bhutan is a country that you can’t capture entirely in your still photo or video. You have to be there yourself with the mindset to see through your heart. I found Bhutan is very rich in respect of culture and people. It is the people of Bhutan, who are enriching the country. They are more spiritual than worldly.

Finally I made it to Bhutan, a fairyland for me and my son. It is like a place someone painted and then it became real. The last two years, I have been planning to visit this picturesque country which is known for its natural beauty and GNH (Gross National Happiness). I was looking for something special not knowing what it was. Then I came to know about Bhutan Homestay and read about the possibility of staying with a Bhutanese family. What could be better than homestays to get to know the people and culture! So I decided to go for homestays.

We did not regret it. The homestays were a great experience for us, where we came to know some wonderful people, the real people of the Bhutan. The hospitality of the family made us feel homely. We got in touch with people’s generosity, simplicity, peace and purity.

Whenever we reached to our homestay in the four places of our itinerary, first we were welcomed with tea and traditional snacks. Our travel guide also always took some food items to our homestay hosts as traditional gifts. We had the chance to enjoy village- and urban modern homestays. The only difference was the embellishment of the houses. The architectural designs of each house were specific to the region. The hospitality was the same throughout the places we stayed in. We did not have to worry about any meal or breakfast not even about snacks; it was just like at home. The members of the family were very caring to my son. We also received suggestions which place to visit and whenever we were in need of something the hosts went out of their way to whole heartedly fulfil our needs. Every time we left a homestay, we didn’t feel like hurrying.

In Ugyen homestay in Haa valley we sat in the dining and cooking area chatting with each other. This area was the warmest place of the house and we enjoyed the wood burning stoves. The oldest person of the house, the grandmother of the host, was always smiling at us. We also had some good conversations with the brother of Ap Ugyen during our stay.

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In Thimphu, we got to know a lot of things about Bhutan from a very knowledgeable lady Aum Damchoe. She was also very concerned about my son as he had come down with a cold. She provided balm oil and honey with warm water to ease my son from his nose block.

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We were very happy to see the spectacular view in the morning from our homestay in Punakha. It was very enjoyable to take breakfast outside, too. Aum Leki’s father in law was always concerned about our wellbeing. In all homestay, we sat together in the living area and stayed until we went to bed.

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nilufaWe also came to know about the education system of the country. In Aum Om’s homestay, the two young girls, members of the staff, had just completed their high school and were planning to go for further education to India.

Bhutanese are very concerned with education. Their education starts at home with the teaching of manners and kindness. For academic education, most of them stay with their aunt or uncle, relatives who live near the school. This also shows that they are very kind to their relatives without any resentment. Kindness is everywhere. Sonam Chophel was reminding Kuenzang to let me take lots of water, while I got sick though we have not even met. While hiking to Taktsang Monastery, I met some wonderful people from Tibet and Taiwan. A monk from Tibet gave me palm candy to keep it in my mouth as it should help me to make it till Taktsang Monastery.

We enjoyed watching the children returning back home from school carrying their school bag and lunch pack. They were talking, walking, stopping on the road in a disciplined manner. We did not hear any shouting at each other on the road. Everyone was always talking in a low voice.

it is not necessary to be able to talk in the same language to show compassion. We always communicated through our travel guide Kuenzang. But it was not a problem at all because we always saw the smiling faces of the host families, which always made us smile, too.

We enjoyed the food throughout our trip. Everyone talks about ema datsi, but I would recommend trying the spinach cheese soup. The rice porridge with fresh tofu made by Aum Damchoe was really good with tomato and chili paste. My son also took the food happily.

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Shortly before our trip we had to reschedule due to the sickness of my son. Sonam Choeden, the proprietor of Bhutan Homestay was very kind to rearrange everything keeping the same itinerary. Before landing, the crew played a beautiful musical instrument, which my son felt was perfect combined with the view from the window. While getting off of the plane, I got stuck for a while with the amazing view before me. From that moment I was fully relaxed and high spirited. Everyone was clicking and capturing the beautiful scenery with their cameras. Nobody was urging us to clear the area and hurry to the immigration desk.

nilufa-kuenzangWe met our travel companions, a young lovely, sweet girl Kuenzang (guide) and caring witty Leki (driver) in the waiting area. We got our phone sim and exchanged our dollars in Paro town. Afterwards our journey to Haa valley started, following our itinerary. On the way I was not able to close my eyes because I felt that I will miss something. We started in a warm place and slowly we were moving up to the chilly areas. We went clockwise whenever we were passing Stupas.

We came to know the four harmonious friends of Bhutan in the entrance of Thimphu. The four harmonious friends of Bhutan is a great way of teaching how to use logic rather than arguing to a child. The story teaches that the younger ones must respect the elders and the elders must take care of all.

We found little stupas piled up by gravel on the walking paths and Leki added one stone for each of us. This is also a kind of praying for a good journey and leaving the landmark to the next travelers that they are on the right route and not lost. It teaches that you should show the path to others, too.

We met three young amusing water rafting guides. When they found my son crying for not paddling, they took him to the water again for few minutes for paddling.

nilufa-rafting1nilufa-rafting2 nilufa-punakha-dzongWe saw the house of Changyul Bumo Galem’s, the fiancé of Gasa Lamai Singye. Both of them gave their life for the love. We came to know a tragic love story from Bhutan.

Kuenzang told my son that we should use “WE” when in a group or with family members, which was taught by her mother. Kuenzang also taught me how to keep the environment clean. She was collecting all the packages, plastics and bottles from the path of Chagri monastery and Taktsang monastery.

I have learned how to be more patient. While I was going to Taktsang monastery, I was in very slow pace. Leki was with me till the end. I did not see a single sign of annoyance on his face. They are following what Buddha taught by their thinking, works and smiles, to find happiness. Bhutan is a country that you can’t capture entirely in your still photo or video. You have to be there yourself with the mindset to see through your heart. I found Bhutan is very rich in respect of culture and people. It is the people of Bhutan, who are enriching the country. They are more spiritual than worldly.

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In seven days only, I got to know so much about Bhutan. It was possible because of the homestay hosts and Ulli, who worked on my itinerary. She made sure I got in touch with something real. The descriptive explanations of Kuenzang were so good that I can still hear her in my head. I feel like going back to Bhutan again. My son was eager to know about the life of Buddha. Kuenzang made sure that my son got to know more while explaining about Buddha in each Monastery. In Punakha Dzong, Kuenzang told the story of his life by showing the pictures from birth till death. Leki was driving us to every place enthusiastically. We never felt like strangers with Kuengzang and Leki. Everyone was laughing when Kuenzang told me that I was singing a hand washing song in Bhutanese, while I thought it was a romantic song. Our trip to Bhutan was a memorable one, where we never felt homesick.

I am holding all the people I met in Bhutan in my heart.

Nilufa & family
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