sacred mountain passes of western bhutan

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[My below post was published in the September–October 2016 edition of Druk Air’s in-flight magazine Tashi Delek. All proceeds from my fees went to support the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, a charity run by the queen mother in aid of women’s empowerment and education.]

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Sacred
‘seɪkrɪd (Adjective)
Regarded with reverence, awe, or respect

Mountain pass
‘maʊntɪn pɑːs (Noun)
A route through a mountain range

Reading up about Bhutan during my travels, I came across a quote by Jeffrey Rasley, spiritual seeker and adventure traveller that perhaps best sums up the mountain experience: “Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.”

Whether it is angels or demons in your case [in mine it is usually both], mountains have often enough been associated with the sacred, and none more so than the Himalayas, and like all other mountain realms in the region—Bhutan. Perhaps because mountains are closer to the heavens and impregnable to traverse, the routes through them lets us ordinary folks get up close and personal to the sacrosanct in them. And everything feels OK. 🙂 Continue reading

the taktsang trek for the non-trekker

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That little white speck in the middle—that’s the destination, Taktsang Palphug Monastery, Bhutan. The climb up the ravine—that’s the journey 🙂

I am not a trekker. Don’t get me wrong. I am not lazy. 😛 I can walk miles and miles. But walking on level ground and up boulders, shrubbery, and running streams are two very different things. My excuse is that I spend most of my time in large metropolises. I am aware it is a weak argument. I know many, way more urbane than me, who sip their wines amidst swirls and dress as if they’d just stepped out of a fashion glossy, able to clamber up a mountain with equal ease. How do they do it??? I’d love to be able to. Truly.

But that has not stopped me from attempting climbs and treks which are universally accepted as being spectacular. And doable. Taktsang Trek was one such. Continue reading

punakha dzong: bhutan’s most beautiful dzong

Magical things happen when nature, history and humankind, with a dash of the spiritual come together. More so when it is Bhutan, and even more so in a 1637 Palace of Great Happiness built on the confluence of two rivers, charmingly named Pho Chhu [father] and Mo Chhu [mother].

If there is only one dzong you get to see in the Thunder Dragon Kingdom, let it be the Punakha Dzong, or the Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong built by Ngawang Namgyal (1594–1651), 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche [Great Lama] and founder of the Bhutanese State. Continue reading

tibet 1: tsedang, the road less travelled … mountains and monasteries

[In 2004 I travelled to Tibet on my own. I hired a 4X4, got a driver and guide, and drove through the mountains for seven days, stopping at monasteries on the way. My Tibet series documents this journey.]

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Tibet, a land of high plateaus and magnificent mountain peaks studded with monasteries in its remote folds, seems to be just that little closer to god. Welcomed with a smile and white silk Hada (holy scarf) wrapped around my shoulders, my soul stood on mountain passes where I could touch the skies. And monasteries and temples invited me in to spend a moment or two in god’s own abode. Come, travel with me on my journey of history, myths, the power of belief and Himalayan grandeur. 🙂 Continue reading