Being a tourist is fun. But, have you ever been a traveller?
This post is a continuation of my Bhutan story — an ode to the wonderful times I spent in the Land of Thunder Dragon.
This is about the day my friend Vipasha and I spent roaming the streets of Thimphu. No, not the tourist spots, but the lanes around our AirBnb, the little villages obscured from view, interacting with locals and having one of the most beautiful days of our lives.
The day started with our hosts at the AirBnB very generously cooking us a hearty breakfast of Ema Datshi (sauteed capsicum and cheese) with rice. Bellies full, we set on our little adventure.
The first friends we made were Rocco and Taffy — two absolutely adorable balls of fluff that wagged their tails and ran up to us as we stepped out. The dogs belonged to a neighbour and were so full of energy, that running around and playing with them tired us out.
Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun.
Then, we walked around clicking pictures. Our AirBnB was some way up a mountain, and the road down to the village below offered a breath-taking view of the city. We stood on the edge of the trail, looking down on the Thimphu valley surrounded by hills. Hundreds of houses that appeared like lego blocks dotted the city in its entirety. The magnificent Thimphu river snaking around the lush greenery was a sight for sore eyes. Clouds as white as cotton candy adorned the hills like a dreamy wreath. The morning sun was so bright, it seemed as if light emanated not just from the sky, but from every perfect blade of grass on the valley below.
After admiring the scene, we walked on. Two little children were playing ball in the courtyard of a house supervised by their mother. We waved to them and all three of them waved back. She told us something in a language we couldn’t understand. So, she walked up to us and beckoned us in. We stood there for a while, hesitating, not sure how to respond. But one of the kids threw a ball to Vipasha, gesturing her to pass it on to me.
How could you say no to a rosy-cheeked child with excitement glistening in his eyes?
We stayed and played till we could play no more, then, we waved them a cheery goodbye and made our way downhill.
We found a hamlet nestled among the foothills. The houses were small, the courtyards adjoining them green and full of trees that we didn’t know the names of. Quite unexpectedly, we walked into a small orchard of apples. There was an old man wrapped in a red shawl who was seated near the gate. When he spotted us, his wrinkled face split into a wide grin as he opened the gate and invited us in. Awestruck, we looked around- there were a few women carrying baskets who smiled at us and gestured with their free hands towards the orchard. Taking it to be a sign of welcome, we walked in.
Instantly, we were greeted with the overwhelming scent of freshly-cut grass and ripe apples. It was a sight to behold — those trees with thin branches, each drooping with what seemed like a hundred bright-red apples.
The old man spoke to us, but, when we couldn’t understand what he was saying, he walked up to a tree, picked an apple from its branches, bit off a mouthful and started chomping in glee. This was too good an offer to turn down. The generosity and kindness of the Bhutanese people surprised us.
We took two apples each, thanked the man as profusely as we could, and walked out of the orchard.
Those apples were red and ripe, each bite dripping with sweet juice. They were delicious. I think my smile says it all.
It was almost evening now, and though we were giddy with happiness, it was time to return to our AirBnB. The rest of our friends had spent the day indoors playing cards. We joined in as soon as we arrived. It was a wonderful evening, made better by a special treat we had asked our cab driver to purchase for us.
Alcohol is dirt-cheap in Bhutan. Also, the local brands of peach and red wine are tastier than any I’ve had before. Let’s suffice to say the night ended on a high.
Thimphu offered us wonderful experiences. This was just a glimpse into the wonder and merriment the country has to offer.
Vipasha and I adored the place. And before we packed up and left for Paro, we had to click a picture that expressed our love for the city.
Paro was another wonderful place, another spectacular adventure. I will write about the city soon. Till then, stay tuned, and join my email list to keep in touch.