Land of the Fire Dragon-Druk Yul (Bhutan)
5 students from class IX and 11 students from class VIII were selected to attend the 3rd chapter of the Student Exchange to Bhutan. The programme was from the 1st to the 10th of August 2014.They were escorted by Mrs. Rakhee Mishra.
The various objectives of the programme aimed to eliminate fear and prejudice among nations and strengthen networking between students apart from broadening their personal and educational perspectives.
We left school on the morning of 31st July for New Delhi with a lot of excitement and next day boarded the flight to Paro. At the airport we met the students of Welhams Girls’ School, Dehradun, and Vasant Valley School, New Delhi and our guide and mentor Mrs.Beenu Khanna. Our flight to Paro was for 2 hours with a stopover at Kathmandu. As soon as we took off from Kathmandu, the pilot announced asked us to look out of the window for a glimpse of the majestic Mt. Everest. We tried to click many pictures but not one could do justice to it magnificence. We were soon to realize that this would be true of practically every beautiful sight that we saw from now on. Soon after Mt. Everest, our pilot pointed out K2, the 2nd highest mountain range in the world.
A very large portrait of King and Queen of Bhutan greeted us at the airport. As we were to soon discover, the Bhutanese have a great love for their Monarch who is almost at par with the Gods.
From Paro we went to Thimphu by road. With this picturesque drive our love affair with the country started. All along the drive, we were accompanied by the great river Muchu which later met river Paro chuu. At the confluence were the three types of stupas which were to see throughout our jouney.These three types were the Indian style, Buddhist style and the Bhutanese style.
After settling down at the Hotel 89 in Thimphu we went for a small stroll in the town…..oh! How quiet. No body honked and the pedestrians had the first right to cross the road.
During the course of our stay we visited many places. These were:
1.Doecheling Middle Secondary school which was a government school.
2.Yoserling high school which was a private school. Here we witnessed two football matches and performed the Thali dance and sang a Rajasthani folk song.
3.Two monastic schools where we witnessed the lives of the monks.
4.Zurig Chusum- a school which provided training in the 13 traditional art forms of Bhutan .These included Pottery, Embroidery, wood carving, sculpturing , drawing , iconographic painting (Tankha paintings),slate carving, paper making,silver and gold work, stone art , weaving, appliqué, Bronze casting and black smithery.
5.Buddha Point which housed the largest Buddha statue in Bhutan
6.VAST (Voluntary Artists Studio, Thimphu) –Contemporary art studio run by Mr.KamaWangdi or Asha Kama as he is popularly known.
7.Phobjika Valley is a beautiful glacier valley where the graceful black necked cranes are said to visit each year. Here we started our trek from the Gangteng monastery.
8.Temple of the Divine madman or Chimi Lhakhang in Punakha.
9.Punakha dzong where the coronation of the first king took place and also the marriage of the present king.
10.Visited Gakey- cultural centre for Performing arts where we witnessed 8 different kinds of Bhutanese dances
11.Dochu La pass which has 108 stupas which have been built in the memory of the soldiers who lost their lives in the battle to oust the Bodo and ULFA militants who had been hiding in the forests of Bhutan.
12.Visit to India house to meet the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan. We had an interesting interactive session where the Ambassador patiently answered many of our questions regarding his job, Bhutan, our relations with Bhutan and also his personal life.
13.Trek to the famous and much awaited Tiger’s nest. It was a very arduous trek and took us almost 5 hours to climb up but the sight of the magnificient Monastary was totally worth the trouble. The monastery is also known as Taktsang in Bhutanese and it was here that Guru Padmasambhava (or Guru Rinpoche, as he is known in Bhutan), founder of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism, came to Bhutan.
15.Flea market in Thimphu which seemed straight out of a fairy tale movie
16.MotithangTakin Reserve in Thimpu, where we saw Takin, the national animal of Bhutan.
17.Music concert by the Himalayan Music School in the main town square of Thimphu.
Apart from these major attractions, there were many moments we would remember for a long time to come like the picnic by the river Wang Chuu, evening snack at the Swiss bakery, trek on the suspension bridge over the river Paro Chuu, the immensely beautiful flowers, lovely rainbows, majestic mountains crowned with clouds, lush green forests, many bubbling rivers and sprawling grassy plains - Druk Yul, we will miss it all.
With that came an end to our trip where we made many new friends and got an insight into the lives and cultural of Bhutanese people. So we bid adieu to the country with a heavy heart and a promise to go back once more.