Departing on the train
Arrived to Yangon
I’ve arrived to Yangon and had a chance to tour the old city on foot as well as visit all 13 rooms in the 5 floors of the National Museum. The cacophony of old and new was amazing, thee streets seemed to be an endless marketplace of diverse peoples, food, and goods. Yangon is the capital of the Yangon Region of Myanmar. Yangon served as the capital of Myanmar until 2006, when the military government relocated the capital to the purpose-built city of Naypyidaw in central Myanmar. With over 7 million people, Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city.
Kaiwa Ridge Trail Hike, Lanikai
Finished the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as the Ka`iwa Ridge Trail. It is one of the Oahu hiking trails with awesome coastal views and vistas. Its an intermediate hike rising, a bit steep and eroded in places, just above beautiful Lanikai Beach.
Another holiday! – Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Unifier of Bhutan.
Today, residents throughout the country celebrated the observance of the Death Anniversary of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Unifier of Bhutan. All Government offices and schools in the Kingdom were closed. In Thimphu, residents visited Lhakhangs and Goendeys, including the Memorial Chorten and Changangkha Lhakhang and offer prayers and various gifts, primarily food. Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel (1594–1651) was a Tibetan Buddhist lama and the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state. In addition to unifying the various warring fiefdoms for the first time in the 1630s, he also sought to create a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity separate from the Tibetan culture from which it was derived. In 1627, the first European visitors to Bhutan (the Portuguese Jesuits Estevao Cacella and João Cabral) found the Shabdrung to be a compassionate and intelligent host, of high energy and fond of art and writing. In keeping with his position as a high lama he was also meditative and had just completed a three-year silent retreat. He was proud to have the Jesuits as guests of his court and was reluctant to grant them permission to leave and offered to support their proselytizing efforts with manpower and church-building funds, but they pressed on to Tibet in […]
Inside Shangri-La: the Birth Anniversary of 3rd Druk Gyalpo and today’s holiday
Today, is a national public holiday in Bhutan. It is a day when Bhutanese remember and honor the birth anniversary of Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the Third Dragon King of Bhutan. It is also celebrated as Teachers’ Day because it is the Third Druk Gyalpo who is known as the Father of Modern Bhutan since he first began the modernization of the educational system throughout the country. His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was born May 2, 1929 in Thruepang Palace in Trongsa. His Majesty married Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck (b. 1930), the daughter of Gongzim (Lord Chamberlain) Sonam Tobgay Dorji (1896–1953), in 1951. The royal wedding was held in Paro Garden Palace. The following year, His Majesty became the King after his father died in Kuenga Rabten Palace. Coronation was held in Punakha dzong on 27 October 1952. He was only 24. In contrast to his father and grand-father, Bhutan’s third king did not continue to keep his country secluded from the world. Upon ascending to the throne, he began to open Bhutan to the outside world and took the first steps toward democratization. By 1958, the development of Bhutan’s modern infrastructure was well underway, with assistance from […]
Inside Shangri-La: Stalking the Wild ‘Dong Gyem Tsey’
I woke early before the sun rose over the Thimphu valley to hike to an area, home to the mythical creature known as the Takin or ‘Dong Gyem Tsey’. While fishing on the Haa Chhu river last weekend, I was told a legend about the origins of this mythical creature. Back in the 15th century, a now famous Tibetan lama named Drukpa Kunley, or more commonly known to the Bhutanese as “The Divine Madman” has been credited with the creatures creation. Drukpa was a devoted religious man, a monk and a poet. One day he had been teaching local villagers one of his lectures when they requested he demonstrate his spiritual power through a miraculous event. So the Lama agreed to conjure up a single miracle if, and only if he would be served a whole cow and a whole goat for lunch. The villagers prepared the food and served him. The “Divine Madman” quickly devoured the meal, separating the bones of the distinctive animals into two piles. He then recklessly took the head of the goat and placed it onto the skeleton of the cow, snapped his finger and the Takin, a half goat and half cow creature, arose. […]
Archery – Bhutan’s National Sport
Archery has been described as a “celebration of the Bhutanese way of life.” Although archery became Bhutan’s national sport only in 1971, love for the sport dates back more than 1500 years, when an Indian prince proved his aim, accuracy, and strength in an archery contest to win the heart of a beautiful princess. Historically, the bow and arrow have aided the Bhutanese in battle, and today archery is a symbol of festivity and athletic competition. Nearly every village in Bhutan has an archery field, and no celebration is complete without an archery contest and mask dances. Traditional tournaments between villages are contests for honor, and include feasts and prizes. Targets at traditional Bhutanese tournaments are placed at both ends of a 145 meter range. Archers shoot arrows at each target on the opposite end of the range. Competitors dance in celebration when archers hit their target. Although traditional Bhutanese bows and arrows were made of bamboo, most tournament archers today use modern compound bows from the United States.
Fun Fact – Bhutan’s Traffic Police
Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan with a population of about 104,000 residents, is one of only two capital cities in the world without traffic lights. Ironically, the other one is the Kingdom of Tonga. A set of traffic lights, however, were in fact installed several years ago, but residents complained that it was too impersonal. This is why the beloved white-gloved policeman continue to direct traffic today. This scene is most likely the most photographed in the small city.
Paro Airport, Bhutan – An Exciting Landing…
After a 3 hour flight, I arrived today from Thailand landing in the main airport in Paro. We arrived a bit early so we could avoid the arrival of the Bangalesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed who will be visiting Thimphu for the next few days. The airport is the sole international airport of the four airports in the Kingdom of Bhutan. The airport rests at about 1.5 miles (7,700 ft.) above sea level and is surrounded by summits of up to 18,000 ft. tall mountains. According to Boeing airlines, its the most most difficult airport for takeoffs and landings in the world.Today, Bhutan has only 2 airlines Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines. Our approach was a winding path through a narrow valley, with scattered houses below (see video). Despite the variable conditions, the view of the forest of the Himalayas and crystal clear water of the Paro River were breathtaking. In the distance stood Sagarmāthā or Mt. Everest’s summit at more than 29,000 ft. Follow me: @michaelbthomas on | MichaelBravoThomas on
The Blue Poppy – Bhutan’s National Flower
The Blue Poppy, the National Flower of Bhutan, is known locally as ‘Euitgel Metog Hoem’. Its biological name was Meconopsis grandis (Papaveraceae). At one time, people considered this plant to be a myth because its existence had not been confirmed but they can be found along high mountain passes from the far eastern parts of the country across to the west. Recently in 2017, after three years of study (reference) conducted by the National Biodiversity Centre, Bhutan, and the Blue Poppy Society in Japan, it was found that the national flower of Bhutan was misidentified as Meconopsis grandis. Meconopsis grandis is not found in Bhutan and the earlier Blue Poppy was named based on specimens collected in 1933. Through field experience and studies, the National Biodiversity Centre noticed the differences. A new species was discovered and it was given a dzongkha name ‘Gakyid (དགའ་སྐྱིད)’. The name was inspired by the concept of Gross National Happiness. So the new species is named as Meconopsis gakyidiana. Another two new species of blue poppy were also discovered in addition to the national flower of Bhutan. They are named as Meconopsis merakensis and Meconopsis elongata. The new species can be found in Merak (མེ་རག), […]
People of Bhutan
Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops and Sharchops, called the Western Bhutanese and Eastern Bhutanese respectively. The Lhotshampa, meaning “southerner Bhutanese”, are a heterogeneous group of mostly Nepal ancestry.
Bhutan is called Druk Yul – Land of the Thunder Dragon
About the Kingdom of Bhutan Bhutan (/buːˈtɑːn/; འབྲུག་ཡུལ་ druk yul), officially the Kingdom of Bhutan (འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་ druk gyal khap), is a landlocked country in Asia and the smallest state located entirely within the Himalaya mountain range. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by China in the north and India in the south. Bhutan lacks a border with nearby Nepal due to the Indian state of Sikkim and with Bangladesh due to the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam. Bhutan is geopolitically in South Asia and is the region’s second least populous nation after the Maldives. Thimphu is its capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center. Below is a brief introduction to Bhutan by the Prime Minister, Teshering Tobgay. In this TedTalk presentation he shares an introduction to his country, and it’s mission to put happiness before economic growth and set a world standard for environmental preservation.