Posts tagged ‘Thimphu’

Bhutan: Photos From the Travelers

One last note from the Alumni Association’s trip to Bhutan:

Bhutan is a spectacularly photogenic country, from its lush mountains and valleys, to its friendly people, to its Buddhist-inspired architecture. Their ubiquitous stray dogs are pretty cute, too. I asked the trip participants if they’d be willing to share some of their photos with me, and below is a slide show of about 30 or so images they contributed.


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Tina Hay, editor

June 4, 2013 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

This Traffic Cop is Poetry in Motion

DSC_1605_med_traffic_copThimphu, Bhutan, is said to be the world’s only capital city to not have a traffic light. In fact, I think it’s safe to assume that there are no traffic lights anywhere in Bhutan, because if the capital city (population: about 75,000) doesn’t have one, the smaller cities elsewhere are even less likely to.

One busy intersection in Thimphu does have a kiosk where a police officer directs traffic in a graceful, almost mesmerizing series of gestures—even if we didn’t exactly understand what his gestures meant. Combine the mysterious hand movements with the fact that people drive on the left side of the road in Bhutan and, well, I think I’d be better off letting someone else do the driving.

Penn State traveler Julie Nelson shot the one-minute video clip below during the Alumni Association’s trip to Bhutan. Note that of all his signals, not one of them seems to say “stop” or “wait.” Yet somehow it works.

Tina Hay, editor

May 28, 2013 at 9:19 am 2 comments

A Jam-Packed First Few Days in Bhutan


Greetings from Punakha, a city of about 30,000 in western Bhutan. It’s the former capital—Thimphu is now the capital—and is still the spiritual capital of the country. I’m a little fuzzy on what qualifies a city to be the spiritual capital, but I suspect I’ll have a better grip on that after we visit the dzong (kind of a combination of fortress/palace/monastery) later today.

Here’s just a sampling of what we’ve done in our first few days over here:

—visited a school where Bhutanese teenagers spend six years learning any of 13 handcrafts, such as woodcarving, painting, sculpture, and embroidery;

—visited a small factory where workers make paper by hand from the bark of the daphne plant;

—went to the post office to browse (and buy some of) the fancy stamps that Bhutan is famous for;

—eaten a lot of foods that I can’t pronounce, but that involve things like red rice, river grass soup, mustard oil, and green chiles;

—seen lots of Buddhist prayer flags and smelled so much incense I thought we were back in the ’60s; and

—hung out for an evening with the country’s chief elections commissioner, who happens to be a Penn Stater: Kunzang Wangdi ’80. 

I’ll share a few photos with you for now, and hope to update you more in a few days, when we get to a spot that has better wi-fi access. First, to give you a sense of the scenery, here’s what awaited us when we landed at Paro airport (Bhutan’s only international airport) the other day:


That’s an Airbus operated by Druk Air, the national—and only—airline of Bhutan. If you click to enlarge the photo, you can see that on the tail is the national flag, the emblem of a dragon.

Next, some of the students at the painting school. Check out the guy on the left—apparently the occasional bout of boredom in the classroom is a universal phenomenon:


Something we noticed from the moment we landed is how thoroughly Buddhist a country this is. Prayer flags are everywhere, and when we visited the Memorial Chorten (a large Buddhist shrine in Thimphu), you could see people like the guy below, walking around twirling their prayer wheels:


After a couple of days in the capital city of Thimphu, we headed off to the Punakha Valley, a three-hour ride over a bumpy, narrow, mountain road that is essentially the national highway. It’s the only road between Thimphu and parts east. Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like out the front windshield of our maxi-van:


By the way, people drive on the left side of the road over here.

After our stay here in Punakha, we head to a city called Gangtey, where we’re told the electricity will be a little hit-or-miss. I’m guessing that Internet access will be out of the question. Other than an upcoming post about the local currency, it may be a few days before I can post again. Talk to you then.

Tina Hay, editor

May 18, 2013 at 1:08 am 1 comment

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