Heading back toward Thimphu we stopped for tea at the 108 stupas, sporting some 10,000 feet above sea level. We keep hoping our bodies adjust to the daily ups and downs in altitude but still some of us struggle, feeling nauseous, winded or fatigued after walking just a few meters to the cafe.
There is a lovely art school in Thimphu called the National Institute for Zorig Chusum (aka the Painting School) where students spend six years learning 13 traditional arts and crafts such as mask carving, weaving fabrics, embroidery, painting mandalas, and more. We toured the school, watching students in action. This is not easy work, sitting still and hyper focused on minute details for hours, day after day. But look at the results! The masks take eight days to carve (add two to three days for masks with horns) then a final day for painting.
Heading back toward Paro, we saw shepherds casually grazing ponies in and along the river. I was struck by the simple lifestyle (and clean water!) and despite, the poverty of the general population, they are happy, friendly people.
After lunch back in Paro, there was downtime for shopping and exploring. A famous parasitic mushroom called Cordyceps, used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is endemic to the Himalayas and purported for its powerful healing properties to fight cancer, diabetes, aging, inflammation, improve heart health, and more.* Our group found them in abundance in nearby shops in the form of tea, powder, dried mushrooms, capsules, and the worm-like unprocessed form. Are you familiar with Cordyceps? Knowing what you now know, would you try them?
While shopping I had the immense pleasure of meeting these shop owners while browsing their aisles of organic incense, gorgeous scarves, symbolic Buddhist tools and paraphernalia, handwoven fabric, jewelry, and more.
Tashi Wangmo (meaning lucky long life), pictured with me, had a warm, welcoming smile and loving energy that made me feel immediately at home. She was self-conscious of her English but I assured her it was far better than my Bhutanese! We enjoyed an easy laugh together and were joined by the owner, Yeshi Samdup (meaning wisdom, wishful filling), who was too shy for a photo (or selflessly wanting Tashi to have the spotlight).
We talked about life in Bhutan, they shared how generous the king and queen were during covid in helping citizens whose shops had closed, and were curious about life in the U.S. Yeshi is hoping to get into an English speaking university outside of Bhutan soon.
After days of traditional, spicy Bhutanese food like dal baht and thali (nearly every meal is made with chilies, the national dish of Ema Datshi being no exception), the group was ready for a dinner of pizza, beer, and the traditional ginger-lemon-honey tea found everywhere so we found a great place upstairs on the Main Street called Authentic Pizza and fed nine people all they could eat and drink for the equivalent of $47 USD.
Our hotel was the Metta Resort & Spa, which surprised us with hand painted Bhutanese symbols on walls in our rooms, beautiful gardens, and a gorgeous meditation room for our evening practice with tour leader, David Gandelman.
After a full day of adventure, art, shopping, food, nature, and incredible meditation teachings we called it a day.
Thanks for reading this far. I appreciate you being here. For more photos, check out my Instagram page.
* I am not a medical professional. This is information I gained in my travels and is not meant to diagnose or treat symptoms or disease of any kind. Talk to your doctor about these resources before using or experimenting with them.
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