Charamellas do Bhutan

It is no easy journey to Bhutan. When I arrived I was out of breathe and jet lagged for a week. Globetrotters Nancy and Bob, however, were champs and hardly seemed not to notice they were suddenly 8,000 ft above sea level and half a day ahead of their bodies. They arrived cheery and bearing gifts of jerky, coffee, protein powder, crafting supplies, hand knitted scarves and cuddle duds. 
We spent the first week exploring the Thimphu craft markets, paper factory, textile museum, observing the weavers, and hiking to several of the nearby monasteries. 

Walking around we were often asked where our tour guide was. People couldn't figure out what the hell this group of four chillups was doing unaccompanied. Their experience was most certainly the opposite of what most tourists are exposed to in Bhutan. The Charamella's are of the lucky few awarded a guest visa which means they didn't have to book with an approved travel agency. They're here on our watch with first row seats to the real Thimphu stye. No itineraries, no $1000 per night accommodations, no buffets, no luxury vans, no bullshit.

The rancid smells; wet doma spit that sticks to the bottom of your brand new hiking boot; manged dogs and decrepit old men mumbling prayers while they limp clockwise around the chorten; kids with snotty noses and rotten teeth; monks on Iphones; Royalty speeding up Hollywood Hill in their Range Rovers. These things are as much a part of Bhutan as the red cheeked babies, towering mountains and impossibly placed monasteries that inspire so many extravagantly worthy adjectives.

Bob and Nancy were down for it all. Totally along for the ride. I commend them for being so adaptable and quite brave, really, to leave it all in our hands.  

They rented a little apartment in our Rabten compound and we ate dinner at our place each night, sitting on the floor around the coffee table in our living room as we only have two chairs at the kitchen table. We had pizza delivered for Thanksgiving dinner. Bob fell in love with the local momos (dumplings) and made an admiral effort with the spiciness of, well,  everything. 

The days were gorgeous; hot sun with cool breezes and chilly shadows. We hiked through flag forests, villages and terraced fields. Prostrated barefoot inside temples with freezing wooden floors, sprinkled perfumed water over our heads, were bombarded by playful barking deer chasing each other straight down the vertical mountain, made many dog friends and met lots of characters along the way.

At Wangditsa monastery

restorations at Wangdi tse lhakhang

handsome and he knows it
tea overlooking Thimphu valley

this sweet soul invited me and Nancy into the little prayer wheel house. He leans against the steps after

this sweet soul wanted to sell us earrings
She waited until the others had walked past to pull out the kitten for me. Her face when she unveiled him was priceless

ashes of the dead are compressed into these little cones and left at holy sites

one of our favorite village walks from Bagana back to Thimphu
Happy Bhutan

OG harvesting local red rice

studious monks
wall paintings in one of the Thimphu lhakhangs (monastery)

I'm obsessed with the Buddhist clouds
the weaver's room at the Royal Textile Academy
"Apbokto", the museum mascot, up to his usual shananigans while his mom weaves.
Apbokto means 'fat little man' and is also local hit animated kid's movie. Here he's chewing doma.. Naughty boy
backstrap looms

Nancy helped untangle some of the bewilderment in my head when I stare at a loom. The entire process remains an unfathomable task for me and I am humbled to witness what goes into every intricate square of cloth. An understanding that true progress is measured in increments 0.5 cm.

Paper Factory; laying out sheets of wet paper. They drip dry in a stack and then peel apart once dried in the sun

shredding daphne fibers to make the paper pulp
this cutie kindly escorted me and Nancy when we asked for directions

Clock Tower Square, brothers dressed up for their kindergarten graduation
Thanksgiving day hike to Cherri Lhakhang.
a Barking Deer! this one tolerated my creeping for quite a while.
Bird Watchers delight! Yellow Billed Blue Magpie

Our crew
Cherri monastery from below + zoom
we walked a long way before we found  cab...
the trees have eyes

And of course, the best for last! Did you think Nanc and Bob were gonna miss out on the penis party?? I think not. This is just a teaser, more on the penises very soon. Promise.