Punakah to Thimphu to Paro

Today we logged 4-5 bumpy, gut-turning hours driving west back to Paro.  Sue had a rough bout of nausea on the long climb back over the pass, but her stomach settled at the summit and she felt better on the descent to Thimphu.  There we strolled the Saturday Market- a farmer’s market on a grand scale.  Grains and spices downstairs, meats and produce up.  Many stalls had similar fare; Sengay advises that buyers cater to a favorite vendor.  Sue took some nice shots

A short drive took us to the ex-pat favorite Four Seasons Pizza, which has a menu reminiscent of Wolfgang Puck.  Max chose Hawaiian, I picked Pepperoni & Sundried Tomatoes, and Sue had mushroom, Ben had cheese (of course), but we might have chosen spiced chicken with chili cheese and pesto.  Sengay lobbed a call in to Fin, who showed up with a basketball for the boys; his Brandice-graduate brother Lotay Rinchen joined us soon after and we had a very pleasant lunch getting to know Lotay and catching up on our travels.

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The brothers are fine guide-hosts, friendly and hospitable, both are American colleges grads with excellent English and they’re well-travelled… I’d recommend them and there enterprise bridge-to-Bhutan strongly to any interested in Bhutan.  They left us a kind gift – a signed photo album of Bhutan and some local snacks and soaps.

Re-tracing our drive west from Thimphu back to Paro, the boys had some device time and Sue and I occupied ourselves logging some of the quaint roadside signs found along the National Highway.  My Top 10 Bhutanese Road signs:

  1. Better Late than Never
    9. Drinking and Driving: A Fatal Cocktail
    8. Speed Thrills but Kills
    7. Alert Today – Alive Tomorrow
    6. Live Life for Today – Drive for Tomorrow
    5. Drive Slow – Someone’s Waiting at Home
    4. Keep your Nerves on Sharp Curves
    3. For Safe Arriving No Liquor and Driving
    2. If you are Married, Divorce Speed

And the #1 Bhutanese roadside reminder….

  1. Driving with Whiskey: Mighty Risky

The signs are reminders for a society with little driving experience, rough roads and treacherous terrain.  Fog freezes on the passes creating black ice; we passed several accidents on our drives, and there’s a chorten dedicated to highway casualties.

We arrived in Paro by midafternoon and dove north up the valley, past the airport to the Dzong’s watchtower, which now serves as a respectable National Museum.  Tourist entry fees there are 20x the local rates… but that exchanges to $3.50 each, which seems a fair price.  The exhibits of masks, tapestries, natural history were impressive, and the  views outstanding… we raced down the path to get a clear view of a plane landing at the Paro airport below us.

Sengay then took us to the downtown basketball court so we could air the boys out.  Turns out Sengay played some hoops in high school, and he has a respectable jumper, though his Gho and traditional shoes aren’t the best attire for pumping leather.  Max and Ben were a curiosity and local teens soon turned out with their own ball.

We’re mostly glad the boys have each other, but sometimes that insulates them from chance encounters with strangers, which in my experience is the greatest joy of travels.  But soon enough they were drawn in and the games were on… enjoy these pix of Bhutanese basketball.  They’re excellent ball handlers!

After an hour, we offered our thanks (“kadinche la”), and drove up the hill to our swank hotel… big, wood paneled rooms with balconies and panoramic views across the valley to the well-lit Dzong.

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