Category Archives: Living in Happiness

Pigss do fly

In Bhutan at least.  Seriously! Fact! True!

I have come across them on many occasions.  How high were they….pretty damn high!

Too much of the wacky backy had left them like Cheech and Chong, these guys were so stoned there wasn’t even a grunt out of them.  On my walk to work I pass by so much weed, and by weed I mean marijuana, growing wild everywhere.  You can’t go five meters without seeing the stuff (and this is in the middle of the city).  It’s funny that in a country where it grows literally as a weed, they have a prescription drugs problem.  And as its growth is so widespread, it is collected and promptly fed to pigs.  This may explain the ridiculous amounts of fat which you find when you order pork here.  It comes to the table diced and sliced into large pieces, about 1cm meat and 5cm of fat.  I am not joking; I actually can’t eat much of it, the thoughts of eating that much fat turns me off and there is not much that is edible that can do that.

The Bhutanese however, love the stuff.  May be like the pigs strict weed diet, it is somehow affecting me. What do they feed the chickens and cows?  Or maybe by not eating enough of the pork I’m missing out some of its possible medicinal properties?
Medicinal properties you ask!!? Well, I have managed to knock off an impressive 11kg over the last three months aided and abetted by a few under-the-weather-moments.  While the food is good, the quality of meat can sometimes be hit or miss and therefore my appetite has taken a beating over the weeks.  Being a good boy, I haven’t been tempted to overcome my reduced appetite with ‘the munchies’!

Perhaps I’m just a little too adventurous with the food – or not adventurous enough! Of course this will be hard for any of you to believe knowing my penchant for food; in fact, I imagine you find this news distressing.  You’ll be glad to know its holy month here…again and I was recently informed that there are four a year and so no meat is sold.  Jazus.

All I can say is, Bhutan gives a whole new meaning to ‘happy as pig in shit’!

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Its just a phallus after all

Willies, dick’s, penis’s, phalluses call them what you will – but you’ll find them all in Bhutan.  Dotted all around the country in all manners of erect glory.  They are made, with sensitivity I’d imagine, from wood, clay or metal and are placed over doorways and the eaves or painted on the exterior of buildings maybe a meter or more in length, some spurting others not.  Locals pass no remarks; they get more amusement out of the tourists taking pictures.

To the western eye this may seem crude.  There is no way for shying away these effigies.  But why do the Bhutanese create them?

It is believed that the phallus formed an important part of the Bon religion before the advent of Buddhism in Bhutan.  Although Bon religion,or elements of, are believed to still be practiced, in small very remote parts of Bhutan but has generally died out.  It is referred to as an animalistic and shamanistic faith.  This religion was the worship of nature – sun, water, mountains etc.

In the same way as paganism was incorporated into Catholicism in Ireland, elements of Bon religion are found in Buddhism.   The common perception by many Bhutanese is Lam Drukpa Kinley known as the Divine Madman.  With a reputation for his unrestrained sexual practices and his rebellious nature against an entrenched Buddhist hierarchy, Lam Drukpa Kinley used his wild ways not just to shock the leaders of their faith but to satisfy his sexual needs on unsuspecting females and even subduing demoness’s with his reportedly overwhelming manhood.  The monastery of Chimmi Lhakhang in Lobesa, Thimphu, is dedicated to this Saint.  Many couples wishing to start a family can seek a blessing from a Lama who taps the pair with a phallus to the crown of the head.

Leaving aside this Divine Madman, the phalluses are believed to ward off evil spirits and protect houses/people.  When blessing (!) a newly built house the phallus plays a leading role.

Five phalluses (or daggers) are used, signifying the five different manifestations of Lord Jambayang (a god).  According to Dasho Lam Sanga “On the eastern eave is placed a white dagger representing peace, purity, and harmony.  A red coloured dagger representing wealth and power is placed on the west.  The yellow dagger representing prosperity is placed on the south, and on the north is placed the green dagger representing protection. The fifth dagger placed inside the house is usually blue in colour and symbolizes wisdom.”  These are put in place in a tug-of-war like ceremony between the men on the roof and the women at ground level standing on the eastern eave of the house.  A basket of five cocks are tied along the rope and the games begin.  Eventually the phalluses reach the eaves of the house and are put in place.  I’m told quite a bit of Ara (local wine) is also involved ….. maybe its helps with any performance anxiety 😉

Thanks to www.keystobhutan.com for some of the info.

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Epic Mission, Great Adventure

I face the 3rd last mountain pass trying to get back to our base camp.  Tashi and I are out front, another two are about 15 minutes behind us and another group of three is at least 90 minutes behind them.  We’re in a white out, I want to say that low cloud cover has smothered us but since we are at least 4.3km (14,000ft) above sea level somehow I think the clouds are exactly where they are meant to be.  Not realizing the height at which we would trek to, I had not taken medication to combat altitude sickness, I’m nauseous, my legs are exhausted and have been for the last three hours, with every step is a struggle.

We left from the telecommunication tower above Thimphu at 7.30 that morning.  Backpacks filled for the overnight camp.  I have our dinner packed away in my rug sack and we take it in turns to carry the tents.  It takes us 4 hours to climb to Phajodhing monastery from 2,300m to 3,600m where we eat lunch.  We drop off the backpacks into the monastery, we’ll camp here tonight.  At 11.45am we set out on the second half of the climb and what we believe will take us 2hrs to reach our destination, Simkotra Tsho, a high mountain lake.  The first hour and a half gets up to the first pass at Thujedrag Goenpa (4,070m).  The first signs of the near permanent snow is scattered across the mountain peaks which are laid out before us.  Kinlay, who has trekked this route, known to as the “Druk” path, 9 times but the last time was over ten years ago.  He believes that the lakes are just over the next mountain pass.

Five passes later and we reach the lake, its visible we’re all shattered; we look down on the lake from a cliff ledge as it is laid out below us, about the size of a football pitch, perched above the valley far below.  Three of the group discuss going down the 150m to the lake edge, I have no problems in letting them know that I’m not able.  I really feel the altitude at this point and my stomach is doing summersaults.  The three start the descent as we wait, its 4.00pm at this point.  It’s taken us over 4 hours to get here and I’m conscious that we have only a couple hours of light left.  I decide I’m going to start back to camp and the other three are only too keen join me.  We signal to the others that we’re off.   The clouds have moved in at this point.  One of our group is suffering from a bad headache, a sure sign of altitude sickness while the second is nauseous.  All four of us are beyond tired.

The third last mountain pass was a bitch, Tashi and I broke away from the other two, I knew I needed/wanted to get to a lower altitude.  The gradual incline for more than a kilometer rising to a height of 4,300m was killing me.  We stopped at least five or six times, from our snail’s pace, to rest and catch our breath.  We finally get there.  We make it back to the last pass above Phajodhing at 5.20pm and wait for the two behind us.  I was worried, Kinlay was pretty sick and I could see in his face he was scared.  Tashi and I had agreed to wait at the pass as long as we could, leaving enough light for the hour hike into camp.  We decide if it came to it, we would leave our hiking poles on the path with our torch so that the other two could use them to find their way back down.  The sun had set at this point.

Luckily after 20mins they came into sight and 15 mins later they made it to the pass.  None of us were as concerned for the three we left behind.  All local, they did not seem to be as affected by the altitude.  Tashi and I made for home.  One of the benefits of the steep decent is the reversal of the otherwise deadly altitude sickness.  If I learned anything from a month in Nepal 8 years ago is if you feel it, you must descend immediately.   Tashi and I got back just before nightfall just as the wind and hail picked up.  The other two were 10mins behind.  The monks were a godsend, giving us all hot water.  I, along with the others, were frozen.  The other three arrived back two hours later in pitch darkness, a little worse for wear.  Boy we were glad to see them.  They had wandered off the path four times in the darkness, but thankfully each time realizing it before they had gone too far.  The wind and hail has beaten into them but they had two got torches.  Feeling like, what I can only describe as shit, we went to pitch the tents…..I’m the only one out of seven who had done this before, I couldn’t believe it!  We collected firewood and managed to get a camp fire going, wet wood and all.  It took us until 11.00pm to get dinner cooked but boy was it good.

In hindsight we should have acclimatize at Phajodhing before trekking to the lakes the following day.  It went from an adventure to an epic mission but we made it.  Lesson learned – prepare better!

We’re already planning our next trek! 😉

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