Monday, October 31, 2011

Tired in Mumbai

We woke up in Bhutan this morning, and caught an early flight to New Delhi, India.  From there, we took a flight to Mumbai.  There, we took a taxi to the hotel where we will stay for two nights before moving to a different part of Mumbai.  We met some of the the crew that will be traveling in the rickshaw rally.  I am super tired tonight and will write more about Mumbai tomorrow. 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Guru Rinpoche and His Tigress

This morning, I woke up bright and early and somnolently packed up my bags.  Today we were driving back to Paro.  The drive took four hours and was extremely tiring and I was thankful to be finally arriving back in Paro!  We planned to eat lunch and then hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery built into the cliff overlooking town.  I ate a quick lunch and hopped back on the minivan with my parents.  We drove to a parking lot where we hiked up to the monastery said to be blessed by the Guru Rinpoche.  It is said that he rode to Paro on a tigress and established this spiritual place among the cliffs. 

The story states that the Rinpoche saw the face of the holy Buddhist Protector imprinted in the cliff.  He then found a cave high on the cliff and used it as his mediation center in the eighth century.  Many years later, in the 17th century, the ruler of Paro valley built the monastery around the cave up on the cliff.  Today, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, hanging above the second biggest city in Bhutan, is one of the greatest architectural feats for the Bhutanese culture.   

We started up the dusty, steep path and found ourselves exhausted at the halfway point.  From there, we walked to the highest point on the hike and proceeded across a gorge to the base of the monastery.  Again, we were not allowed cameras inside the temple.  Okay, I am starting to get a little annoyed at the no camera rule.  I show up all excited to take pictures of the inside of the temple and Karma tells me “no pictures allowed!”  Still, I loved viewing the inside of the monastery. 

Inside, we saw the classic meditative Buddha decorated with bright colors and gold.  Karma, my parents, and I watched from a small alcove as a group of young monks set up, and preformed, a spectacular ceremony.  They chanted and blew on two long ceremonial horns.  A young monk blew on a horn made out of a human thigh bone and two other monks played reed instruments.  Several other young monks banged on drums and cymbals.  The oldest monk moved about at the alter but I could not make out his exact movements.  After watching this amazing scene, we quietly left the alcove and continued our tour.

We walked down to the basement of the monastery, where we entered a room with a doorway into the sacred cave of Guru Rinpoche.  Sadly, the door had a big fat padlock, and Karma said that only once a year was it open to the public.  Having finished our tour of the Tiger’s Nest, we had a blast running down the hill and jumped into the car. 

Tonight is our last night in Bhutan and tomorrow we will fly to India!  There, we will participate in a rickshaw rally from Mumbai to New Delhi.  I have heard from my mom that India is loud, chaotic, dirty, and scary, yet she also tells me that it is her favorite country to visit.  I am thoroughly confused and am a little scared. 

We are not sure what the internet situation will be like in India, so if you do not hear from me, we are still safe and having the adventure of our lives!
Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!    

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Divine Madman


This morning, math returned in the form of a test.  I was a little scared, because if I do not get a score of 90% or higher, I must retake the test.  I gladly got a 93% and slipped right by.  After my math test, we kayaked the Mo Chhu again.  Dad and Kali started at the camp and Mom and I were driven by Karma to a section of easier water.  We would be picked up by Kali and Dad when they boated the upper section and floated to where we put in.  Mom started with me because she decided to take it easy for a day since her last kayak experience was not so good.  We jumped in our boats when we saw Dad and Kali floating down peacefully.  Everything went great and I avoided the middle hole on the hardest rapid!  

After boating, we drove to the village of Lobesa where we planned to eat lunch.  We wished to visit Chhimi Lhakang, the temple and monastery of Drukpa Kinley, the "Divine Madman," built in 1499.   This is the temple that people visit before and after they have a baby.  When a couple plans to have a child, they go to the temple for a blessing to insure they get pregnant and have a healthy baby.  When the child is born,  the family returns to the temple to receive a name for the newborn child.  In the temple, the couple picks up a small book and flips to a random page.  On the random page is a name for the child.  The Bhutanese believe that the Madman Saint chooses the child's name and blesses him.  I flipped to a page in the book, and the Divine Madman named me Kinley Gyaltshen.  This was interesting as this is the same name given to Karma's son.  It also is the same name as the Divine Madman.  I guess I fit in perfectly with the crazy side of the Bhutanese culture. 
In Bhutan, all couples do not have to pick their child’s name out of the Temple book.  Other times, the baby’s grandparents may pick the name.  Very, very, rarely do the parents decide.  Drukpa Kinlay, the Divine Madman, was known for his rowdiness, humor, and sexual jokes.  He brought a wooden phallus from Tibet and inspired people to use it as a symbol.  Now, many stores sell wooded phalluses and some houses have phalluses painted on them.  This symbol is thought to bring life, health, and fertility to the home.

When people visit Chhimi Lhakang temple, they get blessed by the wooden phallus that Drukpa Kinley brought with him from Tibet.  In the blessing, a monk taps you on the head with the phallus.  The Divine Madman introduced this tradition so that people would be happy and the human race would not die out as everybody was having babies.  I am not sure I want to share this with you, but, yes, I too was bonked on the head with the seven hundred year old silver wrapped phallus.


Walking through the rice fields back from the temple, we saw several kids playing and jumping in hay.  They were friendly and I took pictures of them and showed them the results on the camera.  With the children, was a group of adults thrashing and separating the rice harvest. As they trashed the grain, they let me watch and take pictures.  I am very prod of my work.  My pictures rock!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Math Returns (Help!)

This morning ended my good luck of no math for the past week.  After I ate breakfast with my parents, they left to kayak a river too hard for me.  I was left to do math and reading until they got back.  Mom had a REALLY bad run and was super grumpy when she got back.  I was previously in a bad mood from all of my school work, and mom's attitude did not help.  However, Mom and I got out of our funks once we decided we were going to visit a fortress called the Punakha Dzong.  This fortress was used to control and protect the Punakha Valley before the time of the Bhutanese kings.  Today, the Punakha Dzong is used as a monastery.  It is a holding place for sacred Buddhist relics and it is the winter home of many Bhutanese monks.

We arrived in the Dzong parking lot and found an amazing view of the fortress.  In order to enter, one has to cross a bridge beautifully decorated in gold and other colors.  Crossing the bridge, we met two Bhutanese ladies.  They were very nice and I got some amazing pictures.

After crossing the bridge, we walked into a maze of buildings with a lot of history.  It was built in 1637 - 38.  It was used as the central government of Bhutan until 1955, when the capital moved to Thimpu.  We went into only one building, and sadly, I could not take pictures inside because the relics are sacred to the Buddhist people and they do not allow photos.  At the back of the room there was a wall with several golden statues of Buddhas in many forms.  In the middle, stood the biggest statue.  To the left of the giant Buddha, was a smaller figurine of the "Buddha of the Past" and to the right, was the "Buddha of the Future".  All the Buddhas sat on golden thrones and stared down at me with serious, enlightened expressions. 

We exited through the maze of beautiful rooms and back to our car in the parking lot.  Sadly, from the fortress we had to drive to the same hotel lobby where the blog is published.  I was still happy that I was getting a early start on my blog so I could have the rest of the night free! 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kings One Through Five

This morning, we walked for one hour along a muddy trail to our put-in on the Po Chu (Father River.)  This river was new to all of us and we were excited! The plan was for me to ride in a raft with a group of Bhutanese Teenagers.  Three rafts were distributed among eighteen 14 to 16 year olds.  My mom and dad, on the other hand, would kayak.  By the time we were almost to the put-in, we were running a little late, so the raft group picked me up from the trail.  My parents continued their walk to the put-in.  The water was not very intense if one was riding in the raft, but it was a little too hard for me to kayak.  Before, on our hike, I had  been dreading riding with a raft full of teenagers.  It was not very fun, but I think it was better than I had feared.   

After Rafting, we journeyed up to a temple on a steep hill by the Mo Chu (Mother River.) ,This temple was built ten years ago by the current king’s mother, for her son and for the people of Bhutan.  The current king came into power two years ago, when his father handed over the throne.  The current king is the fifth king in the history of Bhutan.  Before the first king (1907), Bhutan had only small rulers in individual valleys.  After the current king came into power, he established a parliament so the people of Bhutan could vote on governmental issues.        

We drove to a bridge over the Mo Chu, where the hike began.  We crossed over the bridge, walked through rice terraces, passed cows, and turned onto a trail leading us up the hill.  Soon, we saw a the top of a temple peeking out of the tree branches.  We walked a little further, and saw a gateway leading up into a garden.  There were stupas, statues of Buddhas, and beautiful flowers.   At the end of the garden, stood a huge, beautiful temple adorned with gold and darkish red decorations.  At the door to the temple was a monk wearing red and yellow robes.  He unlocked the door and let us in.  Before going inside, one must take off one’s shoes and hat in a sign of respect.  The temple had many floors.  On all of the floors we saw figurines of Buddhas and statues of protectors.  We continued all the way to the roof where there was a walk way around the top of the temple and we had an excellent view of the countryside.  After visiting the temple we drove to the same hotel as last night to publish my blog for tonight. 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!