Monday, October 24, 2011

Boats in Bhutan

The first words of the day entered my head at six o’clock; a calm, simple, "Rohan, time to get up. "  Even though the gesture was quite peaceful, it felt like an evil threat.  I pulled myself out of bed and quickly packed up and wandered downstairs with my family.  We planed to eat a fast bowl of yogurt before catching a ride to the airport.  Today we were flying to Bhutan! 

Bhutan is a small country next to India and Tibet.  The country is ruled by a king who recently married a commoner.  I personally think one of the most amazing things about Bhutan is the fact that instead of measuring the Gross National Product, they measure the Gross National Happiness.  To me, this seems to make more sense than measuring how many things people buy, because consumption of items does not make people happy.  This is also the first country I have heard of that measures happiness.  In Bhutan, the men wear traditional Bhutanese dress. This is a thick, plaid robe they wrap around themselves. The Bhutanese robe looks a lot like monk attire except that it is much shorter and thicker.  It almost looks like a skirt. The landscape consists of high passes and mountains.  The dominating religion in Bhutan is Buddhism. 

Getting out of the car at the airport in Kathmnadu was a shock!  Crowding the doorway was a mix of several ethnic groups.  There were Han Chinese, Nepali, Tibetans, Westerners, Middle Easterners, and many more!  At the doorway, security men were checking passports and letting only a few people in at a time so as to minimize the number of people in the building.  Gladly, inside it was a little more calm.  We checked our bags and proceeded to our gate.  From the flight we had a great view of the mountains.  This time it was even better than the last two flights.  We saw Everest (also known as Chomolungma)  and the third highest peak in the world, Kangchenjunga.  As some of you may know, the second highest mountain, K2, lies in Pakistan.  Before we knew it, the plane was descending through ridges and temples.  We were in Bhutan!

At the airport, we were picked up by two Bhutanese sight seeing guides, Karma and Chandro.  We were lead to a van next to a pick-up truck loaded with boating gear.  With the truck were our three boating guides, Tinlay, Kali, and Senjo.  They told us that after we ate lunch, Mom and Dad would go boating. The water was too big for me, so I stayed behind with Karma.

Karma’s plan was to take me to see an archery competition, the main Bhutanese sport.  We drove to a long field with two targets 145 meters apart.  The targets were vertical white boards with a blue circle in the middle with a diameter of about a foot.  An archer would stand at one end of the field and shoot at the target on the other side.  There were two teams.  They would alternate which team would shoot.  Each player got two shots per turn.  If both arrows hit the board, the team would earn 5 points.  If one arrow hit the board, the team would earn two points. If the archer shot an arrow within the blue circle, he would be awarded three points.  It was amazing watching the excellent talent and technique of all the skilled archers. 

Soon it was time to go pick up my mom and dad from the river take out.  When we saw them, they were soaked, soggy and happy.  They changed and we were driven to our hotel for the night.  In the court yard of the hotel, I found a praying-mantis that I named Georgy.  He climbed all over my shoulders.

We have settled into our hotel room for the night, and tomorrow we will drive up into the hills to have some more white water fun.  We are not sure what the internet situation will be like.  Hopefully, I will write more soon!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!                      




  1. Hi Rohan,
    What a treat to see Mount Everest from the plane. I don't recall if you saw it on your trek?

    The archery contest must have been fun to watch. Have you had a chance to use a bow and arrow? It would seem to be a safe sport so long as one aims for and hits only the target! Your Mom may remember the target we had in CA. She may also remember that the arrows occasionally landed in the neighbor's back yard - a potentially dangerous event.

    Seeing Georgy reminded me that I haven't seen Harry for a long awhile. Is he still traveling along with you?
    Love, grandma Doris

  2. Gross National Happiness is such a great concept. Sounds like the Bhutanese have figured out what's most important. I hope you find many happy people on your travels!

    P.S. I'll have Paul write to you tonight.
    Take care,

  3. Hi Rohan - It was so wonderful to hear your voice and to know that you were all OK after your kayaking experiences. It's hard on a mother/grandmother, you know!! The cousins loved talking to you and I think you will hear from them when they get home. They had fun with the puppies. Love, Grandmalish

  4. Cool about seeing Everest and Kanchenjunga -- I'm very jealous. If Gregory misbehaves, you might consider engaging the services of the local praying mantis whisperer. I hear those guys can work wonders...

  5. How close to the targets did you stand? I'm picturing William Tell!!

  6. Not that close! But you should see how close the other players stand next to the targets when they play darts... a fast and furious game where they missile project the darts from several yards away to a target about a quarter the size of a small grave stone...