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Finding Penis (Happiness): Bhutan Day 4

Finding Happiness: Bhutan Day 4 is part of the ANA, Take Me ‘Round the World Trip Report. Catch up on Bhutan Day 1 and Bhutan Day 2, and Day 3.

Day 4 began with a great view of the Palace of Great Happiness from our hotel. Like travel in Thailand, I was templed out. However, unlike self-guided tours in Thailand, I was on a set itinerary (see Tour Guides: Like Attending Class, It’s Boring But Useful). Although I initially resist going to cultural sights because they aren’t as thrilling as whitewater rafting (see Finding Happiness: Bhutan Day 3), I am glad that I go. I come away with greater knowledge and appreciation of the country I’m visiting.

a landscape with a river and buildings in the distance
The Palace of Great Happiness


Breakfast was decent but eating three times a day was beginning to show.

a man standing on a hill with a town in the background
If happiness is measured by kg…

Palace of Great Happiness

a river with a building and trees
The Palace sits in the middle of the male and female river.

The first king of Bhutan was crowned at this palace. Therefore, all significant events take place here.

Punakha Dzong next to a river

Punakha Dzong with trees and mountains in the background

a flag pole in front of a building

a white brick wall with a lion statue on the corner

The tree under which Buddha found enlightenment is in one of the courtyards.

a building with a courtyard and trees in the background

a tree in a courtyard

Like the other temples we visited, there are traditional paintings on the wall. The wheel of life (see Day 1) and the four friends are my two favorites.

a colorful painting of a circle with different symbols

a painting of an elephant and a man on a tree

Finally, there’s an area where only the king can enter.

a building with ornate windows

After taking photos from the outside, we headed off to my favorite temple, Chime Lhakhang.

Chime Lhakhang

Chime Lhakhang was built in tribute of Lam Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine madman, who “deliberately portrayed the image of a vagabond and wandered around the countryside, indulging in song and dance, alcohol and women, hunting and feasting.” Kuenley, a social critic, “taunted the hypocrisy of the established orders, including the monastic order.” “The use of his phallus as a ‘flaming thunderbolt’ weapon symbolizes the discomfort that society experiences when facing the truth.”

a sign with text on it

Phallus Marks the Spot

As far as the eye can see, there are phallus sculptures and paintings leading the way to the temple which his brother built in his honor.

a wall with a drawing of a condom

a blue and green statue

a stone structure with a small sign on it

a doorway with a yellow and blue banner

Minus the womanizing, this man reminds me of TPOL, who also doesn’t care for the opinion of others and is always looking for a good time and bottle of wine. It was only fitting after visiting the temple that I acquired a phallus for my personal collection. If you thought bargaining at the Fake Market or Tailor Market in Shanghai was tough, try bargaining over giant penises.

The first shop wanted 12,000BTN or $168 for one. The second wanted 8k ($112) which went down to 5k ($70). That’s a lot to pay for dick. At that point, I was ready to go home unsatisfied. As usual, the shopkeeper, who also was the penis engineer, dropped his price. He would sell two for 8k. I had my eye on two cocks and said I would pay 6k ($84). Outraged, he said no. Finally, we agreed to 7500 ($105) for two.

a group of colorful wooden toys
I bought the pink and blue from the back row.

TPOL’s TIP: Get your penis when you can. Had I waited until I went to Paro, home to the Tiger’s Nest (see Finding Happiness: Bhutan Day 5), I would’ve paid more for just one phallus. Here, I knew the engineer had crafted the penis himself and I wasn’t getting a dud.

TPOL’S TIP: if you pay by credit card, the merchant will pass along the 3 to 3.5 percent foreign transaction fee that they are charged on to you.

Penis jokes aside, the phallus serves three functions. First, they shoo away bad evil and bring good luck. Second, they promote fertility. Finally, they protect the home from malicious gossiping, so good luck trying to talk shit in my comments section. I now have a phallus filter for that.

a wall with a painted wall and a group of statues
TPOL’s garden of penises.

Fully cocked, we drove to Paro. Again, we stopped at Dochula pass (see Finding Happiness: Bhutan Day 3). Again, it was too foggy to get a view of the Himalayas, which was the only thing that didn’t work out on this trip.

a group of trees in the fog

Lunch in Thimphu

Lunch was bland. I don’t know what food they think tourists like because it is completely different from what Bhutanese people eat.

a table with bowls of food
We received this.
a basket of red peppers
I needed this. 

TPOL’s TIP: I wrote about this many times. Demand, kick and scream, and complain that you don’t want to eat at tourist restaurants. It’s a shame to miss the good Bhutanese food on account of guides not understanding your food tastes.

After lunch, we went on a tour which started with shots of arak, Bhutanese rice wine. The tradition is to dip your ring finger in the arak, swirl it around three times, and flick the alcohol in the air while chanting she, she, she.

a red and gold cylindrical container with two small bowls on a table

We learned about the five kings of Bhutan. The second most recent, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, became king at the age of 17 before relinquishing the throne to his son. He also invented the Global Happiness Index.

a framed picture on a stone wall

The culmination of the tour was trying my luck at archery. Unlike the archery I saw on Day 2, there was no one on the other side awaiting my stray arrows. It took a few tries to hit the target, but when I did the crowd came alive and we celebrated in dance.

a man and woman holding a bow and arrow

a man and woman shooting a wooden bow and arrow

a man holding a bow and arrow

a man and woman holding sticks

a man holding a bow and arrow

a man kneeling in front of a wooden building holding a sword

a white rectangle with a colorful circle and arrow in the middle of it

Chain Bridge

Our last stop before Paro was a chain bridge which was being renovated and was un-crossable. Still, look at the views:

a river running through a valley

a bridge with clothes on it

a river flowing through a valley with a bridge over it

a bridge over a river with a building and a bridge

a group of colorful flags on a wire


The hotel for our final two nights, the Reema Hotel, was the most disappointing. It looked nice from the outside and had a good view, but it had no air conditioning and an uncomfortable bed. I did not sleep at all. The shower, on the other hand, was powerful.

a stone wall with a building and bushes

a tree next to a building

a close up of a door lock

a room with a table and chairs

a shower curtain and soap dispensers on a wall

Shopping in Paro

Paro is home to Bhutan’s most famed attraction, the Tiger’s Nest. As such, it is littered with souvenir shops eager to sell everything to doe-eyed tourists. I was one of those tourists. I became captivated with a green mask with stones. I figured I could get it for less than the price of a penis and began going store to store. The prices were unbelievable. One place wanted 55,000 ($772). The best price I could bargain was 20,000 ($282). I questioned how so many stores sell the same mask with the same stones and the same imperfections. If it were made by hand, wouldn’t there be variations?

a group of masks on a shelf

This seemed like a scam and reminded me of a news program that showed fake Bali being made in China by machine and sold to tourists as authentic. Without enough information, I made the smart decision not to buy (see Souvenir Shopping Kathmandu: Buy Your Mask Here!). I would’ve been angry to go home and have this mask on my wall laughing at me every day for overpaying. This experience reinforces what a great deal I received on the penises.


I told my guides, again, no more hotel dinners. They listened and took me to a hole in the wall restaurant instead. It was exactly what I wanted. I ordered momo, fried and steamed, fried rice, and my new favorite dish, chili cheese.

a plate of fried dumplings

a plate of dumplings on a table

a bowl of rice with a spoon

a bowl of soup with a spoon

TPOL’s TIP: Chilli cheese comes in many varieties including with potatoes or beef. I prefer it plain. Momo is better steamed.

I also had more Bhutan Red Rice beer (see Finding Happiness: Bhutan Day 1). It is the Bhutanese Dunkel Weisse, TPOL’s favorite beer.


Day 4 was calmer than Day 3, minus the intense penis negotiations.



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