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.
Breakfast was decent but eating three times a day was beginning to show.
Palace of Great Happiness
The first king of Bhutan was crowned at this palace. Therefore, all significant events take place here.
The tree under which Buddha found enlightenment is in one of the courtyards.
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.
Finally, there’s an area where only the king can enter.
After taking photos from the outside, we headed off to my favorite temple, 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our last stop before Paro was a chain bridge which was being renovated and was un-crossable. Still, look at the views:
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.
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?
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.
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.