My friend Piyush and I were en route to Lachung – a remote village in North Sikkim, India. We had booked a package covering Lachen – Lachung – Yumthang over one night and two days for Rs1500. We were received at the pickup point by our twenty year old driver, Sontosh. Even before we began our journey to Lachen, we bonded really well with the driver and had become friends with him. We were ten passengers in the jeep who together travelled well-adjusted even with our mixed preferences and differences.
Piyush and I were sitting next to the driver and had direct access to the stereo so we kept mixing the playlist, entertaining Sontosh who was having a good laugh.
The roads were rough and it was drizzling when we started but, it did not prepare us for what was to come next.
7 unique ways in which Bhutan stands out from the rest of the world:
Bhutan prioritizes Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product:
His Majesty Jingme Singye Wangchuck, the former king of Bhutan believed that rather than measuring the progress of the country based on the amount of money the country earns, it should be measured by the happiness of the people and factors contributing to the quality of life.
Bhutan is a country without traffic lights:
Thimpu is the only capital city in the world to have no traffic lights. The intersections are manned by police officers gracefully guiding the traffic. The low population of the country makes the need for traffic lights void. Although, the government had installed traffic lights in Thimpu but recalled the installation the next day as it caused a lot of confusion.
Bhutan has a national dress:
The Gho for men and Kira for women is the national dress. All citizens have to wear it to government offices, schools and formal gatherings. The Gho is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. The kira is an ankle-length dress consisting of a rectangular piece of woven fabric. It is wrapped and folded around the body and is pinned at both shoulders, and bound at the waist with a long belt.
Bhutan has one of the world’s most challenging airports:
Paro airport is the only international airport present in Bhutan and was also the only airport in the entire country up until 2011. Surrounded by peaks as high as 5,500 meters and consisting of just one runway, this airport requires pilots to undergo special training before they can land here. There are only a handful of certified pilots that can land in Paro. It is in a deep valley and on the banks of river Paro Chhu which makes for some breathtaking views.
Bhutan prioritizes environmental conservation:
The forests and animals are protected, the government passed a rule stating that 60% of the country should be forest area. This shows how much the Bhutan cares about nature.
Bhutan has a unique national animal:
The Takin is a rare mammal found in the north western and far north eastern parts of the country. Thimpu has a Takin preserve where you can find these animals in their natural habitat. They look like they have a goat’s head on a cow’s body. Since this animal has a lot of mention in Bhutanese folklore it was declared the national animal by the king.
Bhutan has traditional architecture:
As stated by law, all buildings in Bhutan must reflect traditional architecture. This is why every house looks so picturesque with their doors and windows having intricate woodwork.
Follow the link to know who do I refer to as JourneyFuel!
Ccir Cyrus Gurung. A professor, a great host and a traveller! I was planning a solo trip to north east India and Bhutan. Darjeeling was first on my list. I was looking for cheap reliable accommodation as I was on a tight budget. While scrolling through homestays on Airbnb, I came across the profile of Ccir. He had a ton of positive reviews from travelers all over the world. I messaged him and the plan was on. Ccir helped me plan the rest of my trip as well even before meeting me. He had a number of students who were from Bhutan. So, a lot of my cross border travel was made very easy thanks to him and his students. Just a week prior to my arrival at his house my friend said that he would be joining me. Ccir without hesitation, agreed to accommodate him as well.
My friend and I arrived in Darjeeling on cold rainy evening at around 730 p.m. Ccir came to receive us a few minutes away from his home. His home is not very obvious on the street and there were no street lights as well. We finally got to his house. His house is one room that he shares with a different person almost every day. This is because of the demand of him as a host on Airbnb. He has one entire wall covered with pictures of travelers he has hosted. The other wall has notes stuck to it. He makes every person that he host’s write a message based on their experience. Ccir then took us out to eat at Glenary’s Bakery and Hotel Penang.
The smile that Ccir has is just so welcoming. He is an amazing person and is well traveled in the north eastern part of India and Bhutan. He loves Darjeeling; you can say this by the way he speaks about the place. His knowledge about the history of Darjeeling and the places to visit is vast. Ccir took us around Darjeeling at night on his bike while explaining the significance of each place on the way. We stayed with Ccir for only a night but we shared a lot of our stories and are still in contact with each other.
Follow the link to know who do I refer to as JourneyFuel!
I was at the Kanteerava stadium in Bangalore on a solo trip to watch the Indian national team take on Oman in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Oman, the clear favorites in the game were leading 1-0 with an early goal. All of us fans were very vocal; chanting and cheering our boys in blue, then a breakthrough in the 26th minute. Sunil Chettri from the edge of the box turned towards goal and took a shot right into the top corner sailing past the mighty Ali Al-Habsi. The entire stadium erupted in joyous cheer. Out of instinct I turned to my right and hugged a fellow fan. This fan was Piyush Jain.
After the feeling of having just scored against one of the best teams in Asia mellowed down, (It did not completely sink in, even now I get goosebumps remembering that goal) Piyush and I started talking. It was like we have known each other for years on end. He was so welcoming and a really great listener. After the game, (which we sadly lost 2-1) he offered to take me to a Café for dinner. We went to Truffles on St. Marks Road. Piyush is a crazy biking enthusiast and a graphic designer by profession. He told me that he also loves to travel and sets out alone whenever he can. He has completed almost all of south India on his bike. After dinner he took me around entire Bangalore city (Bangalore at night feels like another city altogether without the traffic).
Piyush is a wonderful storyteller, he will keep you engaged with his narratives in such a way that you will always be asking for more! We spoke about life, travel, people and still felt that we could go on and on. Both of us shared the motto, No amount of money can buy you the experiences that you get through travel. Not knowing whether we would meet again we exchanged contact details and as he dropped me off at my hostel, I thanked him for the hospitality he provided me with.
You never know how soon a person can enter your life and leave a lasting impression. Don’t think twice before you greet a stranger, you might just make a friend for life. Piyush is still a very good friend of mine. We met again during the football game of India vs Iran and then a few months ago we went backpacking across northeast India and Bhutan (Stay tuned to the blog for posts on this trip).
My urge to travel is fueled by the desire to meet new people. Staying with local, indigenous people, interacting with them and breaking bread with them gives me first-hand experience of their customs, culture and beliefs. It is also heart-warming to see how locals in remote villages are one with their terrain.
I have come across a number of people who have left me with the thought, “I hope I meet this person again somewhere down the road”. I call these people JourneyFuel! Just when during your travel you are out of energy and you suddenly meet a person who lights up your mood, those are exactly JourneyFuel. These people enhance your travel experience and keep you on the edge of your senses always asking for more. These are people who make you think about “What is it that I really want from life?” and urge you to “just calm down and relax.”
JourneyFuel stay with you long after your travels and turn them into memorable experiences!
This post will be updated with links to posts about people who have been memorable for me. Do you have any such people you call JourneyFuel? Let them know how they made your travels memorable. Share your story in the comments below. You can also tweet about them using #JourneyFuel.