Big picture – 9

Jigme Tshewang won the last Big Picture. But Jigme didn’t claim the prize. So it goes to the first one who correctly figures out this picture.

GNH is …

Do you have a favorite GNH quote? Or an anecdote on Gross National Happiness? If so, please share them here. It will help me prepare for an upcoming conference.

Flowering forests

Rhododendron

Almost everyone answered “Big picture – 8” correctly. Yes, the picture was part of an emerging rhododendron flower. And as Linda Wangmo suggested, I took the picture on my recent visit to Sombaykha Dungkhag in Haa.

But Jigme Tshewang answered first. So Jigme wins the prize. Please contact me to claim the 2008 golden coronation badge.

The area between Tergo-la (at about 3,800 m) and Taashi Thang (at about 1,800 m) is almost one continuous rhododendron forest. The forest is old. And it is pristine. Aum Rebecca Pradhan, a leading naturalist, estimates the forest to have about 35 species of rhododendron.

Rhododendron trees mostly bloom towards the end of March through early May. So, when I walked through the forest, in February, only those trees at the lower altitudes were flowering. And most of them were the gigantic Rhododendron Grande. But a few others, like Rhododenron falconeri, Rhododendron barbatum and Rhododendron Arboreum were also flowering.

I took a few pictures – of rhododendron buds, flowers, trees and forests – during my last trip. And, for those of you interested in rhododendron, I’ve posted them in the Gallery. The photo in the “Big picture” featured a Rhododendron Arboreum, known nationally as the Etho Meto.

I plan to go back, during a weekend, when most of the rhododendron forest is in bloom. Would the upcoming field visit interest any of you? In lieu of an invitation, I’m featuring the rhododendron in our banner.

Big picture – 8

It’s been a while since we did a Big Picture. The first person to guess the big picture correctly wins a golden coronation badge of His Majesty the King.

Nyilo photos

F.R.I.E.N.D.S

Sons returning home

Yesterday was Nyilo. And, to celebrate the “return of the sun” to our part of the world, I cooked a hearty breakfast for my family. Then I went biking: from Taba through Dechhenchholing, Samteling, Hejo and Zilukha to Sangaygang; and from Sangaygang through Motithang, Changzamtog, Norzin Lam and Chubachu back to Taba. I’ve posted some photos that I took while biking on our gallery.

Nyilo tashidelek!

Airport security

Screaming for attention

Screaming for attention

About six weeks ago, I rejoiced that a leading international travel magazine had rated our only international airport the world’s second best airport to fly into. The landscape, approach, fresh air, architecture, service, all would have contributed to the distinction of Paro International Airport.

There is one eyesore though. And, that’s the security fencing around the airport. Razor wire coils fixed on barbed wire fence, several meters high, surround the entire airport. The fence looks ugly. It disfigures the airport’s otherwise peaceful setting. And, it is reminiscent of concentration camps.

But the offensive fence may be necessary, for security purposes.

So today, when I saw that a part of the fence that was damaged during the May 26th floods had still not been repaired, I was simply astonished. If the fence serves an important security purpose, it should be well maintained, and the damaged part, measuring about 50 meters, repaired immediately.

It’s been almost seven months since flash floods breached the security fence. Repair it – now! – before a serious security breach.

Best commercial flight?

High flying

High flying

Wanderlust, a leading British travel magazine, has rated Paro International Airport as the world’s second best airport to fly into, behind Singapore’s Changi International Airport. That is good news.

But what about the world’s best commercial flight route? Have you seen a ranking of the world’s best regular commercial flight routes? I haven’t. And, I’m not sure that such a ranking exists. But if there was one, I’m certain that Druk Air’s Paro – Katmandu sector would win hands down. Consider the pilot’s typical greeting to passengers traveling on that sector:

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard this Druk Air flight from Paro to Kathmandu. The flight time is approximately one hour, and the flight route will take you over the town of Paro, fly up to Taksang Monastery, and turn back over the airport, after which we will set course west on a westerly direction, exiting Bhutan over the town of Sipsoo, flying into India for a short while flying over the towns of Kalimpong and Darjeeling a little South of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, and then flying parallel to the Himalayas all the way to Katmandu. For those of you seated on the right of the aircraft, you’ll see a few of the world’s highest mountains including Mount Jumolhari, one of the highest and most sacred mountains in Bhutan.

Coming up on your right is Kanchenjunga, the 3rd highest mountain in the world measuring 8,586 meters or 28,170 feet above mean sea level. In the distance, beyond the mountains, you can see the Great Tibetan Plateau. The passengers on the left of the aircraft will able to see the Great Northern Indian Plains.

On your right is Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain measuring 8,848 meters or 29,028 feet above mean sea level. It is the peak in the middle, shaped like a pyramid. The peak in front of Everest is Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest peak, measuring 8,560 meters or 27,940 feet.  The mountain all by itself, on the right of Everest, is Mt Makalu, the fifth highest mountain measuring 8,463 meters or 27,766 feet.

Up ahead, as we begin our descent into Katmandu, some of you will be able to see Gauri Shangkhar, a mountain that Hindus consider sacred.

On this short journey passengers can see the highest mountain and four of world’s five highest peaks. They can also see two sacred mountains, the Tibetan plateau and the Indian plains. Plus they can  experience the extraordinary flight into or out of the Paro valley. All this means that, in my opinion, the Paro – Katmandu sector could easily be the world’s best regular commercial flight route.

Big Picture – 7

This week’s big picture is a recording of life in Bhutan. Listen to it. And guess what’s making the sounds. The first one to answer correctly wins something relevant to the big picture.

Big picture – 6

Big Picture 6

This week’s big picture is donated by Yeshey Dorji. He’ll buy lunch for the winner at the Musk.

Friendship

Friends

Friends

This morning, while going through some pictures, I came across a photograph that had friendship written all over it. I’m featuring it in the banner to celebrate international friendship day, almost a week after it’s over.