Vast paintings

A painting of the Punakha Dzong has graced the banner of this website for about two weeks. The beautiful painting was created by Rajesh Gurung.

I saw Rajesh Gurung’s Punakha Dzong at the VAST gallery. It’s still there if you’d like to see it. And so are many other paintings, all by Bhutanese artists. I’ve uploaded photographs of a few of the paintings to tempt you to visit the VAST gallery.

Enjoy …

I’m sorry

Yesterday, near Tergola

We walked from Sipsoo in Samtse through Sombaykha, and arrived in Dorikha in Haa yesterday. I couldn’t go online during the entire journey, as I couldn’t connect to B-Mobile’s signal. Their cellular signal was generally unavailable and in the few places that I could connect to B-Mobile, their signal was weak, and data transfer impossible.

It wasn’t like this last year. Then, when I traveled through the same villages, I’d been able to connect to B-Mobile and go online through most of the journey. And I’d celebrated their coverage in Connecting Bhutan.

This time I couldn’t blog or tweet or update my Facebook status. I couldn’t even make phone calls. So I’m sorry for not staying in touch. And I’m grateful to the several readers who have kept the discussions on this blog going.

But connectivity in this remote part of Bhutan is actually still very good. The difference is that now it is powered by Tashi Cell, not B-Mobile. So if you go to Sombaykha or Gakiling, remember to carry a Tashi Cell subscription. I certainly will.

I’m in Dorikha enjoying a crisp winter morning, indulging in my aunt’s hospitality, and making full use of the first B-Mobile signal I’m receiving in days.

Am back in Thimphu later today.

MPAB delivers

Super stars

I’m back in Thimphu having completed my medical treatment (I’m fully better now), and after visiting Bumthang where, thanks to His Majesty’s People’s Project, the victims of the recent fire disaster in Chamkhar town and the town itself are already well on they way to a full recovery.

The banner features MPAB artists entertaining RBA soldiers involved in the reconstruction of Chamkhar. The artists also performed for the residents of Chamkhar. And, a day after arriving in Thimphu, they organized a fund raising event at the Clock Tower Square.

Mind your language

Foul fowl

“Spelling bee” generated a lot of discussion. Almost all of it was good. The debate was lively. And most of the arguments were presented convincingly.

But a couple of commentators got carried away. They started swearing, in English and in Dzongkha. This is unfortunate. And unnecessary. You don’t need to curse to drive home your point. So please, no swearing. No unnecessary expletives.

Henceforth, I will exercise my option to censor comments that are abusive.

Kilu music

The banner features Kilu students singing Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” during Radio Valley’s second food festival at Thimphu’s clock tower square yesterday.

I’m back!

I’m back. And it feels good to be back home.

My broken jaw has been corrected by way of a metal plate that now holds the fracture in place. But my jaws have also been wired shut to allow the damaged bones to heal properly. So till the wires come off – which will be in about five weeks – I’ll be speaking through clenched teeth. And subsisting on a full liquid diet.

I’m grateful for the many emails and messages that I received during the last two weeks. Your good wishes, support and prayers have helped me recover from that nasty biking accident quickly and remarkably well.

I’m back. And I thank you very much.

Tour of the Dragon

At Pelela

Twenty-five bikers took part in the inaugural Tour of the Dragon yesterday.

The Dragon, a one-day bicycle ride from Bumthang to Thimphu, crosses 4 passes, all of them over 3,000 meters, and covers 268 kilometers through five dzongkhags. The breathtaking route offers an elevation gain of 4,000 meters, a whopping half of which is on the final ascent from Wangdiphodrang bridge to Dochula.

The Tour of the Dragon must be one of the more beautiful one-day bike rides in the world. It’s probably one of the most difficult ones too.

The official records are not yet out, but more than half of the participants completed yesterday’s ride. Ugen Yozer rode in first. Rinzin Norbu second. And HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, the inspiration of the Tour, third.

As everyone knows, virtually any bike race worth its salt will feature a casualty. And so it was with the inaugural Tour of the Dragon.

A biker came barreling down to Trongsa, 68 km from the start of the race. He looked left then right at the small group of spectators, ostensibly to see if any of them planned to cross the road. But what the fool didn’t see was a bump on the road. That bump threw him off. And he landed squarely on his jaw.

The medical team stitched him up and attended to his bruises. And about an hour and a half later the fool rejoined the race.

I was that crazy fool.

The Tour of the Dragon will take place on the first Saturday of every September.

Photo credit: Karma Loday, CEO, Yangphel Travel

Lost

It’s been almost two weeks since my last entry. Some people have asked me why I’ve been quiet. On the other hand, “Linda Wangmo”, a regular reader, scolded me for spending too much time bicycling.

“Please do not waste time on our OLs blog….” advised Linda, “our dear OL is busy Bicycling and bicycling is every thing to him. It is now very clear that he will have no time for his blog and he would have no time to say what the government does….”

Yes, I have been cycling a lot recently, especially during the weekends. Last Saturday, some friends and I cycled to Lobesa and back. The Saturday before that, we cycled to Haa and back. And, we’ve already made it to Dochula and Paro several times.

Why this sudden interest in long-distance cycling? Because the people I’m biking with, plan to bicycle from Bumthang to Thimphu in one day. And I plan to join them!

But that’s not the reason why I haven’t been updating my entries regularly.

In fact, while I’ve appeared inactive, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about this website – wondering if we’ve been constructive, questioning the quality of our discussions, and inquiring if we’ve made any difference.

Yes, I’ve been doing some soul searching … and in that respect, “Madman”, who asked if I was lost, is quite correct.

Commentators

I’m surprised at the number of comments generated by “Foreign trips”.  And I’m surprised that many of them are by first-time commentators. But, somehow I’m not surprised that virtually all the new commentators supported the prime minister’s frequent travels abroad last year.

Monsters!

tashi's monster

You would have noticed that avatars of monsters now accompany your usernames. The monster IDs are automatically generated. And they are unique to you (as long as you use the same email address.)

I’ve unleashed the monsters because none of you were using avatars. I hope you like them. But I hope you eventually create your own avatars!

When it comes to usernames, however, it’s a completely different story…

Early followers of this blog will remember that on the original site, readers could post comments anonymously. You can still do that. But, whereas you didn’t even need to use a username in the original site, now, as you know, you cannot post a comment without a username.

There are two reasons for this: One, to allow you to create a unique identity, so that other readers can follow your comments easily. And two, to build a sense of community among our regular readers.

We have met our goal. We have a rich community of usernames. Many of you now apparently use your real names like Kinga, Ugen, Tashi, Tshering, Pema, Dorji, Drugda, Penjore, Tenzing, Thinley, Lobxang and Zekom.

And some of you even use your complete names: Dorji Phuntsho T, Sonam Tobgay, Dago Tshering, Abi Narayan and Tashi P. Ganzin are examples. While others, like Tchoden, Samdrups and SonamG, prefer to abbreviate your names.

Many of you have adopted interesting usernames. Here are a few, chosen at random from recent comments:

Usernames that give clues to where their authors hail from: Shingkhar, Tangba, Dungsamkota, Haap, Sombey, Phuentsholing.

Usernames that describe their authors: Wise Old Man, True Dukpa, Guardian, Critic, Observer, Keen Observer, Citizen Man, Seer, Pazab.

Usernames that call for specific values: Thadamtse, Truth, Ethics

Usernames that for action: Practicing GNH, Yes We Can

Usernames that communicate emotions: Amused, Fuse, Bull Chakpa, Hopeless, Yalama, Guluphulu, Twister

Usernames that describe their professions: Tashel Laglenpa, The Writer, Expert, Confused Civil Servant

And, of course, usernames that are used by the truly anonymous: Unknown, Anonymous, Guest