On 29th July – 4th August 2018, Chen Han Wei and his close friend, Sheila Sim travelled to the Land of Thunder Dragon to film Toggle’s Away With My BFF 老友出走记 series. Below are the screengrabs of their memorable journey in Bhutan alongside their tour guide. Their trip was proudly sponsored by Druk Asia.
Toggle’s Away With My BFF 老友出走记 EP 16
Dharma Siddhi Restaurant, Thimphu
On their first day in Bhutan, Han Wei and Sheila had a taste of the Bhutanese local delicacy including the national dish, ema datshi (chilli cheese). Apparently, the ema datshi proves to be too spicy for Han Wei. If you are a spicy food lover, you’ll definitely want to challenge yourself to try out the ema datshi when you are in Bhutan.
Archery Range at Babesa Lam Rd, Thimphu (opposite School for Language and Cultural Studies)
Han Wei and Sheila visited the archery range to experience one of the Bhutanese’s favourite past time. Archery was declared the national sport in 1971. The range are over 140m long which is twice the length of Olympic archery fields. Check out the video to see how Han Wei and Sheila fare in their shooting skills and watch the locals break into a wild dance every time someone hit the target.
Hotel Osel is a 4-star hotel located in the heart of the capital, Thimphu. The hotel is an easy access to town area and many eateries.
This is the view from their accommodation at Hotel Osel overlooking the stunning Buddha Dordenma (Buddha Point).
Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue located atop the hill at Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. The massive Shakyamuni Buddha statue measures at 51.5m, making it one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. The statue is made of bronze and gilded in gold. Inside the gigantic Buddha, lies 125,000 smaller Buddha statues (25,000 of 12-inch statues and 100,000 of 8-inch statues). The statue was constructed in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Han Wei praying for the good health of his family in front of the gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha.
Han Wei and Sheila visited Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre to witness how the local weavers hand-weave the beautiful textiles in Bhutan. This private weaving centre at the south end of Thimphu produces expensive but high-quality hand-woven textiles
and has a selection of ready-made garments for sale. Did you know that the production of a single textile can take from one week to one year to complete depending on the patterns and sophistication of it?
Sheila and Han Wei looking swag in the Bhutanese traditional costume. Sheila is wearing the Kira (for females) and Han Wei is wearing the Gho (for males).
Han Wei and Sheila posing outside the General Post Office to print their personalised stamps at the Bhutan Postal Museum.
For 500 ngultrum (SGD10), you can print your very own customised stamps. Isn’t it cool? Be sure to check out Bhutan Postal Museum when you are in Thimphu and share some of your Happiness by sending a postcard to your family and friends.
Toggle’s Away With My BFF 老友出走记 EP 17
Ambient Café, Thimphu
After exploring the different places in Thimphu, Han Wei and Sheila spent the evening chilling at Ambient Café located at Norzin Lam. It’s a popular hangout place for both locals and tourists.
Day 3: Travelling from Thimphu to Punakha
A mountain pass between Thimphu and Punakha where 108 memorial chortens
or stupas have been built by the eldest Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk in memory of the 108 Bhutanese soldiers who perished in the battle against the Assamese insurgents in 2003. The pass offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range.
Despite the foggy weather, it did not deter them from chilling at the nearby café and having a heart to heart dialogue with their tour guide. Through the conversation, they learnt about happiness that derives from the simplicity of having familial love.
Divine Cafeteria, Farm House Dining, Punakha
Han Wei and Sheila having their meal overlooking the vast rice fields and Chimi Lakhang (also known as Temple of the Divine Madman or Fertility Temple). According to them, savouring food with this gorgeous view beats the television screen anytime!
Chimi Lhakhang (The Fertility Temple) is a Buddhist monastery in the Punakha district where locals visit in the hopes of having a child, as well as to receive blessings. The stupa and meditation hall were constructed by the “Divine Madman,” the eccentric Yogi and saint Drupka Kunley who preached Buddhism in the most unconventional manner. According to Han Wei, the trip to the Temple of Fertility was specially dedicated to Sheila. Check out the heartwarming toggle episode to see Sheila shares her personal struggles and hopes.
While they were walking back from the Temple of Fertility, they were greeted with the sight of a beautiful rainbow. Touched by the concerns of her dear friend and all these little precious encounters, Sheila proclaimed, “I will never ever forget the moment that I spent there, forever.”
This is the view from their accommodation from Zhingkham Resort, Punakha. With one of the most breathtaking view of the Punakha valley, the resort is located on a mountain high above the valley. Han Wei personally loves the resort claiming that it’s a 3-star accommodation with 6-star view. Well, we can’t deny that.
Toggle’s Away With My BFF 老友出走记 EP 18
Day 4 : Punakha
The Punakha Dzong is the second oldest and second largest Dzong in Bhutan. Punakha Dzong was the administrative centre and the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It’s often considered one of the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan especially during spring season when the purple jacaranda blossoms.
Han Wei and Sheila absolutely love the architectural design and took many photos of its majestic structures.
Punakha Dzong is located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the Punakha-Wangdue Valley.
Punakha Suspension Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. It is perched high above the swift Po Chhu river with a scenic view of the valley and spans about 160m in length. The bridge is adorned with colourful prayer flags.
After experiencing the Bhutan pace and getting a glimpse of happiness from observing the Bhutanese’ way of life, Han Wei declared that he will definitely be back to visit Bhutan again. However, with the serenity and beauty that Bhutan offers, it’s really not difficult for one to fall in love with the kingdom, we totally understand how Han Wei feels.
Day 5 : Paro
Han Wei and Sheila visited the Kyichu Lhakang, one of Bhutan oldest and most beautiful temples. It is an important Buddhist temple situated in the Paro District. This strikingly beautiful temple is definitely a must see in the Paro valley. The main chapel has roots as far back as the 7th century. As shared by Sheila, she felt that the temple emanates a very calming effect.
On the second last day of their trip, Sheila and Han Wei were treated to one of the most traditional experience that Bhutan has to offer – a hot stone bath in wooden tub! The stones are fire-roasted and plunged into the wooden bath, releasing minerals and heating the water. The hot stone bath is also believed to have healing properties for joint pains, hypertension, stomachache and arthritis.
If you are a lover of organic traditional experiences like Sheila, you’ll definitely enjoy a hot stone bath too!
Both Sheila and Han Wei found their jaws dropped upon reaching their palace-like 5-star accommodation. Well, with a view and interior design so magnificent, who wouldn’t be impressed? Zhiwa Ling Hotel is a 5-star hotel with elaborate hand-carved wooden cornices and masterful stonework. It also has a spa offering, a fitness centre, sauna, steam room with traditional Bhutanese outdoor hotstone bath.
Day 6 : Paro
On their last day of the trip, Han Wei and Sheila went to trek up Bhutan’s most famous cultural icon, the Takstang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest). No traveler’s trip to Bhutan is complete without a hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The Tiger Nest’s Monastery is a sacred Buddhist site that was constructed in 1962, around the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche was carried from Tibet to this sacred site on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Despite having weak knees, Han Wei managed to challenge himself to trek all the way up with the support and encouragement of his hiking mates and other fellow hikers he met along the way. In fact, he was extremely touched by the kindness of his driver who constantly followed closely behind him throughout the hike.
Halfway through the trek, they found that their tour guide was trying to clear the stagnant water so that the water will flow freely and hikers will not fall down. His sense of civic mindedness left a deep impression in Han Wei. Having set foot in so many countries, Han Wei mentioned that Bhutan is his favourite country! It’s the place where he felt he learnt the most and gained the most awakenings.
After almost 4 hours of hiking, they finally got a close-up glimpse of the awe-inspiring Tiger’s Nest Monastery perched on the cliff top, 2950m above sea level.
The hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery is surely an amazing way to end their memorable and heartwarming trip to Bhutan. As beautifully wrapped up by Han Wei, the hike itself is akin to life’s journey – where you’ll go through ups and downs, and accompanied by the sun, wind and rain along the way. Albeit it being a difficult and arduous journey but amidst all the struggles, it’s also filled with much warmth. The goal is to just grit our teeth and just keep moving.
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