What I did not know about Bhutan

My friend Dave and I arrived in Bhutan five days ago now. I had read up, I knew what to expect…Okay, not entirely.

I did not expect the country to have such a thing for penises. Many house have ones painted on the outside, hairy or hairless,  ejaculating or not..



I did not expect at a major cultural festival to see a dance with table brought by clown monks with butter wax plallusi with condom balloons.


And I did not expect to go to a restaurant with a 4+ foot penis (it seemed odd to actually measure it) standing in the dining room


wpid-wp-1420273440563.jpegand a mere two foot one minding its own business laying on a table in the bathroom.


Nor as a mascot on a bus.



In Bhutan, the phallus is not limited as a fertility sign, but it also brings prosperity, harmony and dispels misfortune. You can’t have enough of them!

I didn’t realize how much I needed to slow down to see Bhutan. A 200 kilometer trip took ten hours, ( google maps predicted 2h45m) going up and down passes at over 11,000 feet down to valleys five thousand feet lower only to climb again to the next pass.

P1030325 I didn’t know that the road would narrow down from its normal size where two vehicles can only pass each other by going very slowly to one lane. I didn’t know that for major parts of the route there was dirt and rock only and that road construction projects would close down traffic for up to an hour and half at a time.

I suppose I could have researched that but to what end. Worrying about it beforehand? Our driver and guide were extremely patient not in that who cares way, or you can’t do anything about it way,


just patient as in being patient, knowing until the time comes to move, there are people to talk to, naps to be had and fresh air to breathe.

I guess I didn’t know as well that there would be no advertising about anything anywhere. Whereas in Shanghai I was overwhelmed by the commercial nature of life there, here I am underwhelmed by the lack of clues. What shop sells water? You can only know by walking in and asking. Apparently the television and radio is commercial free as well. Now that potentially is a true outcome of Buddhist ethics not to create desires since we have enough desires and attachments our mind makes up already.

I didn’t know it was good luck to see a dead body. Our guide saw one strapped to the top of the car and said this will bring us good luck today and when we got to the first pass with views of the Himalayas with peaks over 30,000 feet without any clouds blocking the view, he said see what our good luck brings.

While Bhutanese mourn their dead, the body is seen as a piece of meat, not animated by the deceased person any longer. Apparently instead of cremation in the old days the body was chopped in 108 pieces ( many things in Bhuddism are done in 108- 1= Buddha, 0= nothingness, 8=the 8-fold path) and left to feed the wild animals.

Watching a group of young men playing darts, an outdoor game with 8 inch heavy darts, two teams compete against each other trying to hit a foot high , 4 inch wide target 60 feet away. If you hit it, you get to wear a sash in colors of one of the five elements-air, water, earth, wood and fire.


And both teams do a dance around the target in your honor.

If you get two hits in a row, you then wear a sash that only high officials and priests get to wear in everyday life.


The final thing I learned so far is about impermanence. Prayer flags are everywhere including many places that seem impossible to reach.


And when they fade, they are not taken down. They slowly lose the writing, the color, the shape, the size until nothing is left. It’s just one more reminder.

Nothing is permanent, nothing remains. Each moment is as it is.


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