Bringing Laughter in Bhutan: A journey East to West

 

August 2019

Bhutan - Bringing Laughter in Bhutan 

 
The first stage of a multi-part project, the Clown Acrobatics Brigade (including Leah Abel, Hannah Gaff and
Nik Strubbe) will tour the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan in August 2019, offering free-of-charge interactive
performances and workshops in acrobatics, clowning, and theatre. Our primary goal is to provide learning
opportunities for disadvantaged and handicapped youth in schools, drug rehabilitation centres and monasteries in rural areas of Eastern Bhutan with fewer opportunities and access to movement education and creative arts.  This tour will visit the eastern, central and western valleys of Tashigang, Mongar, Bumthang, Phobjikha, Punakha, Thimphu and Paro.
 
 
Day 1 - FLIGHT BANGKOK TO GUWAHATI, INDIA. DRIVE TO SAMDRUP JONGKHAR, BHUTANDepart Bangkok and fly to Guwahati. After our rendezvous with our Bhutanese team at the airport, we drive approximately 3 hours through the plains of Assam to Samdrup Jongkhar. Once we reach the border we go through formalities to enter Bhutan.
Hotel Menjong
Day 2 - SAMDRUP JONKGAR TO TRASHIGANGA chance to see the Tashigang Dzong (fortress monastery) before driving to Mongar, arguably the largest town in the east of Bhutan, passing over the Korila Pass (2,240m/7,350 feet). The town of Mongar is built on the side of a mountain rather than in a valley as is typical of settlements further west. This is primarily due to the terrain, which is generally quite steep. Most of the population consequently inhabits the upper slopes, which are relatively flat.
Lingkhar Lodge
Day 3 - TRASHIGANG TO MONGARStep back in time at the less visited Simatai section of the Great Wall, which retains the fortification’s original character. Glimpse old China in Gubei Water Town, where centuries-old houses line quartzite streets and waterways.
Wangchuk Hotel
Day 4 - LHUNTSE VALLEYIn the north-eastern corner of Bhutan, a little more than 75 kilometres north of Mongar, lies one of the most remote and isolated districts in Bhutan: the ancient region of Kurtoe, or Lhuntse as it is known today. It is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s kings and location of several of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in the country. Despite the relatively short distance between Mongar and Lhuntse, the drive nevertheless takes about three hours, due in large part to the winding narrow road. Due to the steepness of the terrain, most villages in
Lhuntse are built on the crest of ridges, with steep terraces flowing down the slopes below.

Lhuntse is one of the least developed dzhongkhags (districts) of Bhutan. There are few roads, and the first gas station in the region was only opened in September 2005. Electricity is not well distributed and the difficult terrain makes the distribution of social welfare difficult. Despite its favourable climate, farming is also made more challenging by the difficult terrain.

We drive back to Mongar, arriving late in the day.
Wangchuk Hotel
Day 5 - MONGAR TO BUMTHANGToday is a drive day through spectacular scenery and over the highest pass (3,780m/12,400 feet) we will encounter on our drive across central Bhutan. We pass through a small town Limithang, popularly known for plantation of renewable natural resources and recently hazelnut plantation. Continue to Bumthang region, a collection of four valleys.
Yugharling Hotel
Day 6 - BUMTHANG – A DAY IN THE SACRED VALLEYA full day in the Bumthang Valley. We have to walk the traditional paths to reach the local villages.
Yugharling Hotel
Day 7 - BUMTHANG TO PHOBJIKHA via TRONGSAWe make the winding ascent towards the Yutong La pass (3,400m/11,155 feet) and then steadily descend to Trongsa. With its stunningly situated Ta Dzong (watch tower) which overlooks the main fortress from a perch high above. From Trongsa, we continue to the Phobjikha Valley, located in the Black Mountain National Park. The park incorporates alpine, temperate and subtropical ecosystems alike and it links up with Royal Manas National Park to the south. The combined reserve provides a pristine habitat for various species such as tiger, red panda, Himalayan black bear, guar, leopard cat, wild pig and several bird species, including monal pheasant and four sub-species of hornbill.
Dewachen Hotel
Day 8 - PHOBJIKHAWe have a full day in this unique and isolated alpine valley. Electricity only recently came to this valley due to it being the winter migration place for the revered Black Necked Cranes. Avoiding pylons, cables have been laid underground so as not to interfere with their migration patterns.
Dewachen Hotel
Day 9 - PHOBJIKHA TO PUNAKHAWe have a short drive over Lawa la pass (3,290m/10,800 feet) through hillsides of dwarf bamboos, rich pasturelands with yak and many villages down to the lower sub-tropical vegetation and rice paddy of Wangduephodrang district. This local centre has grown considerably over the last decade and has a number of boarding schools for the students from the surrounding rural area.
Zhingkham Resort

Day 10 - PUNAKHA – Ancient Capital of BhutanPunakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and is still the winter home of the Central Monk body of Bhutan. Arguably Bhutan’s education system has its origins here, and it is also the home of Bhutan’s most unusual educator…. Drukpa Kinley ‘The Divine Madman’. His unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism, through song and humor make this a perfect setting for the Clown Acrobatics Brigade.
Zhingkham Resort
Day 11 - PUNAKHA TO THIMPHU We climb from the sub-tropical Punakha Valley. As we ascend the pass, there is a noticeable and dramatic change in vegetation. At the lower elevation of the valley floor, cactus, banana plants, poinsettia and other semi-tropical plants dominate the landscape whereas mixed coniferous forest, hemlock, spruce and juniper are seen further up. Once we reach the 3,050m/10,000 feet Dochu La Pass, where a unique cluster of 108 Chortens (stupas) spiral up to the main monument Chorten, we have a magnificent view of the endless ridges that roll into the distance towards the majestic snow-capped peaks in the North. In good weather, the view of 200 miles of Himalayan summits is awe-inspiring.
Pedling Hotel
Day 12 - THIMPHUAs Bhutan’s largest city, with a current population of approximately 100,000, Thimphu is Bhutan’s “Big Apple”! It is the seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the home of the Royal Family and the main centre for most international aid organizations. As the only true “city” in Bhutan, it is a unique mix of Himalayan and Western sensibilities.
Pedling Hotel
Day 13 - THIMPHU TO PAROWe continue our westward journey to Paro, where we will drive the winding road, following the Thim Chu (river) downstream to its confluence with the Wang Chu, then up-valley to Paro.
Raven Hotel
Day 14 - PARO – PILGRIMAGE TO TIGER’S NESTThis morning we make a pilgrimage to one of the most important religious sites in the Himalaya, Taktsang Lhakhang, known as the Tiger’s Nest. We will invite local children and educators to join us. This magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 600m/2,000 feet above the valley floor. The legend of Taktsang dates back to 747AD when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), in the wrathful form of Guru Dorji Droloe, is believed to have arrived at this site on the back of a tiger and subdued the evil spirits in the region. The Guru then meditated in the holy cave, which is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today. According to Tantric Buddhist mythology, the vanquished local deities became the protectors of the Dharma and one of them, Singye Samdrup, is recognized today as the guardian deity of Taktsang. Guru Rinpoche is also believed to have concealed among the rocks of Taktsang various forms of Dharma treasures known as Ters, which were destined to be discovered later by Tertons (treasure discoverers) for the propagation of Dharma.
Raven Hotel
Day 15 - PARO TO BANGKOKThis morning we bid farewell to the Dragon Kingdom as we board our flight to Bangkok.