Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Destination Europe III: Adieu Travels, 2016

I rejoiced the festival of colours, and felt the illuminations from the festival of lights as those were the times of merriment in India. It was when I was attending my undergrad 5 years ago. In Europe it is different. Winter is extremely cold especially in the northern regions. However cold days are relatively short so I end my spending more hours in my home cozily. But December has its charm here. Christmas is 25 days away but colourful and illuminating Christmas markets are everywhere. Cold can’t deter the people from coming out, and the Glue Wine have the healing power to cold. By 22nd December till the New Year, Universities remain closed and we get as long as two weeks holiday, all looking forward to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their families. Greifswald really gives a desolate look; its streets are empty and downtown appears gloomy. After all it is University’s town so everybody seems to have gone for vacation and left behind are the exotic species. Yet I was happy that my sister planned a trip in Germany and Netherlands, and it was a perfect moment for me to take my vacation as well. 
Lights of Hamburg
The Alster, The Bridge, The Concert Hall of Hafen City

5. Hamburg, Second Largest City in Germany: We were in the city of Hamburg on the evening on 24
th December. The city though lighted with Christmas bulbs, it was calm. The next day, we had no option but to take a ride on City Tour bus as the weather was gloomy with light drizzles. The port city has its own enriching history of being a business centre since 19th century. Canaled thoroughly, it is called the Venice of the North and it is said that it has as many as 2,496 bridges, out numbering the combination of many cities in Europe. The river Alster flows calmly through the city and forms two idyll lakes in the city, which are city’s major attraction. And there were many interesting stories. At one point of location near lake Alster, a poem had written a love poem, but he had two girlfriends whom he loved equally so he dedicated the poem to the both. These information, we could listen to the pre-recorded description of the city in the bus, but for German, it’s described live by the guide. This is the fun of taking a city ride. By sight, asides the canals and bridges, Hamburg has a beautiful and well maintained infrastructure with wonderful town planning.

I amsterdam!
The way of Amsterdam.

6. Amsterdam: The Capital of Netherlands. I knew my sister read a lot and still does, but little did I knew that she have a dream to visit Anne Frank’s House since her childhood days. I do read a little but neither had I known about it, nor did somebody recommend me to read “The Diary of a Young Girl”. We had two days to spend in Amsterdam, more than enough to roam around and see the museums, stroll the streets, enjoy the light festivals by the canals and of course visit the Secret Annex, the Anne Frank Haus. Amsterdam is also full of canals and particularly during the Christmas holidays, with numerous light festivals nights stroll along the canals gives you an enticing feeling. Buildings are mixture of modern architecture and classical tilting merchant houses so taking a walk along with bicyclers is a charm. Tulips still blooms in the coldest of winter and marijuana is just another plant in Amsterdam. Masterpiece is everywhere and Anne Frank’s Haus draws the maximum crowd. As it was my sister’s wish list to visit the museum, we had to wait in queue for 3 hours before finally getting the ticket to explore the famous secret annex, as called by Anne.
The Light Festival by the Canal
A Sample of Tulips

Queue outside Anne Franks Haus.

It was during the time of Second World War that Nazis occupied Netherlands and there was apprehension of Jews. Anne the 13 year old girl was hiding along with her family members in the heart of Amsterdam for two years since June 1942, until they were apprehended in 1944. It was during those two years that Anne regularly wrote her feelings and thoughts in a dairy which was gifted to her during her last birthday prior to moving to the hiding place. While Anne has died of typhus in the camps, her diaries were collected by one of the worker who helped the family with all the support during the hiding period and was later handed over to Annes father the only surviving member from the family. It was later published into a book and still remains the international best seller.
“I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I’m free.” Anne Frank, 24 December 1943.
It was really a secret annex with complex structure. Having thoroughly explored the hiding place and seen the old diary, I felt the inspiration to write diary as well. Such was the power of the 15 years old Anne Frank. So I bought one copy of the book as a remembrance for the visit and to remind me of the inspirations. Coming out of the house it was already dark but it was astonishing to find still a long queue of people waiting to see the house. I didn’t see such devotion during the times of Moenlam Chenmo blessings in Bhutan also. Well, regarding the book, I am midway reading few pages a day.  
The Tower of Berlin and  the Museum Island
Brandenburg Gate

Berlin: The Capital of Germany: Berlin is the first city that I visited when I first landed in Europe last July and it will remain the last city to before I leave for my home in the land of happiness. When we returned from Amsterdam, we spend two days in Berlin since my sister didn’t visit the city before. I passed by Berlin five times before but I was not well acquainted with the biggest German city so I took the opportunity with her to explore the city. Berlin does not have many canals. In Berlin the points of interest are the museums. Frankly speaking there is nothing special to sightings in Berlin but does the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg Gate and the remains of Berlin Wall, whose histories are deep and have national significance.  Like the Eiffel tower, a TV Tower stands tall in the heart of Berlin. In terms of doing miscellaneous shopping, Berlins seems cheaper and so is for foods and restaurants. Hostels are also cheaper in Berlin as compared to the other cities that I have visited. In Berlin travelling is very convenient as a single day ticket is valid for all modes of city transport systems, but there is hardly anyone inspecting the tickets.

The Parliament Building
That was it for 2016. If world is a book, then travelling is the best read. Without commencing the journey destination will never get closer. It is through the travels and journeys that we realize how small our pond is. For all those beautiful journeys, it added cherishing memoirs in me with almighty’s grace. The colds of winter are slowly fading and the warmth of the day is expanding gradually. Between the cold and warmth are the thick pile of books and journals, the pages of which I needs to unfold to realize the ultimate purpose of my life in Greifswald. For now, my concentrations are more into books with the approach of winter semester exams.

Best wishes for the studies. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Destination Europe II: Towards West

I feel the true essence and specialty of being Bhutanese whenever I travel outside. Once beyond our national boundary, our identity is defined by the country from where we come from and I feel the pride of being Bhutanese for Bhutan is best known to the outside world as a happy country and through our best practices in development. My four year stay in India during my bachelors programme was totally an isolated one without any interaction with fellow Bhutanese. And now in Germany, I am totally immersed into the international community of students. In such distant places, our Royal Bhutanese Embassies play a pivotal role in bringing our Bhutanese community in unity, and here in Europe, the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Brussels tries to links each and every Bhutanese through common gatherings. For 2016, we are privileged to assemble together for the Reception dinner during National Day under the guidance and leadership of Her Excellency the Ambassador. I then resumed by Euro Trip to explore the cities in the West of Europe. Travel makes one modest.
Royal Bhutan: Brussels

The Grand Place
3. Brussels, Capital City of Belgium: Brussels is the third city which I visited in 2016. It is quite far from Greifswald so I booked a flight ticket from Berlin to Brussels to shorten the duration of travel. Anyway, my journey from Greifswald to Brussels is one full day. I had to take a three hours bus from Greifswald to Berlin Alexandraplatz and then a 35 minutes journey by Metro to reach Berlin Shonefeld airport, which is at the outskirts of Berlin City. Amongst the airlines, I found Ryanair the cheapest. I could book a round-trip to Brussels from Berlin in just 24 Euros, but to avail such fare, we need to book as early as two months before the scheduled journey. So I took the Ryanair at around 7:35 PM and in one hour it landed me in Brussels. Brussels was illuminated with many Christmas lightings. In Brussels, our Embassy has arranged our lodging in Hotel Manhatan in the heart of the city, where I met fellow Bhutanese who came for the event. It was a homely feel with new friends from Bhutan.

The Little Peeing Man

Bois de la Cambre
The next day, Tenzin R. Wangchuk sir from the embassy arranged a guided stroll through the town and had the chance to see the urban setup of Brussels, the centre of European politics. Brussels is also known as Capital of Europe mainly because it has the seat of the European Union. An interesting fact about Belgium is that it is separated into 3 regions mainly due to differences in language – French and Dutch speakers and creating a bilingual region. From the ledgend of Peeing Little man to the common grand place, park of Bois de la Cambre to various catholic churches, from modern urban infrastructures housing important offices to classical museums, Brussels offers a healing travel without fatigues.

4. Paris, Capital City of France: Paris is the most sought travel destination. Having reached Brussels, it’s always wise to take another comfortable journey of 5 hours in the Flix Bus and then explore the city of Paris. With Eiffel tower as its centre of attraction, Paris is believed to have pores to light itself from the core. I along with the new friends stepped into fourth city in Europe to have the glance of it. Having reached Paris, we left no reason to skip Eiffel tower but made it the first priority. As we went towards evening, we will quite unfortunate to have the complete view of it. The giant 19th century landmark, which is one of the 7 wonders of the world and reigned being tallest tower of the world for many years with its magnificent height of 324 m is too tall that its apex was shrouded in the mid-air fogs.
Eiffel Tower

For the cultural enthusiasts, Paris is believed to exude culture and endless offerings, which can be experienced by walking into Montmartre and other such streets, but we ended by hopping from one landmark to another during our short stay. There is that famous Louvre Museum with glistening diamond protruding outside and there are bridges of locks enroute famous Notre Dame, the most sought after by aspiring architects.

While development has engulfed every natural scenery, there are also some recreational parks like Luxembourg Gardens to feel the fragrance of flowers. What could be the state of my country had she embraced such development centuries ago? While Bhutan lacks the economic might, I feel fortunate that we have our scenic landscapes intact, which are exemplary to the developed world like Brussels and Paris. As I stroll amidst the crowd of strangers, I remembered how I met quite a number of estranged old friends along the Norzin lam in capital Thimphu. We have our own uniqueness which is beautiful. Yet, there is more to explore to see their great wonders, which makes us appreciate our little splendours. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Bhutan: 17 Best Places to Visit in 2017

Cable News Network (CNN) of the US has featured Bhutan as one of the 17 best places to visit in 2017. This isn’t surprising as Bhutan is sought after as one of the happiest countries in the world. Call the slogan stereotypic or to explore the land to discover the real essence of happiness is now choice of the travellers.  4B Tours and Treks will caters to efficient entry and give a cherishing guided tour in Bhutan.

“Not only does this mountainous Buddhist nation focus on happiness as a national indicator but by some accounts is the world's eco-friendliest nation. As of 2016, it was reported to be the world's first carbon negative country.” The article reads.
Jichu Drakey on Jomolhari Trek.

Bhutan by far is one of the greenest countries in the world with 72% of the total land attributed to forest cover, thus presenting a serene and clean natural environment. Having borne the harshness of cold winter in the temperate Bhutan, the spring would be full of blossoms. Basically, the passes and hills would soon be covered in the beauteous variety of the blooming rhododendrons. While the prayer flags would flutter in the warm yet clean breeze, the passes also would offer a wonderful glimpse of the northern snow-capped mountains. In to the woods, it is the songs of the birds that reverberates and by the valleys, peasants would be sowing the seeds of happiness in their field. And round the season, the rhythm of change would continue to flow. Though the summer’s rain would often obstruct the smooth ride, soon it would be over to finally welcome the season of festivity, bounty and colours.

Thimphu Tashi Choedzong

The Mystery of Masked Dances
From the intricately carved marvels of the magnificent dzongs and temples, one can hear the sounds of conch and trumpets, which calls for your attention. Having entered into it, one would be astonished to find the beauty of Buddhist arts, depicting the perilous flow of life between the various realms; everything is ephemeral, sending a strong message of impermanence. And there are grand festivals known as tsechus, which attract the largest audience, all in their best traditional attires. Tsechus instil the family values, unity and coexistence, and of course realization of the impermanence. The laymen and monks would perform the mask dances which are associated with the lives of various saints and masters and men and women would perform classical folk dances. Also filled are the wits and humours by the Clowns. It is time to rejoice realizing the impermanence.
The innocence of Kids
The patterns of fabrics.

And there are hamlets by the river valleys where farmers reap the fruits of their spring toils, singing with the rhythm of autumn winds. Up in the alpine meadows, our Yak herders graze their yaks amidst the floating clouds. There our sacred mountains submit to the skies and turquoise lakes reflect the glitters of permanent crystalline snows and glaciers. Trekking into such serene places would leave us in awe.
A typical Bhutanese dwelling. 

Bhutan definitely is one of the best places to visit, not only in 2017 but for all the time. And wondering how to proceed, contact 4B Tours and Treks at www.4btravels.com, which would cater every need of yours. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Destination Europe I: Stepping into Scandinavia

From the far flung Himalayan countryside of Bhutan, the academic journey has me destined to be in Europe. I don’t have much travel experiences outside Bhutan, though I am a travel freak as my profession of being forester dealing with wildlife and conservation, bridging community and biodiversity, etc.., obliges me to be one. My travel would often involve weeks of journey into Bhutan’s wilderness, walking on foot with basics necessities and foodstuffs on my backpack. Now having landed in Germany and for that matter in Europe for the first time, six months have already passed so swiftly.
Taking the Cruise to Copenhagen.

Studying in Europe offers an enriching experience, with its lure of different cultures, countries and experiences. Unlike travelling to the countries outside Europe where destination is bound to be a single country, entering a European country means gateway to diversity of culture, life and people in numerous countries, each having a distinct identity, charm and beauty.  The university where I go being located in the North-Eastern Germany, cities of neighbouring countries are quite far. Yet, during the last six months, I took the chance to visit some of the cities in Northern Europe, plunging myself into the array of lifestyles. Travelling is very convenient with efficient means of transport systems and logistics can be comfortably booked in one of the cheap hostels in the cities, wherein we share the room with many peoples, depending on our budget and choice.

1. Copenhagen: Capital of Denmark: I along with my international friends’ maid our first journey to city of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark on 29th August 2016, as it is the nearest city from our place. It took us little less than 12 hours to reach there, having to switch from train to bus to ferry. While in the city, we stayed in a 6 bedded hostel, and after decades of completing the schools, I had a nostalgic feeling of being back in the hostel dorms. The beds are double storeyed. Demark, by Happiness index is ranked the happiest country in the world, which is attributed to people appreciating the simple things in life. However, happiness in Copenhagen comes at a cost. I learnt that citizens are taxed heavily to take care of persons over all well-being. Consumer prices in Copenhagen are 37% higher than Berlin. Copenhagen is a pedestrian and cycle friendly city and going from one location to another could be comfortably done on foot.  I don’t have any special point of interests than just going around and seeing the places. We spent two days there and could visit many of the points of interests in the city; the Tivoli Gardens, Nyhavn, The Little Mermaid, Castles, Palaces and Museums in the city vicinity.
Gate to Tivoli garden


Christiansborg Palace

Rosenborg Castle

Amalienborg Palace

Little Mermaid
The city is immaculately clean, without any trashes and unpleasant smells. This coupled with the autumn colours where trees and natural environment attained the chromatic hue, the city gives us sense of happiness as well. If one thing I can take from the place, the sense of cleanliness would be valuable. Bhutan also need stringent rules to maintain our cities clean, and our people should willingly follow the rules. This way, the sense of cleanliness would also give more sense of happiness.

2. Malmo: City in Sweden: Malmo is just 45 minutes ride by bus from Copenhagen. We checked into Malmo during our second evening to have a glimpse of Sweden, a new country. We just spent around 9 hours in Malmo and basically roamed the city blindly. Scandinavian countries are best known for their cleanliness and efficient waste management systems in place. Like Copenhagen, Malmo is also a beautiful and clean city by the coastline, and it is also a waste conscious city. It’s now reported that Sweden is literally in short of waste to keep their waste regulating machines running, compelling them to import wastes. Also, seen along the coastline are the numerous wind turbines, thus generating clean and green energy. Such, exemplary developments from Scandinavian countries, if replicated in other world, would make the planet much safer and cleaner. 
City Buildings of Malmo

Canal in Malmo

Canal by the Night
For Bhutan, we are lucky to be blessed with numerous river systems, which help us generate enough energy. However, at the risk is the unlimited generation whereby we dam each and every river. In a couple of decades, I fear that the aquatic biodiversity would be at stake without a single river flowing in its natural rhythm. Sometimes, I feel that our developmental path is derailing from the renowned Gross National Happiness philosophy? Growth to what end? Until we finish damming all the rivers? It would be nice, if Bhutan also explore more on generating wind energy like Sweden. 

For the next trips, I moved Westwards. 

P.S (Pictures taken by the author)

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Manage Wastes to Prevent Fines

As 2016 came to an end, we saw a new beginning when it comes to combating waste in Bhutan. The Royal Government of Bhutan took a bold decision to implement the Waste Prevention and Management  Act of Bhutan, which was lying idly since its adoption in August 2009. The act has a strong purpose to protect and sustain human health through protection of the environment by:
  a) reducing the generation of waste at source;
  b) promoting the segregation, reuse and recycling of wastes
  c) disposal of waste in an environmentally sound manner; and
  d) effective functioning and coordination among implementing agencies.

But its better late then never or better safe then sorry. Inspired by the speech made by His Majesty the king where he stressed on the need to keep the places and environment of where we live clean and green, His Excellency the Prime Minister made a remarkable move to have a mass cleaning on 9th December 2017, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the ascension of His Majesty to Golden Throne. It was a beautiful gesture to pay back to His Majesty's glorious reign thus far, a contribution put in by every citizens.
And came the executive orders to implement the Waste Prevention and Management Regulations 2012, which was never implemented effectively. The regulation besides establishing procedures for prevention and management of wastes, also have identified implementing agencies for the purpose of establishing a sound waste management system. It also have important provisions on fines and penalties for those who dump waste irresponsibly. Department of Forests and Park Services becomes one of the implementing agencies and therefore, Bhutanese Foresters has a duty to monitor and enforce the regulations, for the betterment of our surrounding environments.
Foresters are associated with fining because, taking advantage of our rich natural resources, our people often harvest the resources illegally and when caught, we have no alternative but to fine them as per the law. Now, waste is everywhere; beside the roads, on the mountains, in the forests, in the rivers, many of which are part of Government Reserved Forests and it becomes the duty of the Foresters to maintain it clean. And we have the additional booklet of receipt for fining the waste regulation defaulters. Therefore, I would like to share with the general public, the nature of fine for various acts of breaching the waste management regulations, as reflected in Annexure VII of the Regulation;
However, we as the citizen of the country, have the sacred responsibility to keep our country clean by dumping the wastes responsively, following the provisions of our Act and Regulations. This way, we Bhutanese Foresters wont need to impose fine on you and we as citizens can always reap the benefits of our serene environments.
Together we can keep our country clean and green.
(For a copy of Waste Prevention and Management Regulations 2012, please Download Here.)

Monday, 2 January 2017

Life is not a Bed of Roses.

The seemingly short days would become longer,
The light would brighten the once dark dusks,
Soon, the chilly arid breeze would disappear away,
And the warmth of air would rupture the cold dormancy.

The samsaric cycle, therefore would keep rotating,
Every moment is fleeting; the ecstasy, the mundane. 
In this vicious cycle, the karmic fate we will entail,
The grief, the pain; the joy, the triumphs; all in one.

The life is a frail beauty of combined elements, 
Often assailed by the forces, turbulent and ailing. 
Neither the good wishes, nor knows the times of celebrations.
But firmly it would suppress the joy and sicken you.

Yet like the fading of cold days, pain would fade,
Like the coming of spring warmths, joy would come,
In the vicious cycle of impermanence, life will flow,
To see the light, the dark; to feel the pain, the joy.
Life is not a bed of roses.