Tag Archives: travel

Bhutan: A Magical Kingdom

When I choose my travel destinations, I normally try to pick places that not many people know of, or that few have traveled to. Why? Because everyone always goes to the same places, the safer countries, those that are cheaper etc etc. But what about the other countries, those that are mysterious, or scary? More than this, I try to pick destinations I feel most attracted to, and yes this is normally for personal reasons or it depends on my mood, or the year I am having, or the activities that I am passionate about and want to do there.
Bhutan
I remember the first time I heard of Bhutan: it was probably around 2010. A a friend of mine traveled there to work and visit some friends. I remember to this day how fascinated she had been about the country and its people. As she told me about her trip and experiences in Bhutan, I had said to myself: one day, I will be going there.
And that day came sooner than I expected.
This little Himalayan country, with a population of 750,000 people, is unknown to many people still. When I told people I was going to Nepal and Bhutan, they would say: “Nepal and where? Where is that?”
Located north of India, near the Tibet border, the small country is nothing but magical and still has much to be explored. The landscape is beautiful and very green and everything that is cultivated is organic. The country is built according to the mountains, so you can see many temples and monasteries built into them. This means that the roads are winding, anyone with car sickness, bring your pills!
I felt like I was in a fairy tale, as our guide talked to us about kings and queens, monasteries and flying tigers. Here, there are no traffic lights, and barely any tourists.
Uniqueness
One thing that is very important for the country is their culture’s preservation. The government has preserved certain traditions by applying certain codes that do so. For instance, traditional architecture is mandatory. All homes and buildings must follow the architecture that was established by royal degree in 1998. The small arched windows and wood carved doors painted by hand are absolutely beautiful.
As well, traditional clothing is mandatory when working in Bhutan or during formal occasions. If people are simply with their friends and family, they can dress as they please. The kira (women) and the gho (men) are from the 17th century and made from woven fabric.
Bhutan is also unique for its Gross National Happiness indicator. Government policies are implemented according to these four pillars:
– Good Governance
– Sustainable Socio-Economic Development
– Preservation and Promotion of Culture
– Environmental Conservation
Measuring people’s happiness, rather than gauging a country’s economic health, brings in a whole new way to see the world. Although most Bhutanese claim that they are happy, according to the UN, the country remains one of the poorest. I will always remember when we visited a typical 17th century home in a small village, and I asked my guide if the people living there were considered poor. He answered me: No, they are not poor. They have a house, and family, and food, and everything they really need.
Comments like these make us think and question what happiness really means in the 21st century. Are we ever satisfied with what we have instead, or are we always wanting or wishing for more?
Thinking of visiting Bhutan? Check out my previous post with everything you need to know.
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Yoga and Travel

This is a hard one. I wish there was a secret formula I could share with you and then everyone could just practice anywhere and every day.

Even when I am back home, it can sometimes be tricky to maintain a constant, regular, daily yoga practice. Sometimes 2 hours go by so quickly, it feels like i have been practicing for only 20 minutes. Other days, those first 20 minutes feel like two hours. Having a daily yoga practice just has to become part of your day, like brushing your teeth. But that is always easier said than done.

When traveling, it can be even harder to maintain a constant yoga practice. There are many factors that can affect this: Early flights, late nights, jet lag, lack of a space (for example, super small hotel rooms, no outdoor spaces, too visible/public space).

During this trip, I tried to find tricks that would help me maintain a daily yoga practice. Here, I have decided to share the ones that helped me the most:

  • When you arrive at your hotel, ask where the common areas/terraces are. You can also just go explore and search for an area yourself that would be good for your practice. For instance, this space might have a view, or be free of people, it could also be indoors or outdoors. This all really depends on what you want.
  • Make a small daily objective. For this trip, this was mine: 5 sun salutations a day. That way, if I was short on time, it was very feasible. And some days, I would do a longer practice.
  • Choose a time of the day that you know will not be too occupied. Mornings are probably the best since you have the whole day to explore afterwards. But if you are taking a tour and know you will be back at your hotel around 4pm, this could also be a good time.

The idea here is to move your body, keep stretching and not letting that extra fascia set into your body. It is also great for your mind, and to keep the connection between both.

Since I travel so much, I need a yoga mat that I can fold up and carry along with me anywhere I go. Mine comes from Halfmoon Yoga, and it is thin, light and perfect to fit in a suitcase or backpack. I even hesitated to bring it on a few hikes, and regretted not having it when I got there. So really, there is NO reason to NOT bring this one along!

What are your yoga and travel tips? Please share any you may have!

24hs in Bhaktapur

One night and two days is the time we spent in Bhaktapur: approximately 24hs in the city, which is enough to enjoy everything and relax.

Since we were there for New Year’s Eve, there were many festivities happening and therefore, our experience may have been quite different than any other visit to the city.

However, the whole historical center is great to walk around in. Locals will offer you guided tours upon your arrival, but they are not necessary.

It was a little shocking the amount of visible damage that has been done to the city since the 2015 earthquake.

Squares to visit: 

  • Durban square
  • Taumadhi Tole
  • Potters’ square
  • Tachupal Tole

Eating 

  • King curd
  • Good coffee at: beans coffee shop
  • Shiva’s café corner

IMG_5657

Travel to Bhutan: what you need to know

After hydroelectricity, Bhutan’s second biggest income is tourism. Therefore, when you travel here, you are directly participating to the county’s economic growth.

The visa

Just to clarify: there is a daily price to be in Bhutan (200-270$ per person per day, depending on the season). At first, this price may seem outstanding, and of course, it makes for an expensive trip (backpacking not being allowed). But this daily tariff includes: your guide, driver, car, all meals, hotels (3-stars), and activities (some are extra, like rafting). In order to be able to obtain the visa, you must go through a Bhutanese travel agency and once you have organized your trip, they will apply for your visa.

The itinerary 

Firstly, determine how many days you want to be in Bhutan. Many travel agencies will have itinerary examples according to the amount of days you will be in the country. However, it is important you know what kind of traveller you are, and request your preferences to your travel agent so they can arrange them for you. In our case, we are very active and need hikes and outdoor activities and this was adjusted accordingly. If you are not used to having a guide with you when you travel, I suggested these types of activities so you don’t feel accompanied the whole time.

Keep an open mind

Bhutan is different from many places in the world in many ways. From their political system to the ways they preserve their culture, it is the sum of everything that make this place so special. Of course, some questions may arise and bring interesting debates. But keep an open mind, and be respectful as you challenge some of these questions with your guide. Eat with your hands, learn words like “hello” and “thank you” and always smile.

The Bumdra Trek

I read about this trek in the Lonely Planet and it was in the “off the beaten track” suggestions. Since we love trekking, and we didn’t have time for a 5 day trek in Bhutan, I thought this was a great option since it was one night and two days. The second day ends at the Tiger’s Nest monastery, one of Bhutan’s highlights. 

I will break down each day and give you the amount of kilometres we walked. The amount of time you walk per day depends on how in shape you are! 

Day 1: You start your walk in the morning and walk through beautiful forests. Enjoy the flowers and trees. You take a break for lunch by a small monastery and continue upwards to the base camp (located at 3800m). The camp had amazing food, beds, and views. 

Total upward elevation gained: 1200m 

Total amount of kilometres walked: 8km 


View of the camp from the small temple

Day 2: After breakfast, leave early in order to walk down the mountain. You will see several monasteries on your way down. And then, you get a spectacular view of the Tiger’s Nest monastery. What is special about this trek is that you can see the monastery from above, what others do not get to see. You walk down to Tiger’s Nest, visit the monastery early with little crowds, and then walk all the way down to the main entrance. 

Total amount of kilometres walked: 10km. 

A bird eye view of Tiger’s Nest
Things to bring (you don’t need much since it’s one night and you get a comfy and warm bed to sleep in)  

  • Trekking clothes (1 pant, 1 or 2 tshirts, 2 pairs of socks, hat)
  • Comfortable shoes or trekking boots 
  • Warm clothes and a rain jacket 
  • Camera and something to do (book, playing cards etc). 

If you enjoy nature, camping, and trekking, I DEFINITELY suggest this trek!

For any travel information check out: http://www.jambayangtravel.com

Everest Base Camp: Day by day route

I decided to share the break down of each day during our trek. I have included where we went, stayed, acclimatized and the altitude of each one. In the brackets [] you will see the total amount of kilometres we walked each day. I think this will help you prepare (physically and mentally) for your Everest Base Camp experience.

I cannot stress enough the importance of physically preparing for this trek. We saw many people struggling during the first two days, which are the easiest because you walk less and you slowly go up in altitude.

If you have never been in altitude before, i would recommend trying to go to higher mountains (Andes, the Alps, or anything nearby that is higher than 2000m). However, keep in mind that the altitude is felt much more in the Himalayas.

Our route was 10 days in total, but we did one day less on the way down, so you can have shorter days if you need/prefer.

So my recommendation is, get on that treadmill, run up and down the stairs, train at the gym and get in shape as much as possible.

Our trekking route: 

Day 1: [8km] Lukla (2840m) to Phakding (2610m)

Day 2:  [10km] Phakding (2610m) to Namche Bazar (3440m)

Day 3: acclimatize in Namche Bazar (3440m)

Day 4:  [14km] Namche Bazar (3440m) to Pangboche (3930m)

Day 5: [8km] Pangboche (3930m) to Dingboche (4410m)

Day 6: acclimatize in Dingboche. You can also take short walks to help acclimatize. We went to Imja Tsho, a Laguna located at 5010m [total of 20km return]

Day 7:  [17km] Dingboche (4410m) to Gorakshep (5164m) + sunset at Kala Patthar (5545m)

Day 8: [21km] Gorakshep (5164m) to Everest Base Camp(5364) to Pangboche (3930m)

Day 9:  [14km] Pangboche (3930m) to Namche Bazar (3440m)

Day 10: [18km] Namche Bazar (3440m) to Lukla (2840m)

Walking through the Himalayas 

Nepal is an ideal destination for anyone who loves nature and the mountains. The Himalayas are a mountain range in Asia that cross several countries: Pakistan, India, Tibet (China), Bhutan and Nepal. Bordering Nepal and Tibet, with an altitude of 8848m above sea level, lies the highest mountain in the world: Mount Everest.


It truly was a dream come true to travel half way across the world to the Himalayas. A friend of ours has a project to hike the 14 highest mountains of the world (all above 8000m), with the objective to do so without supplementary oxygen (www.richardhidalgo.com). It was an honour to accompany him to the Everest base camp, located at 5400m.

When you arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, you must take a flight to Lukla (FYI, the most dangerous airport in the world!!) and this is where you start walking. Normally, it takes approximately 11-14 days to go up to base camp and come back down. We took 10 days. The best season to hike is April and May, or in September and October. This also means that there are many tourist on the Everest Base Camp route. We started hiking in March, which was ideal to avoid the big crowds.

The journey has views that will simply take your breath away. The landscape changes along the way from forests and rivers to dryer, and higher climates. We walked through valleys surrounded by snow capped mountains, through small villages,  Buddhist monasteries and “stupas” and “chortens” (Buddhist monuments). We had to cross high, hanging bridges, and everywhere we went, there were prayer flags decorating the way.



As we got higher and higher, we could feel the altitude. This is also why the route is so long: you need extra days in order to acclimatize properly. This is very important because if you get altitude sickness, you must immediately go down, and this could ruin your trek.

One highlight of the trip was reaching the summit of Kala Patthar mountain (5600m). From here, we enjoyed the panoramic view of nearby mountains and of Mount Everest. Most people go in the morning, however, we went in the late afternoon, to enjoy and absolutely beautiful sunset, although a little cold and windy.


Another highlight was to reach the Everest base camp. Here, we walked the whole length of the camp and we reached the Khumbu glacier.  We also had tea and lunch before heading back down. That day was a long one, we walked until 8pm guided solely by the moonlight and enjoying the stars.

Taking walks in nature is a type of active meditation. It is an important moment during which your mind focuses on your bodily movements and your senses. You hear birds, you feel the wind, you smell the flowers, and see many beautiful things. All of this brings you directly into the present moment and allows you to connect with your inner self.

They say a trip occurs three times: when you dream it, when you live it, and when you remember it.

We have incredible memories for the rest of our lives.

I will soon be posting the details of our daily walks, and also packing recommendations for your trek to Everest Base Camp. Stay tuned!!