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Himalayan Escape

Batman has his Batcave, Superman his Fortress of Solitude. And me? If I were to build a place to get away from it all, I think the Himalayas would be a strong contender. I have nothing but pleasant memories and admiration for the Kingdom of Bhutan.

This view from Gangteng Monastery, is one of many typical views near the roof of the world. Small villages with farms cradled by mountains. A slower pace of life. Less technology and material possessions, and plenty of happiness to go around. Where would your escape be?

Elevation: 10,028 ft.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/7/1/himalayan-escape

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The Wonder Of The Himalayas

I recently watched The Wonder List's episode on Bhutan. If you're not familiar with it, it's Bill Weir's excellent show about the places that are about to disappear - not necessarily be physically wiped out, but just their way of life is changing due to modernization, climate change, or other outside influences. I have such strong and fond memories of Bhutan that it was so great seeing this beautiful country get featured.

It seemed like Bill generally followed the popular tourist routes, which, is pretty common in Bhutan given both the terrain, and the restrictions. If you want to visit, you need to spend a minimum of $250/day, which will include a guide, driver, lodging and some meals. It's really not a bad deal at all if you can get a small group of friends together to go so you are on more of a private group tour. Otherwise, the price may be a bit higher or some other compromises may be made - I'm not too sure of the details since it's been a few years since I visited.

Following the tourist routes though, is amazing! You get to see some truly incredible sights, take in these breathtaking landscapes, and find a balance of peaceful tranquility mixed with some vigorous hiking. The roads, being slow and winding, lend themselves to staring out at the endless mountains and valleys, lush and forested.

Not only is Bhutan carbon neutral, it is carbon negative. It's truly incredible how such a small Himalayan country, has banned plastic bags, committed in their constitution to the protection of its forests, and developed in a sustainable fashion. The Prime Minister of Bhutan gave a TED Talk on the matter, and it's well worth your time, whether you're already a fan of Bhutan, and just hearing about this Buddhist wonderland. And if you want to see and immerse yourself in some great video from the country, The Wonder List Season 2, Episode 4 is what you need to seek out on CNN.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/4/21/the-wonder-of-the-himalayas

#wangduephodrang   #bhutan   #landscape   #himalayas   #asia   #travel   #photography   #canon #explore   #adventure   #clouds   #thunderdragon #mountains   #terrace   #landscapephotography #travelphotography   #부탄
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The Enlightenment Of Wangdue Phodrang

The endless beauty of Bhutan is something I still can't get over, nearly three years after my visit. I guess that means I need to head back to the Himalayas for some more quality time there. Slowly driving through the country, I occasionally took photos out of the van like this one. Never slowing to a stop, but slow enough to capture some of this amazing beauty.

If I were to visit again, I would definitely throw a GoPro or two on the vehicle to capture photos throughout the country. You just can't go wrong in a land as captivating as this one.

The Tibetan-influenced architecture of the homes and temples is stunning. Seeing these little farms and paddies interspersed throughout the hills and lit by the sun's rays is just the tip of the iceberg. The people and their warmth, is true happiness.

Blogged: http://www.aisleseatplease.com/blog/2016/3/23/the-enlightenment-of-wangdue-phodrang

#wangduephodrang   #bhutan   #kingdom   #landscape   #travel   #Photography   #canon   #teamcanon   #asia   #southeastasia   #thunderdragon   #farm   #house   #mountains   #cloud   #forest   #landscapephotography   #travelphotography   #부탄  
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The Tiger's Nest Monastery

The highlight of any trip to Bhutan is a hike up to see the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, better known as Paro Taktsang or The Tiger's Nest. Built on a sheer cliff at 3,120m (10,240ft), this monastery is no joke. Can you imagine having to help construct this?



Much like myself, you might be asking yourself, do tigers live so high up in the mountains?!? I don't know the answer to that, but legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (the Second Bhuddha) flew here on the back of a tigress in the 8th century where he then meditated in the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave for three years, three months, three days and three hours. Many years later, in 1692 a temple complex was built around this cave and fast forward to today and we have the wonderfully beautiful and dramatically set Tiger's Nest Monastery!
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The Incredible Paro Taktsang

The setting for this monastery could not be any more dramatic. It's absolutely breathtaking - not just because the air is a bit thinner at altitude, but because it's built on a sheer cliff at 3,120m (10,240ft). The Tiger's Nest, as it's more popularly known, was built back in 1692. Many Buddhist temples and monasteries are located away from the population to enable peaceful meditation. After the challenging hike up, I was more than happy to rest and inhale the intoxicating scent of incense as I settled my thoughts.

I'm by no means an incense expert, but I do miss the scents from the temples and monasteries I visited in Bhutan. I just wish I could get those same scents in some sort of oil diffuser so I don't have to deal with the smoke from the incense. Even just thinking about those scents, takes me back to a peaceful and quiet place unlike any other I had ever been to.
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Puna Tsang Chu River

I feel like every photo I post of the lush Bhutanese landscape, I gush poetic about how incredibly beautiful this tiny Himalayan country is. I can't help it, it's all so true! The Puna Tsang Chu river here is at just over 4,000 feet, but look how deep this valley is compared to the towering mountains all around! Amazing!
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Finding Happiness And Beauty In Bhutan

It can be a bit jarring sometimes when you make the switch from travel to reality and vice versa. One day you're living your comfortable life, driving your car, using your fancy modern technological gadgets, and the next day you're walking through a valley half-way around the world.

The simpleness of life can bring great happiness, even if it does seem quite hard in comparison to sitting in a desk chair all day. Gone are the worries and distractions of social media, of attaining one item and immediately wanting the next, even more luxurious or new item, and many other considerations. So perhaps that's part of the secret to the high level of happiness of those in Bhutan.

Whether it's the vast natural beauty of this country, the devotion to making Gross National Happiness a priority, or a simpler lifestyle that brings the most happiness, I'm not sure. But one thing's for sure - this place is stunningly beautiful and has a peaceful, calming effect.
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Strolling Into Mysticism

Taking a short trek through the beautifully lush green valleys of Bhutan. Called the Land of the Thunder Dragon, it evokes the spiritual senses in its exotic and ancient Himalayan ways. I'm taken away to a world where the thought of seeing a Buddhist guru riding on the back of a tigress float by seems like a feasible possibility.

When I travel, there is generally a lot of planning involved up front. Then, there is the 'in-the-now' moment, and finally, the reflection after the trip. Upon reflection, the good things become great, and the weak points become abysmal. The memories I have grow fonder and seem to continue to affect and change me. I truly think the world would be a better place if more people made travel more of a priority.
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Stupendous View

The Land of the Thunder Dragon has a sense of spiritual tranquility with a bit of mysticism mixed in. Seeing the vast green valleys and tall clouded peaks, it's hard to tell how much has changed over the years. Sure there's electricity and mobile phones, but, much of daily life seems so simple compared to the first world problems of major cities.

It's hard for me to imagine what it must be like to grow up in a small Himalayan village. You work hard, but that doesn't mean you're unhappy. In fact, most likely the opposite - you're quite happy. With many of the world's problems out of sight and out of mind. I wonder, is this the kind of peace people find in retirement?
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The Darchor Of Wangdue Phodrang

The Himalayas. A place where man can practically reach the heavens. Home to some of the greatest peaks on Earth. Of course, even the "small" mountains aren't that small. Looking down into the valley here, I was at an altitude of 2,921 m (9,583 ft). Maybe it's the altitude and its effects on the oxygen flowing through my blood, or maybe it's that unmeasurable intrinsic value of traveling to a peaceful nation that prides itself on the happiness of its people, but something about this place brings deep reflection and happiness to me.

I'm not Buddhist, but seeing these prayer flags does make me stop and think a bit. It adds to my overall reflection. Speaking of these flags, these are actually called Darchor prayer flags, as they're large flags in a rectangular shape attached to a pole, compared to the Lung ta prayer flags you might see strung up on a diagonal line from high to low. These flags are meant to blow through the wind, spreading their good will and compassion to the area.
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