Yunnan, China

chinese-manFrom the moment I stepped out of the taxi in Leigian, I was lost. It was pouring rain and I was in a remote corner of the old city with cobblestone street, dragging the huge suitcase that was already loaded with treasures. There are no cars and taxis allowed in this town. Apparently, there’s no English spoken either, as I discovered as I asked for directions to an inn, where I had not yet reserved a room. I only knew the name, and that it was on a canal. Eventually a monk took pity on me and shared his oversized umbrella with me as we walked the 25 minutes to the inn with my cobblestone weary suitcase clunking behind us in the rain. I looked and felt like a drowned cat and took the overpriced “last” room, the one that used the sink and toilet area as the shower stall. Continue reading Yunnan, China

Bhutan, the Last Day

Dressed in Formal Bhutanese Dress

It’s hard to contemplate leaving Bhutan. This isn’t the kind of place you say, “We?ll be back next year.” We’d be fooling ourselves to think it was that easy. Yet, there is something here indefinably rich, attractive, and even compelling. I want to return next year, and I don’t know for sure, if I’ll ever be back. You don’t just go online and buy an airline ticket and show up. It’s perhaps the most complicated country on Earth to visit, as well as the most expensive. Yet, I think I will be back, soon. I don’t know what I have to offer Bhutan, but I want to contribute something, as well as absorb something. Continue reading Bhutan, the Last Day

Bhutan’s Saint’s Birthday Celebration

Gyem & David

One of the gifts of today was being allowed to attend a ceremony for the birthday of the patron Saint/Buddha of Bhutan. This yearly event was celebrated, in part, by twenty hours of chanting by the senior monks at an ancient monastery. The deep, deep sound of the chant came from years of training the vocal cords to vibrate unusually slowly. The chant continued as we walked into the sacred chamber. The sound of sixty voices chanting and occasional notes of the long Tibetan horns, drums and other medieval instruments, filled the room. Continue reading Bhutan’s Saint’s Birthday Celebration

Lodoe, the Bhutanese Monk

lodoe-bali-5-08-452The waiter at our boutique hotel stood out from our first interaction. My first thought was that he was trained in a 5-star hotel in the West. His demeanor was warm, but with some reserve. His service was perfect, and timing impeccable. The more I watched him, the more I could see a level of serenity I rarely experienced in anyone, a serenity that comes from extensive spiritual training. It was his monk-like presence and flowing movements that touched us all. Continue reading Lodoe, the Bhutanese Monk

Villa Shanti – A Home in Bali

abali-jp-brooky-2008-095My decades old “tropical dream” was re-awakened by spending time in Bali. You know, the dream of sleeping-in a bit everyday and having fresh coffee and O.J. waiting next to the pool, while huge butterflies float by on the tropical-soft air, perfumed with plumaria and mango blossoms. Well, that is the romantic fantasy part. The reality was that I wanted a home and refuge to return to at night during the weeks of long, hot days of work in Bali. Continue reading Villa Shanti – A Home in Bali

Temple Dance

festival-dancers-bhutan-lWhen I have seen photos of Bhutan, always included were shots of masked dancers, wearing yellow/gold costumes, with wide skirts that flair out as they spin. This was one experience we did not expect to have; it’s not festival time. Nonetheless, we heard about a festival in a small temple in Central Bhutan with perhaps only 200 local people attending and possibly no westerners. Men dancing, women singing, and clowns collecting donations, using huge phalluses as props, were the features of the day. It was a wonderful mix of formal pageantry, informal fun, serious religious ceremonies, and those amazing, golden, masked dancers dancing. Continue reading Temple Dance

The Wisdom of Kings and Black Neck Cranes

Bhutanese Stamps - A Century of Kings

Led by a series of socially radical kings, the government of Bhutan has made a long series of stunning, often-difficult, choices. The first, perhaps most radical step, was taken in 1962. The then current king wiped out, in a single stroke, the medieval feudal system, which had shaped all of the secular activities in Bhutan for centuries. Before 1962, there were families who owned manor houses and all the land around the manor as far as the eye could see and beyond. The crops, grown by the serfs, were shared 50/50 with the manor. That ended overnight, by decree, after which no one was to own more than twenty-five acres. Continue reading The Wisdom of Kings and Black Neck Cranes