(Feature Article) Travel Abroad: Bhutan
從曼谷出發後將近三小時，翱翔黃龍圖騰的豪華客機滑行在全不丹最筆直的道路:帕羅國際機場( Paro International Airport)跑道，所有的乘客無不興奮地拿著照相關機想紀念這寶貴旅程點滴，閃光此起彼落，也讓不丹「雷龍國度」像極了電影魔戒場景，伴著仙境般雲霧繚繞的翠綠山林映入眼簾，舉國景仰的國王和皇后大幅照片歡迎每位到來的貴賓和保留古建築圖案的機場大廳，這趟旅程我深知將不虛此行。未來的兩個月將度過窮山惡水、不丹聖山虎穴寺(Tiger's Nest)、舉世聞名的108聖塔、國家最高行政中心、遙望西瑪拉雅山、食物水源匱乏等等挑戰，這是一趟離開文明和深入自我的心靈洗滌之旅。我不是白日夢冒險王，因為我已經在路上前往，你呢?
The Cruel History of Bhutan:不丹的血淚史
Before the 8th century, the nation teeming with waterfalls and large numbers of nameless mountains snaking onward to the border north to Tibet was in a total turmoil and chaos without any superior power ruling the people and always faced the stake of being colonized by the neighboring countries so that it's also named " The Darkest Corner"(最黑暗的角落) by Tibet. Little did we know, it was never put on the map until the 11th century the religious leader, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal(夏宗法王) brought the order and system to people.
Bhutan, traditionally earning the reputation of one of The Happiest Nations on earth, had experienced the long history of corpse-littered wars, struggles, and flood of immigrants; therefore, the first crowned King Gonga Ugyen Wangchuck(旺楚) introduced the Tibetan Buddhism(藏傳佛教) to pacify the deceased soldiers and his people for protecting their hometown from external intrusion, the Indian rebels intentionally taking over this un-claimed territories ; to people's greatest blessing, the fourth king built the world-famous the108 towers in memory of those times of sorrow and triumph Bhutanists all shared. Therefore, all vehicles passing the 108 towers or the similar sculptures standing by the curb should spin around before moving on to the destination to show their respect and to reminisce what had happened on this peaceful land. This time, I accompanied Taipei Life Saving Association to work on this unique and special interview and this journey impressed me from the very bottom of my heart.
The Youngest King: Royal Wedding(皇室婚禮)
Recognized as "The Most Handsome and Youngest King", He, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck(凱薩爾．旺楚克) , now is the 33-year-old ruler over the Bhutan's both political and religious issues, introducing the latest technology and advanced knowledge of architectures, farming, social etiquette while preserving its own very authentic cultures by limiting the number of visitors whose regulated visa fees going to the coverage of health care and education for his people in poverty but great joy.
Amazingly, this young gentleman just turning 14 years old had confessed his affection to the queen seven years younger, the daughter of the pilot as well as the niece to the royal family, the so-called " Love at the first sight." Their wedding was held in the ancient capital Punakha(普納卡) and brought smiles to the population of 6.95 million all celebrating this legendary event, and dancing at the biggest festival ever. You could tell people's sincerest admiration for their royal family, ranging from the cover of postcards, key-chains, sculptures, paintings, stamps, the annual coins in memory of this wonderful couple to the framed pictures seen in both ordinary families and the airport.
While the bride took her elegant steps into the hall with the golden goblet symbolizing the eternal life, she was also given "The Mirror, Condensed Milk, Ranch Grass, and Seashell" which respectively represented " Longevity, Wisdom, Innocence, and Other Holy Blessing." Music started spreading through the crowds from monks' performances of religious musical instrument and traditional trumpets as well as drums. It's a harmonious picture that all villagers were holding in hands and loving their king and queen walking on the path together with respect and trust. The whole celebration was televised and broadcast domestically and internationally. " I have been waiting for this moment so long and finally can find someone like her, a perfect figure so intelligent and gorgeous, we have a lot in common, obsessed with arts and other interests….." said the king. Earning his college diploma in England, the visionary king will exhibit the incredible leadership and insightful perspectives over international issues to improve the life quality in Bhutan by collaborating with other developed countries in light of their abundant resources and agriculture techniques meanwhile leading the political system to democracy based on the constitution.
People: Diets & Leisure Activities (不丹人飲食和背景故事)
Affluent in the production of apples, cauliflowers, carrots, and rice, Bhutan has been dedicated to its rice and wheat growth. If you are a curry love, you cannot miss the delicious chicken curry with Bhutan's crispy cookie, similar to Indian naan, sided with chilies cheese(起司辣椒), the taste of mild hot giving the stomach warmth and good appetite after the long-hour bumpy ride. ( my favorite^^)As for beverages, the host will provide the tea bags or powered coffee from Nepal for the guests. As for me, I did prefer the salty milk tea (酥油茶)freshly made from the ranch cows, free of artificial flavoring or preservatives but rich in protein and calories, energizing the workers with more nutrition through the chilly climate all around the year. But if fresh fruit is the vital element for your daily meals, you will felt slightly disappointed for most shops giving the diners with canned fruit most of the time considering the real experience that I'd been served with that for two months in all the regions our group visited.
After the in-depth talk with the locals, I was shocked to unveil the regular habit of betel-nuts-chewing rooted in the past of mortified identity. Are you ready for the truth? Interviewing five locals in four major regions in Bhutan, they were clearly educated with the concept of their ancestors being the cannibals feeding on human flesh for years. The former king did realize that this customary behaviors couldn't be forbidden cold turkey and just encouraged the villages to replace human flesh with betel nuts whose hard surface (human skull), maroon juice( blood), and leaves( skin) could temporarily quench their desires; at the same time, Buddhism was widespread in educations and lectured them with civilized manners to help this nation back on the right track. Therefore, you shouldn't feel uncomfortable when spotting teenagers in Bhutan chewing betel nuts, compared with the past they may feel brutal and inhumane.
In the religious rituals, we as the foreign visitors were given some cubes of yak cheese, highly recommended by the local women who treated it like the nutritional supplement. Its hard, chewy taste didn't get much of my attention and they seldom added salt or vinegar to the cuisines for shortage of ingredients and guess what? They love eating with bare hands instead of chopsticks/ forks. This dining habit could be traced back to Indian traditions.
In the following column, I'll be introducing more classic attires and Bhutan dialects to you and some must-see tourist attractions which we'd spent months trekking mountain ranges, wading in the lakes. What taboos you shouldn't pamper with when stepping into the temples? How to put on your Bhutan attire and how to bargain when shopping? To be continued……（上）