Hello Anand, I’m writing at the end of a very busy week at my hospital; let’s see how far I get before my energy and memory are failing. I’d like to break the trip into 2 segments: Bhutan and Sikkim/Darjeeling.
I liked Bhutan. The country has a fascinating history based on it’s religion. This is shown very clearly in every corner we visited. Yet, there is also a strong movement forward, in a diligently controlled way, for which the king probably deserves most credit. The trip showed this in an intelligent way, not the least through our excellent guide who embodied both worlds, the old and the new one. The People’s devotion to the religion and tradition of their country was an “eye opener” for me. People were kind and generous to us foreigners, forgiving our ignorance of customs and history.The only aspect I didn’t cherish was the long drive over the mountain passes on treacherous roads. Yet, we survived and our sense of comradery with the driver became stronger. I guess this can’t be changed until we all fly on the back of a tigress (or in a helicopter). Just PLEASE keep the countryside clean,tell tourists and natives alike to treat it with utter respect.
I was less enthusiastic about Sikkim and Darjeeling. First, we spent essentially three days (out of five) on the road. I understand that the distances are enormous, that the means of transportation are limited. Still, it was “torture”. The noise and stench of the Darjeeling train was unbearable for me and I had difficulty coping with the trash in every corner. Also, why spend a long morning to see a sunrise (mostly getting up the mountain and back)?
This raises the question whether an alternative (e.g. flying to an other site) or “scrapping” these places altogether would be better. For example, I would have preferred to visit Agra and theTaj Mahal instead of a tea plantation or a distant view of some Himalayan mountains in a haze. I have seen many mountains, having lived in Switzerland for the first 28 years . Seeing some Himalayan Giants close up, even some hiking there would have been much more exciting than looking for monkeys at the roadside. Visiting the Tibetan colony in Darjeeling was interesting, though; particularly as our guide was the son of a refugee and gave us some intimate looks at the colony’s history and continued coherence.
The experience was unforgettable, both the good and the “not so good”. It gave me a glimpse into the life and culture of another people, far away from my “westernized” world.
I hope that these comments are valuable for the Windhorse People. Your comments will be valuable for me as well. Best wishes and kind regards, Lorenz