Sunday, December 25, 2022
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
- I believe that at the top of the list is the economic competence afforded by the income from annual Cordyceps harvest from their regions, authorized/legitimized during early 2000s. The highland Bjops as a community are now richer than their lowland Ngaspos (hosts) who host them during the winter months when they migrate for few months. These Bjops now own a number of multi-storied buildings in urban centers such as Trongsa, Bumthang, Wangdue, Punakha, Paro, Trashigang, Mongaar etc.
- Some of the Bjops have made permanent relocations to low lands, upon becoming owners of land and other properties - thus abandoning their traditional yak rearing occupation.
- The yaks’ traditional pastureland where they use to graze has seen invasion by hundreds of pack ponies from the low lands. These ponies compete with the yaks for the scantily available grass. During one of my trips to the remote alpine regions, I have seen quarrel breakout between the yak herders and the pony drivers. The yak herders claim ownership right over the grazing space - while the pony drivers contend that their ponies cannot be denied right of nourishment. At one point I had to pay the yak herders compensation for the grass consumed by over a dozen of my pack ponies because I believed that the yak herders’ rights precedes that of the pony drivers.
- Thousands upon thousands of Cordyceps collectors storm the mountainsides during the Cordyceps collection months that illegally extend over three months. During these periods, the collectors use up huge amounts of a low-lying alpine bush called “Pam” - for use as fuel wood. This renders the topsoil barren of cover for regeneration of much needed grass for consumption by the yaks, also causing erosion over time.
- Something that I had never realized before was the fact that a large number of the yaks reared in the high mountains are owned by the monk body and the powerful and rich families in the low lands - only a limited number of the yak herders actually own the yaks they herd under extreme climactic and weather conditions. These traditional part time owners are now abandoning the occupation - for better opportunities and as a result of economic gains afforded by the cordyceps collection.
- On one of my trips to Merak’s highest peak - Mt. Jumo Koongkhar, I spent a few nights at a yak herding family’s camp. I was witness to a brutal predation on few yaks by the Black Bears - this was the first time I realized that bears were not entirely herbivores, as I had believed. I am told that this is a regular problem with the yak herders.
Saturday, December 10, 2022
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Monday, December 5, 2022
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Monday, November 28, 2022
The recently concluded Rotary Club of Thimphu Project held in Thimphu in Wilderness Emergency Medical Treatment – a First Aid course specifically aimed at training Bhutan’s trekking guides in how to respond and treat/evacuate emergency cases in wilderness situations, was an initiative spearheaded by Rotarian Dr. James Ham, upon request by the Rotary Club of Thimphu.
The story of how this came about is a story that is rather out of the ordinary.
Rotarian Dr. James visited Bhutan during November of 2018, along with his childless wife of many years. During the visit, someone suggested that the couple visit Chimmi Lhakhang known as the Temple of Fertility. They did, and quite extraordinarily, the wife was pregnant on the first moth of the visit to the temple.
Exactly nine months later, at 6:54AM on 10th August, 2019 a healthy son weighing 5 pounds 13 ounces, 20 inches was born to the couple.
They named their son Kinley Jin Ham.
The good doctor and I worked relentlessly on the wilderness medicine project. Then, to our dismay, the scourge called COVID-19 hit the world and delayed the project indefinitely. But we did not lose hope - finally this month, after over three years of delay, the project got implemented - a meaningful project that is a collaborative work between: Rotary Club of Honolulu Sunset, Hawaii, Rotary Club of Thimphu, University of Utah, USA and the Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences (KGUMS), Thimphu.
With the conclusion of this project, we now have in-country competence to train additional guides in handling emergency cases in wilderness situation. It is planned that a continuous training program will be put in place - to train trekking guides on a regular basis.
Unfortunately with the introduction of the US$200.00 SDF per person per day, and withdrawal of long duration discounts, trekking as a tourism product is no longer seen as marketable, including bird watching tours that are long duration products.
Add to that, the imposition of SDF on the visits by donors is a spanner in the works. I am told that a large number of projects funded by the WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, FAO and a large number of Bhutan's struggling NGOs now remain stalled - and may never happen because the planned projects did not budget for this sudden change in policy.
Saturday, November 26, 2022
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Good Morning and Greetings from Bhutan.
It has been a long, long while since we have been in touch. The reason as you know is because I have resigned from the Rotary and I make a concerted effort to keep away from anything related to the Rotary - lest I get drawn back in. Regardless, what remains vivid in my mind is the numerous good works done by the Rotary institution for my country and people, and the tireless and hardworking people who helped accomplish those life-altering projects of hope and deliverance.
Among those people I remember and honor is: YOU - you rank among the top whose selfless work has helped bring ease and relief to thousands of people in Bhutan - both in urban dwellings as well as in remote rural homes. The life perpetuating medical devices you helped donate continue to pump fluids of life inside the bodies of hundreds of clueless Bhutanese beneficiaries; emergency service delivery at Bhutan's premier hospital has never been more competent or efficient.
I hope that you and your family are keeping well and safe. We are all safe and secured here in Bhutan.
Once again, on behalf of the people of Bhutan, please accept my appreciation for your generosity. Please know that we remain ever indebted to you, and, during this National Month of Gratitude, I offer you our THANKS and GRATITUDE.
It is my hope that you would some day soon make it back to Bhutan - your guide still marbles at the fact that you actually made it to Taktsang Monastery top, despite your age. She hopes to be able to help you trudge up the trail, once again.
Bye and take care ... Please do not forget to convey MY VERY BEST to your wife and daughter.
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
- The news report on 16 November, that Bhutan was awarded the Editors’ Choice Award as the ‘Best Emerging Destination’ at India’s Travel+Leisure show held in New Delhi.
- The selection of Trans Bhutan Trail (TBT) by The New York Times, Wonderlust and World Travel Mart Awards, for a variety of travel related awards.
We need to learn to look facts squarely on the face. Unless we do that, the splendor that we chase will remain an enduring mirage.
Monday, November 21, 2022
Sunday, November 20, 2022
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Monday, November 14, 2022
Saturday, November 12, 2022
In Bhutan every plume of smoke will eventually turn into fire and every rumor is the foundation of truth. And, what is believed to be a most jealously guarded secret is no secret but a conversation piece spoken in subdued whispers and hushed voices.
- Job vacancies created by those who leave - whether in the government or in the private sector - can be filled by the unemployed and the jobless - who are numerous.
- The remittances that outbound youth send back home help strengthen our foreign exchange reserve, although I suspect that they now prefer to deal through illegal route of transfer - for better bang for their bucks. This is not possible to be controlled - if the government does not regulate imports and monitor how payments for goods are transected.
- The new found purchasing power of the non-resident Bhutanese is now the driving force behind Thimphu's unusually upbeat real estate market. But it appears that they have recently discovered that real estate prices outside are more attractive for investment than those of our own - it is rumored that increasing number of Bhutanese are now investing in real estate in the country of their domicile.
- The best of all reasons is that the money the outbound youth earn abroad and that which they send back home every month, provide comfort and ease of living to their aged and frail parents living in rural Bhutan. They are now delivered from the drudgery of backbreaking farm work and fighting a loosing battle against the marauding wild animals. It is not only the parents - but a large number of their siblings still living in Bhutan who are also supported by the youth working and earning abroad.
Wednesday, November 9, 2022
November 9, 2022