Personal Journeys

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

June 05, 2005|By Special to the Sun

Open to outsiders, Ha is worth a peek

A Memorable Place

By Laurette Poulos Simmons

Special to the Sun

It was amazing to see a story in the Travel section last year about visiting Bhutan, because travel to the country is so rare.

My husband, LeRoy, and I recently returned from two weeks there, and like the writer last year, I agree that Bhutan is magical.

Bhutan is nestled in the eastern Himalayas between China and India. The government, a monarchy, allows only about 9,000 visitors each year, and they must see the country on guided tours.

We went to Paro, Thimphu and Punakha, and also visited several other places, including Ha. Ha is interesting because it has been open to outsiders for less than 10 months.

The accommodations in Ha weren't wonderful but they were interesting. We stayed in a government guesthouse where one room was reserved for the king and one was reserved for the queen.

The other rooms were filled that night with tax collectors, so we were given the queen's room. Unfortunately, the queen's bathroom was not working properly. We could not move to the king's room because only the governor of the Ha district is permitted to open that room.

Instead, the proprietors allowed us to discreetly go out the back door of the queen's bathroom into the back door of the king's bathroom, but we were asked not to mention this to the tax collectors.

We visited a monastery in Ha that we were told no foreigners had ever visited. There were 17 monks and two lamas there. The monks were as fascinated by us as we were with them. When we showed them the digital pictures we had taken of them, the monks were thrilled.

The monks' reaction to having their pictures taken were similar to reactions by other residents at a festival in Punakha. We were swarmed by children who wanted us to take their picture. When we showed them the digital images, they brought over their parents and grandparents -- the festival is definitely a family affair -- and also their friends.

People in Bhutan seem to love to have their picture taken, and they are some of the most photogenic people I have ever seen.

Through a newly formed group called the Friends of Bhutan, we are trying to find talented and experienced American teachers to teach in a secondary school in Bhutan's capital for a year. All secondary school students there have good English proficiency.

The king has said that he wants more critical thinking and creativity in the classroom, and it would be great for some of our teachers to help foster those skills. The people we met in Bhutan were eager to learn about the outside world.

What an experience it would be to teach there for a year.

Laurette Poulos Simmons lives in Pasadena.

Readers Recommend

Mount Washington, N.H.

Edward Houk, Forest Hill

While you are at the summit of Mount Washington, the Northeast's highest peak, visit the Sherman Adams Summit Building and the Mount Washington Observatory Summit Museum. If you don't wish to ride the train to the top, you can drive or walk. Regardless of how you get there, take warm clothes no matter what the weather at the base of the mountain. It can be very cold and windy, even in the summer.

Ayers Rock, Australia

Cathy Dillon, Westminster

The highlight of a recent trip to Australia was a dinner under the stars at Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru, located in Australia's central desert. After driving into the desert from Ayers Rock Resort, our group stopped at an open area where we were met by a host and waiters. We were greeted with champagne and the sight of the setting sun on both Uluru and nearby Mount Olga. What a sight!

My Best Shot

Robert J. Lennon,

Lutherville

Catch of day in Portugal

I took this photograph in Nazare, Portugal. I had just spent an hour watching the early-morning fish market. These women had just purchased fresh seafood and were walking home. They walked along the beach where the fishing boats had just pulled in. If you look closely, you can see that the woman on the left is juggling a few coins in her hand.

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