The Buddha Dordenma is an iconic monument sitting atop a forest hill overlooking Bhutan’s capital city of Thimphu. Viewable from any part of the city, the massive statue of Shakyamuni is sited amidst Kuensel Phodrang where the palace of Sherab Wangchuck (the thirteenth Desi Druk who ruled the country from 1744 to 1763) once stood. It is one of the largest Buddha Rupas (or statues) in the world measuring at a height of 51.5 metres. Made of bronze and gilded in gold, the statue alone cost USD$47 million. Manufactured in China, the statue was cut into pieces and then transported to site through Phuentsholing (imagine the awe of wide-eyed Bhutanese villagers seeing the gigantic head of Buddha at the back of a moving lorry, priceless).
This is part of a greater whole, which includes the Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park, a 943-acre nature park inaugurated in 2011 to preserve the forests surrounding the statue. The entire project, which took about 10 years to complete on 25 September 2015, cost over USD$100 million. Locals and tourists alike embrace the park, which is popular for weekend family outings and its biking, hiking and nature trails. The park also hosted the Peling Tsechu, a three-day festival held in May 2016 to commemorate the birth of His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck.The three-storey base houses a large chapel, while the body itself is filled with 125,000 gold statues of Buddha. The statue is expected to be a major pilgrimage centre and a focal point for Buddhists all over the world to converge, practice, meditate, and retreat.Apart from commemorating the 60th birth anniversary of Bhutan’s fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck, it fulfills two prophecies. In the twentieth century, the renowned yogi Sonam Zangpo prophesied that a large statue of either Padmasambhava, Buddha or of a phurba would be built in the region to bestow blessings, peace and happiness to the entire world. The statue itself is mentioned in an ancient terma of Guru Padmasambhava himself, said to date from approximately the 8th century, and recovered some 800 years ago by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer).For me, I am just happy to be blessed with such an amazing view.The Buddha Dordenma overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley, and visitors can enjoy a vantage view of Thimphu nestled in the valley below.Thimphu being the capital city is the most developed and densely populated area in Bhutan, so this sight of closely-packed buildings is not the norm in other parts of the country which are mostly mountains, forests and farmlands. With urbanization, Bhutanese youths are increasingly migrating to Thimphu in search of white-collar jobs and a better life. I wonder how many dreams these buildings hold?One thing I know for sure, Bhutan is not ready to give up their unique cultural identity for modernization, and the little kingdom is gingerly treading the waters of urbanization, step by step, without compromising on the values which they have held closely for centuries. If there is a country left in the world who can find a delicate balance between culture and economic progress, it would be Bhutan.
Opening Hours: 9:00AM to 5:00PM daily
More of my travel adventures in Bhutan
One of the most interesting things that you can do in Bhutan, is to get your own personalised stamps at the National Post Office in Thimphu. Costing about USD4 for 12 stamps (including the value of the stamp), imagine your friends’ and family’s pleasant surprise when you send home a postcard with your face on the stamp :) Thimphu’s Post Office is right in the city centre.
Source: Wikicommons (cos’ I was too excited, I forgot to take a photo, bleah)
You can have your photo taken on the spot by the friendly post office staff, or bring your own (glamour) photos in a thumbdrive. It takes less than ten minutes to make your very own stamps. Now that’s what I call exclusive edition.While you are there, visit the Bhutan Postal Museum that was recently opened in November 2015 celebrate the 60th Birth Anniversary of Fourth Druk Gyalpo His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It’s not huge, but the five galleries are full of interesting facts related to Bhutan’s postal history as well as the country’s progress and development told through stamps.
What you see is a statue of their legendary postal runner (known as a garp) who was able to walk from Punakha to Trongsa and back in one day, crossing torrential rivers and dense forests (according to Google Maps, the distance is 135.8km per way and it would take 39 hours to walk. I think they have a real good chance of winning marathons!).
Garps were selected by the King or regional chieftains based on qualities such as speed, power of memory (messages often being verbal), clarity of speech, and being trustworthy. Modern telecommunication was only introduced in Bhutan on 17 November 1991, so these postal runners were an important part of the social system for a long time.The modern postal network in Bhutan started in 1962 with the opening of the first post office in Phuentsholing, in addition to Paro and Thimphu in the same year. Bhutan is also known as the Land of Beautiful Stamps – the county has some of the most intricately designed stamps in the world, including the world’s first scented stamps, first steel foil stamps, first silk stamps, first 3-D stamps and first talking stamps(!). For the reclusive country, stamps were regarded as “little ambassadors of their country”. Bhutanese stamps are also popular as gifts for friends and family back home, with some tourists buying hundreds of dollars worth from the post office.Stamps are often released to feature the sights and culture of Bhutan, celebrate festivals, anniversaries, the royal family wedding or anything worth remembering. Have a look at some of the stamps here.Commemorative stamps for royal birthday, royal visits and diplomatic relations
Wildlife in Bhutan (yes, even dinosaurs)The annual Chinese zodiac animal stamps
Buddhism is an integral part of the Bhutanese culture. Bhutan is a Buddhist country and people often refer to it as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Forms of postal transportation. I would love to get a ride in the red jeep.
If I could post a message to Bhutan, I would say “I am in love with you, and I want to go back!” If you were to send a message to someone, who would that be and what would you tell him/her? In these modern times where Wechat, Whatsapp and Facebook permeate our daily lives, we have taken personal communication for granted. Try sending a handwritten note to a loved one, and I am pretty sure he/she will be pleasantly surprised. :)
Bhutan Postal Museum
Opening Hours: Daily from 9:00AM – 5:00PM in summer (April-October); 9:00AM – 4:00PM in winter (November – March)Admission fee: Tourists – Nu. 250 (approx. USD3.70); SAARC Tourists – Nu. 150; Locals – Nu. 50
I have been shooting with a DSLR for two years now, and I wanted to really get back to the basics of photography with a fully manual film camera, as a way to move on to the next higher level. So I made it a point to visit Siam TLR, which came highly recommended to me by my photography friends, during my recent trip to Bangkok.
I stepped into the shop with nothing specific in mind, and I knew I had found THE ONE when the first camera that the owner showed me was this amazing green ostrich vintage darling. It was simply love at first sight.
Siam TLR is relatively easy to get to, being located at Mahatun Plaza which is just next to Phloen Chit BTS.Take Exit 2 or 4 from Ploen Chit BTS. You can see Mahatun Plaza from the BTS itself. You do not need to walk into the building; Siam TLR is located at the side of the building where 7-Eleven is.
Photo source: Siam TLR
I can remember the sense of anticipation as I approached the shop…which vintage hottie will I be bringing back with me? :)The spacious shop is basically an enthusiast’s workroom – rows and rows of lovingly-restored vintage cameras sit atop shelves, looking pristine and almost mint. You can feel the love and pride of the the owner, who started out Siam TLR 10 years ago as a hobby and online resource for Thais who were interested in old cameras. Khun Surasak restores all the cameras himself at the workroom, and if you are looking for an Olympus, Polaroid, Lomo or Kodak vintage camera, you are at the right place.
Photo source: Siam TLR (I was so excited, I forgot to take photos :p)Me with the owner Khun Surasak – he is so superbly nice and patient! I think he was rather amused with my excitement as I feasted my eyes on my rare green ostrich leatherette Olympus OM1-N (1972 model – which happens to be older than me!). Khun Surasak told me “10 years in business, and this is the first time I see this green one!”
The bimbo in me asked Khun Surasak many, many questions about how to use a film camera, and he answered every single one of them with ease. He speaks a smattering of English, which really helped since my Thai was limited to ordering food and asking for prices or different sizes lol. It feels very different when a shop owner loves his cameras versus one who is only interested in closing a deal.You know I am into a serious relationship when I not only get the camera, but a family of lenses. All the equipment were in amazingly good condition, and Khun Surasak threw in the lens filters – how absolutely kind! I am so gonna take good care of this special camera, and everytime I click on the shutter button, I will remember the friendly and kind man who sold me this treasure. I will be back for more, Siam TLR! :)
Address: Mahatun Plaza Building Ground Floor, Phloen Chit Road
BTS: Phloen Chit
Tel: +66 (0)8 1431 0351
Opening Hours: 11:00AM till 6:30PM daily
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/SiamTLR.Shop
Known for its healthy and organic soft serve ice cream, Milkcow finally opens in Singapore. Being one of the two Korean brands (the other being Softtree) who started the trend where soft serve ice-cream was paired with a piece of honeycomb, I was quite keen to try after having tasted Honey Creme and Sunday Folks.
Overall, I felt that the soft serve was sweeter than the rest I have tried, a good honey-ish type of sweet. I enjoyed the crunchy almond flakes, although I must say that the staff needs a bit more practice with presentation as neither of our soft serve looked very pretty lol. I like that Milkcow uses natural products, and I definitely appreciate the fact that I didn’t need to wait for an hour to get a lick, so I would pop by to try other flavours the next time I am in the area.
Address: The Cathay #01-03, 2 Handy Road Singapore 229233
Opening Hours: 11:30AM – 9.50PM (Sun – Thu), 11.30am – 10.50pm (Fri, Sat, and eve of PH)
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MilkCow.Sg