spunktitud3

Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Yilan – Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Just across Ji Mi Park in Yilan is Chalet Gelato, a cute little cafe serving gelato made from the season’s freshest produce.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋It’s also a great rest stop especially on a hot day to enjoy a well-deserved dessert.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋How does a lemonade topped with freshly plucked peppermint leaves or matcha freeze made with tea leaves from Shizuoka prefecture sound? :)

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋The floor to ceiling glass lets you take in the greenery surrounding the little cafe while staying cool.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Really helpful to have the popular combinations of gelato flavours listed out on the board, and look out for the seasonal flavours. What’s your favourite?

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋All the flavours look just as tantalizing. The flavours are usually determined by what fruits or nuts are in season, and kept as natural as possible. When in season, they have an interesting dragonfruit flavour.

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Nothing artificial is added when making the gelato, just lots passion and hard work. Can you imagine squeezing a whole bucket of oranges by hand?!

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋I chose a lychee rose and matcha flavour combination.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Time to enjoy. The texture was smooth and not overly sweet, with nature’s taste filling your palate.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋Time seems to move slowly in Yilan, as you automatically slow down to take in sights of its mountainous naturescape.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋I enjoyed the refreshing peppermint lemonade.

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋And an affogato makes the day even better. Coffee, anyone?

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋

Chalet Gelato 夏蕾義式冰淇淋
Address: 宜蘭縣宜蘭市和睦路鐵道一巷27號(宜興路與民權路交叉路口)
No. 27 Hemu Railway Road, Lane 1, Yilan, Taiwan
Tel: +886 3 933 3030
Opening Hours: 9:30AM – 6:00PM daily
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/chalet.gelato

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Bhutan – Buddha Dordenma: Marvel at one of the largest Buddha statues in the world

Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe 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).Bhutan - Buddha Dordenma
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.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe 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.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaApart 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).Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaFor me, I am just happy to be blessed with such an amazing view.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe Buddha Dordenma overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley, and visitors can enjoy a vantage view of Thimphu nestled in the valley below.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThimphu 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?Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaBhutan - Buddha DordenmaOne 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.

Buddha Dordenma

Opening Hours: 9:00AM to 5:00PM daily
Website: www.buddhadordenma.org
More of my travel adventures in Bhutan


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Botswana – Playful Lion Cubs

Lion Cubs
Cute lion cubs playing at Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana

Once ranging across the African continent, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and even northwest India, lions have declined from about 450,000 just 50 years ago to as few as 20,000. They now inhabit the grasslands, bushes and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. A small population also lives in India’s Gir Forest.

The name for a baby lion is a cub, whelp or lionet. Lionesses give birth to 2 to 3 cubs at a time. Generally, a few females give birth around the same time. The cubs are then raised together as a pride. All lactating females in a pride nurse each other’s cubs, showing no favoritism for their own offspring. This is because each lioness is enhancing her own genes’ success by helping to raise her sisters’ offspring. African male lions generally play no paternal role when it comes to raising the cubs – in a nutshell they get the females knocked up, leave the females to raise the young and hunt for food for the whole pride while they sleep 16-20 hours a day, spending the rest of the time patrolling his territory and going home for meals the lionesses have caught for him. (If the lion was human we would have called him an a**hole, but that’s how the animal world works. It’s all about survival and ensuring your own lineage. Without the male lion’s protection, the whole pride may be eaten up by other predators)

Vulnerable to predators like hyenas, leopards, black-backed jackals, and prone to being trampled by large animals like buffaloes, lion cubs have a 60-70% mortality rate. They are also susceptible to being killed by other adult male lions who will kill all cubs not sired by them so they can have their own with the lionesses when they take over a pride. For this reason, cubs remain hidden for one to two months before being introduced to the rest of the pride. In the wild, lions live for an average of 12 years and up to 16 years. They live up to 25 years in captivity.

Lionesses stay within the pride all their lives but male lions either leave of their own accord or are driven off by the pride males at two to three years of age (we call that the “awkward teenage period”). Usually there is only one male lion per pride, or a few male lions from the same offspring may form a coalition to have a pride. This makes the pride stronger and less susceptible for takeover by other male lions.

Information sources: National Geographic Kids, Animal Fact Guide, and our guides Isak Pretorius and Kyle De Nobrega.

Do your part to save the wildlife by contributing to the African Wildlife Foundation

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Bhutan – The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingSomething which I really wanted from Bhutan were their traditional boots – it was love at first sight when I first saw them on the feet of a Bhutanese gentleman some time ago. To me, it felt like wearing like an amalgamation of Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage on my feet. Plus they made me look five inches taller LOL.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingI asked my guide at least six times when we were going to buy my boots from the moment I arrived. At last we came to a traditional boot-making shop in the capital city of Thimphu.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingApart from boots, the shop makes ceremonial face masks that are used at tshechus (festivals).

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

These traditional knee-length boots known as tshoglham, came to Bhutan with Zhabdrung (great Tibetan lamas) in 1616. They were worn by Bhutanese men (usually noblemen) during formal and festive occasions, and they were padded with aromatic pine needles for warmth and comfort. The present King of Bhutan attended his coronation wearing a pair of traditional Bhutanese boots designed by Italian fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo.
(Images from Kuensel and Italy Magazine)

As the craft of boot-making (tsho lham) involves needlework on leather and silk, it is categorized under the art of appliqué and embroidery (tshem zo) in Zorig Chusum, the Thirteen Traditional Crafts of Bhutan. Craftsmen in the villages also make simple boots from uncured leather.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingOne interesting fact that I discovered – culturally, tshoglhams are worn by people according to their social status. The colour of the middle part of the boot (tshoglham kor) designates the rank of the wearer – yellow is reserved for the King and Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot), orange for ministers, red for high-ranking officials, blue for members of the Parliament or National Council, and green for normal citizens. And that, I only knew after an excruciating 20 minutes of trying to decide which colour to choose. Looks like it was a no-brainer from the start afterall lol.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingBy the end of the 20th century, only ministers (lyonpo or lyonchhen) and Dasho (royal government officials awarded the honorary title by the King) were the only people left wearing these boots, and the craft of boot-making faced the threat of dying out. Traditional boot-making involves very time-consuming and difficult work, and the demand for such boots is undeniably small, being limited to dancers, high-ranking monks and officials who need no more than two pairs in a lifetime, as well as the occasional tourist.

The relatively high price of these boots also make them unaffordable for most Bhutanese – an ordinary pair cost about 1,800 Bhutanese Ngultrums (USD30), and can go up to over 6,000 Bhutanese Ngultrums (USD150) for a more elaborately embroided and quality pair. (The average monthly disposable income of a Bhutanese is about USD235.24) Hence, the craftsmen also face the threat of much cheaper tsholghams from Kalimpong and Jaigon, West Bengal.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

As people gradually preferred more comfortable and practical styles of footwear – there was only one Royal Bootmaker Shabgye Tshoglam Wangdi left in the whole of Bhutan and he was unable to find any apprentices to pass on his craftsmanship to. Ap Wangdi had learnt the craft from a master in Tibet and was the only person who could make tshoglhams for the members of the royal family and senior civil servants.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingThe revival of this craft finally caught the attention of the Bhutanese government, who in 1999 invited Ap Wangdi, through the Nationel Technical Training Authority (NTTA) to teach the art of bootmaking at the Zorig Chusum Institute. By 2002, five masters and 16 apprentices were produced at the Institute.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingTo create work for the new craftsmen, the Royal Civil Service Commission then established a code of etiquette where civil servants were required to wear tshoglhams during official events, thus creating demand for these young bootmakers.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingHAPPINESS! Simply elated I finally got my boots. Each pair is tailor-made to your measurements, and take from 4 days to 2 weeks on average to make depending on the complexity of the design and availability of the craftsmen.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham Bootmaking

Although the main design of tshoglham has not changed, the materials have changed – thin leather soles have been replaced with thick rubber soles to make them more comfortable, and customers can bring their own design for the shaft of the boot or request to add zippers. Lham, the female version of tshoglhams, are being designed and recently, half-tshoglhams have also surfaced. While it is inevitable that footwear needs to evolve with the modern times, we need to be mindful that an item with that much cultural heritage and tradition is not drastically altered.

Bhutan - The Craft of Tsho Lham BootmakingFor me, I will stick to the traditional tshoglham. This original tall shaft design is typically worn by men, while the modern ones with high heels or platforms are for women (so they can look taller!). I would have bought every colour available if not for the fact that I was only allowed to buy the civilian green colour (yes culture does come before money for the Bhutanese). So looking forward to strutting down the street with a representation of Bhutan at my feet :)
More of my travel adventures in Bhutan