A trip to a country like Bhutan and staying at a luxury lodge like Amankora Gangtey promises to be epic no matter what you do. My favorite memory from the trip also happens to be a memory that I expect to cherish for the rest of my life. This was truly a trip of a lifetime for me.
3-nights into our 9-night journey in Bhutan, we arrived at Amankora Gangtey, nestled amongst farm housesin the Phobjika Valley and boasting incredible views down the length of the valley. This quiet village at an elevation of 10,000 ft is famous as the winter home of the endangered Black-Necked Cranes. Sitting on a hilltop at the head of the valley is the striking Gadgety Goemba, which is a Monastery and community gathering place.
Our day in Gangtey, began like every day while we were traveling in Bhutan. The jet lag made early mornings nice and easy and I popped straight out of bed every morning ready to take on a new day! Breakfast at Amankora served as our opportunity to regroup and see how everybody was feeling and what we wanted to see and do for the day. This day, we decided to visit the local school to participate in the morning assembly. It was so much fun watching first the order of little rows of children doing the morning reports and recitations and then witnessing the natural chaos of those same kids running amok making their boisterous way to the classrooms! The experience set a playful tone for our day.
After visiting the school, we headed up the hill to check-in on a small festival that was taking place at the Goemba. The prayer hall was full of people both local and visitors who had trekked from far distances to participate in the festival. The smell of incense, rice and roasted peppers was in the air and the rhythmic chanting of the monks provided a haunting soundtrack to a drizzly day.
From there, our hike continued to a smaller valley on the opposite side of the Goemba hill and through farmland dotted with cows and horses and brightly colored with mustard and buckwheat flowers and then on to a pine-tree forest and back around to the Amankora Gangtey lodge for lunch.
After lunch and a little rest, my husband Josh and I decided to venture out on another hike – we just couldn’t get enough of this quaint valley. So, we chose a circular route around the other side of the valley following some ruddy farm roads through more mustard fields and pastures.
We came around back to the school just as the bell rang for the end of the day and we joined the tide of little kids heading home. This is when it really got fun! We found ourselves heading in the same direction as four school children who live near the hotel. English is taught in schools in Bhutan, but it was definitely a new language for these kids and their vocabulary was limited. I was grateful to have Pema, our guide, along with us to help translate.
We walked along the road with them, playing silly games and chatting about their day. When it came time for the little boys to peel off down the path to their house, they each wanted to shake our hands and say a formal goodbye. It was the sweetest thing to witness this little boy shake Josh’s hand with such confidence!
At the end of the day, I fell asleep feeling so happy and grateful. Most of all, I felt at peace, which is the best way I can sum up the entire experience of visiting Bhutan. I will never forget this day.