An account of my adventure through Bhutan

Bhutan is the land of the flying dragon, chili cheese and Gross National Happiness. The country is also one of the few countries that are visa free entry for Bangladeshis.

Tourism in Bhutan

Bhutan believes in high impact tourism, choosing the quality of tourists over the quantity. They charge a non-negotiable US$200 per day cost of entering the country; this applies to all visitors, expect Bangladeshis or Indians. This $200 is an all-inclusive charge, covering the guide, accommodation, transport, meals, taxes and trekking. This policy has resulted in a low volume of well-heeled visitors and avoided the tourist trample that destroys the natural beauty that attracted visitors in the first place (read, Thailand).

Read more: 5 countries you can travel to without a visa if you’re Bangladeshi

An account of my adventure through Bhutan

This is one of the rare instances when being Bangladeshi is advantageous. Bangladeshis are free to spend as much (or as little) as they want during their trip. Bangladeshis can also form their own itinerary and can travel without a tour operator. While guides are convenient, they are not a requirement.

Read more: 10 cities to visit under budget

Getting There

Druk Air has multiple flights to Thimpu airport each week. It is the only airline that flies that route and there are only a few flights each week, so plan ahead! You arrive at a super small and cute airport. There are no lines for immigration or the long wait for bags.

Thimpu

On the drive from Paro to Thimpu.

Thimpu is a short 1.5 hr drive from Paro airport. Our pre-booked driver was happy to be a guide and singer of Bollywood music (especially Govinda) of this week-long trip. Our first stop on the way from Paro to Thimpu was at Thamchog Lhakhang. We went for a short walk across the traditional iron link bridge built by Thangtong Gyalpo, the extraordinary 15th-century Tibetan engineer and all-over Renaissance man who opened travel routes all over the Himalaya.

Things to do in Bhutan

An account of my adventure through Bhutan 1

Hang out at Mojopark

We arrived past sundown, met up with a friend and he took us to this bar/lounge– great vibes, music and great company. We met farmers, entrepreneurs and farmer-entrepreneurs for riveting conversations and a peek into the Bhutanese way of philosophizing. Mojo Park is a live music lounge that has bands playing every Friday and Saturday. Lounge is open every night– Wednesday being the non weekend night that was lit.
Opens at 7pm. Chang Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan

Breakfast and views at Tiji Cafe

The next morning, we needed coffee to recover from the many, uhm, enthusiastic conversations at Mojocafe. Tiji cafe served continental breakfast and a had a little sitting area on the porch. The cafe was right at the center plaza; on the pricier side but I appreciated the location, good coffee and better views. Then we went to the immigration office to go to Punakha. The permit was ready by lunch time. Carry a passport photo, just in case.

Visit Buddha Dordenma

We went on a scenic drive to go up to this statue for some classic site seeing. The gigantic statue, stands at 57 ft and is very impressive. The statue commemorates the centennial of the Bhutanese monarchy,  celebrates the 60th anniversary of the fourth king and fulfills a prophecy.  It looks super old, but its not, it was completed in 2016 (just saying).
Open hours are 9am-5pm.

Others and lodging

Other things to do include visiting the Tashichho Dzong , the National Folk Heritage Museum and doing archery. We only had a day and wanted to get out of the city so we were already on the move.

Bhutan Suites is the best option. The hotel is close to Changangka Lhakhang and value for money. Each room had a kitchenette, small living room, balcony and mountain views. Clean. A short car ride from the center.

Punakha: Activities and Places

An account of my adventure through Bhutan 2

Dochala Pass

On the drive from Thimpu to Punakha, the pass is a short drive beyond Thimpu. Just take a moment to pause and stare at the Himalayas in the horizon.

Go white water rafting

The river in Punakha is a section of the Mo Chhu, which start high in the Himalayas and meets the Pho Chhu at the Punakha Dzong. “Mo” means female and “Chhu” means water or river, so this is the “Female River.” This section of river has easy Class I and II rapids combined with beautiful scenery, making it the most rafted section of river in Bhutan. We went in the last week of October, and the it may be called white water rafting but the water was relatively calm and felt more like a row-your-boat -down-the-river situation.

The overall experience included great guides who were super cognizant of the fact that it was my first time white water rafting, who were aware, who were acting upon safety procedures and had overall homie vibes.
Hiring rafts and guides 6000 Nu.-8000 Nu.

Walk up to the fertility temple Chinu Llakhang

So, this was a village nearby with a 15th-century Chimi fertility temple. That is what it is. It is also a chance for many visitors to be in shock and then snigger like 8 year olds at all the PHALLUS’ EVERYWHERE. Traditionally, Bhutanese believe that these phallic symbols help to dispel evil and to drive malicious gossip away. The Saint Drukpa certainly achieved his objective of showing us that the truth is uncomfortable.

Other things to do include visiting the Tashichho Dzong , the National Folk Heritage Museum and doing archery. We only had a day and wanted to get out of the city so we were already on the move.

Lodging and Food

Hotel Vara has good rooms with high ceilings and above the terraced rice paddy fields of the region. That being said, we had solid butter tea and breakfast at Hotel Lobesa, which will be our pick for next time. They had great service and some rooms that had direct entrance to a balcony overlooking the valley. Babee restaurant for lunch cravings.
St Wifi Restaurant for amazing dried pork and pea paneer.

Paro: Things to do

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Hiking up the Tigers Nest

Up in the mountains is the famous Paro Taktsang, often referred to as The Tiger’s Nest monastery. Built in 1692, this sacred Buddhist site sits at 3,120 metres above sea level and 900 metres above the Paro valley. We went to some bland Indian restaurant the night before, played with the puppies on the farm and woke up on time for this hike. I strongly recommend good quality walking boots for the walk itself. I had ACL surgery a couple of months before this trip so I gave my knees a break (and basically cheated) and hired a small horse to take me up to the cafeteria for 800 Nu. Even if you take the horse, you have to walk up from the cafeteria which is about half way or 1.5 hrs of brisk walking.
The way down from the monastery is picturesque and really, really worth the walk. Take you time as you take each stair through the valley.
Entrance fee is 500 Nu. Try paying the amount and getting your ticket before you start the trek.

Taking a hot stone bath after the hike

A hot stone bath is the most ideal way to deal with the inevitable muscle aches after that hike. We were staying on a farmhouse and had give the staff a few hours’ notice to draw the bath. They build a fire, heat the river stones for 4-5 hours and draw the bath with soothing Artemisia leaves.

Sunset at Namgay Artisinal Brewery

Go to karaoke: Karaoke seemed to be a part of nightlife at Paro. Our driver took us to a bar with old men, teenagers, confused tourists belting out local hits, Backstreet boys and Kal Ho Na Ho.

Lodging in Paro

We split our nights in between a homestay/ farm house experience and a night in a resort. It was the perfect balance between enjoying comfort and the luxuries of a resort and hanging out with locals and experiencing the simplicity at the farmhouse.
Navana Homestay delivered in its promise of clean rooms with high cielings.
We stayed at Udumwara  Resort. It is next to a flowing river and there are pleasant cottages, but the rooms were run down. Dechawara Resort came with better reviews and recommendations but was sold out.

Food in Paro

Our food journey in Bhutan was not one with variety, but lots of comfort. Bhutanese meals are primarily five items and a combination of chili, cheese, potatoes and lots and lots of comfort. I have never done this, but I ate at the same restaurant for every single meal in Paro. Kuzu Resturaunt is homely with the nicest chef whose motherly/sisterly presence was all I needed. She piled on rice, managed the boys’ multiple requests for more pork cheese and whiskey and gave me the recipe for my favorite dish (Sikkim Pa, beef jerky in cheese) by the end of the trip.

Staying Connected

Bought a sim at the airport, right before the exit. 600 Nu. Country code: 00 975.

Getting around

Our driver was dope. 14000 Nu for 6 days

Want to become a beatboxer? Moktadir Dewan, co-founder of Beatbox Bangladesh shares valuable advice

We spoke to the Co-founder of Beatbox Bangladesh, Moktadir Dewan. He shares an overview of the scene, their future plans and gives valuable advice to anyone new to beatboxing or someone wanting to get better.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the most common style that is being explored by local artists?

The common styles would be trap, dubstep, techno, and house. But the core styles are old school beats. Depending on the beatboxer’s knowledge he/she can fuse multiple genres. There are over a 1000 beatboxers of different calibres in Bangladesh (as opposed to maybe a handful or less just 8 years ago).

How many shows has Beatbox Bangladesh had since their inception in 2014?

Since then, Beatbox Bangladesh has organized several events and workshops in Dhaka and Chittagong. The two main events are the national beatbox championships that took place in December 2017 and November 2018. We plan to hold various beatbox meets, friendly battles and other events.

When you are searching for beatboxers for the competition, what is the biggest challenge in finding talent?

The biggest challenge is to find beatboxers with a clean flow. One common habit that sadly exists in all genres and communities in Bangladesh (and perhaps in many countries), is that individuals believe that they can skip to advanced techniques, without mastering the basics. Beatboxers need to remember the importance of having a proper sense of rhythm and composition.

Fortunately, we found over 40 beatboxers who knew that, for each competition. 16 competed at each battle. We are hoping as the community grows and with each year, the talent will be more formidable. Beatboxers from previous events are also trying to help others grow and support each other. Some are learning through more research.  We also hold workshops and live video tutorials along in addition to the tutorials on our youtube channel.

How does the local community support you?

Locally, we received help from LMG Beats, Glitch, Ujjiban, ABC Radio, The Mothership, Jadughor, ShopHobe, BeatsBangla, Desi Hip Hop and many others. Tilok Adnan and Shafiq Alam of The Pod helped us build the Beatbox Bangladesh logo and the brand identity of “Battle Box BD”. The brand identity was even nominated at the Spikes Asia 2018

Battlebox BD also got international support. What kind of support was that and how was that?

It was overwhelming. We received support from two major hubs of the beatboxing community: Swissbeatbox and Humanbeatbox.com. Both Pepouni and Kazu from the respective communities have been supportive. They announced our work on their social media platforms and websites. Human beatbox followed both the battles; the breakdown was highlighted on their website. 

Other communities and crews have helped as well, namely Beatbox Australia, Beatbox France, Portuguese Beatbox and The Beatbox House. Professional beatboxers Napom (USA), Gene (USA), Amit (USA), Kenny Urban (USA), Chris Celiz (USA), Ibarra (Netherlands), Ettoman (Japan), D-koy (USA) and Tioneb (France), gave shout-outs or video messages on our Facebook page and Youtube page.

The local beatboxers get personal advice from beatboxers abroad. Amit (from the USA) was a judge at our first Battle Box BD in 2017. He also facilitated a workshop at the EMK Center in Dhanmondi. Soulrock from Germany is one of the first beatboxers to personally come and teach the local community.

Want to become a beatboxer? Moktadir Dewan, co-founder of Beatbox Bangladesh shares valuable advice
Scenes from Battle Box BD 2017

Any advice for someone who is interested in starting beatboxing?

Well, he or she has to be extremely patient. Initially, it might seem tough to make the distinctive sounds with your mouth. But, when it is done properly it becomes easy and quite fun. Beatboxers need to practice daily with a metronome no matter how good they may think they already are. We encourage the beatboxers to abstain from smoking or doing drugs. They must have good stamina and healthy lungs.

Any beatboxer needs to do research on the background of beatboxing and the origin of the sounds. She needs to learn about the instruments we mimic and try new sounds. Youtube and the internet exists, which means there is absolutely no excuses and plenty of resources to learn from.

Gather knowledge, stay humble. Teach what you know and learn what you don’t know. Bangladesh isn’t a place where one can chase fame just by beatboxing. But, things can and will happen if a beatboxer builds himself or herself, beat by beat, from the ground up.

What is next for Ronesh Biswas and Moktadir Dewan Shanto?

We will be busy with doing activities to help spread and build the beatboxing community around the country. We have found beatboxers in Bogura, Sylhet, Gazipur, Narayanganj, Cox’s Bazaar and are hoping to meet more in Barishal, Khulna, Rajshahi, and other places.

We will be uploading original compositions and shout-outs from participants of the battle, to our youtube channel. We hope to organize more beatboxer meet-ups, a 7toSmoke battle, friendly battles, open mic showcases, crew/tag-team performance, etc. 

Things to do instead of feeding your Facebook addiction

Let’s face it, most of us have a very real phone addiction problem these days. More specifically, we are addicted to Facebook. You start reading a new book, or you’re in the middle (middle!) of a riveting chapter, but you find yourself glancing over to read notifications. As that familiar sense of boredom (is that even the word for it?) settles in, so does the next  60ish minutes of endless scrolling. A ‘harmless’ distraction that turns into watching a hedgehog sneeze. 100 memes later.

Scroll, scroll, scroll…the first step is acceptance. We might have a problem, and now we need to take back control of our lives. It’s not that social media is inherently evil—it’s how we choose to indulge in it and what we choose to expose ourselves to.

When and why do we need to curb our addictions?

The first real sign is its effect on your behavior— do you use your phone as a crutch for antisocial tendencies and to mask your anxiety? Sure it’s an easy way out. But imagine if you took a drug that did the same as the smartphone does—makes you stare at your hand for hours and obstructs real human interaction—wouldn’t you avoid it? Higher rates of suicidal tendencies, depression, and anxiety have been linked to constant exposure to the highlights of other people’s lives via social media by many studies. Know your own symptoms. Recognize that you feel worse after seeing facades of Instagram perfect lives.

How can it be healthy to watch video after video of happy people, girls setting unreal standards on how to look so pretty in makeup tutorials, boys getting gains fast and debonair clothing. The promise sold to us is, when you do your makeup and muscles like them, you will feel happier. This is how you unconsciously fall into the trap of fixating on “what you don’t have”. The solution to happiness is a click away. A link away from being beautiful. Or to shop. Or to constantly travel in dream destinations looking picture-perfect.

The Likes and Followers Trap

Facebook exposed photos

Have you ever posted a picture of Instagram, and refreshed the page every couple of minutes to see if it’s got more likes? If so, you are not alone. The day-to-day obsessions and concern around the ‘success’ of each of our social media statuses have become the norm. The photos we post are only the ones we think are best, that too according to social media’s standards. We project the ones where we look the fairest, the thinnest, our thighs are apart, our muscles look the most pronounced and we look the most popular.

We feel like we need to prove our lives to other people and that’s how we can validate ourselves. When you base your self-worth on the number of likes and followers, you are trapped in a vicious cycle? The actual pursuit of happiness is replaced by this sort of endless and addictive rut of low self-esteem and disarray.

What are ‘influencers’ influencing?

These emotions are compounded by the constant exposure to celebrity lives. If we follow the beautiful, designer clothing-clad, edited photos and videos of celebrities’ insta-handles we start feeling like they’re fabulous and successful because of their high materialism in their life. In comparison (and oh you will compare!)  our own little lives feel mundane. The habit of “I’m lacking” accentuates.

Think about it, why do they need so much designer clothes and edited pictures if they are as happy as they seem? Is the reason for fitness and a healthy lifestyle for butt-cheek exposed photo streams, or are they meant to be their own rewards—to be healthy and to feel good from better fitness? Is it about attaining a certain physique?  At the end of the day you do not get to feel lasting happiness.

You are probably already in a healthy place and didn’t need to try that grapefruit juice diet. And if are not, then there’s always that endless supply of memes that can drown your inner emptiness (yikes). Something to think about.

Its time to wean out of these habits.

How do we break the habit?

By getting help! No, I don’t mean going to a therapist, but making the small but significant changes each day that cuts a normalized obsessive habit. You can utilize free and paid resources in app stores that help you to build your will-power work. You can try:

  • Time your own indulgences: Use free apps like In Moment, Freedom and App Detox to track how much you spend time on your phone. This awareness and hard facts can spur you into reducing screen time. Some apps reduce access to productivity-killing apps for when you lack will-power. Try them.
  • Switch to productive alternatives: You need to make marginal adjustments to your daily routines. Instead of just quitting social media and then relapsing into the habit after a while, try a new activity. Say, you download Duo Lingo, a great user-friendly app to help learn a new language. Use the 15 minutes during your lunch break to learn a few skills instead of scrolling. In a couple of months, you can build a whole set of vocabulary with just 15 minutes a day! Or start a free course on Udemy on Coursera. Low on computer skills? Check out Code Academy for fun, there are some really easy free courses for non-techies. The key is to slowly but surely change habits.
  • Here’s a crazy idea, do nothing? Just pause and watch the world go by. Let the moment sink into your being. Notice that your breathing. Reflect. Notice your surroundings. Or if that initially scares you, go for a walk.

How to write a cover letter that will stand out

1. Identify a problem in the company. Then tell them why you are the one to help solve the problem

Research the company and the industry. Suggest one thing you would change or problem that you would solve if you came on board. Your challenge is to identify a potential pain point and how valuable a solution can be. Demonstrate that you can help them run their department more efficiently and successfully than what they can achieve with their current hires.

You need to make it clear that you’re approaching this organization for very specific reasons. And ideally, your specific reason should not be the same specific reasons that all other candidates are giving.

Don’t say, If you’re looking for someone who can turn around projects quickly…” Say “I can deliver posts that are more SEO friendly in less time and a website that explains your services more clearly”. Use examples that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

And if you’re new to the industry or the role? Just ask current or former employees. Go on informational interviews and inquire about the company’s challenges.

2. Be the best match to the job description

Going into the room saying “Hey, I’m great. I promise!” is not enough. You need to scrutinize the job description, determine the key requirements and responsibilities for the job, Make it clear to the reviewer that you can deliver the goods on these key things.

Look for the keywords in the job description (they’re typically listed first on the job description or mentioned more than once) then talk about your strengths in connection those priority requirements.

Start sentences with “I have direct experience with…” or “The first reason I want to be in [role] is because I learned [directly related skill] in [experience in it]” or “I am fascinated with [skill included in job description] because of [something you have already done]”.

3. Tell a story, one that’s not on your resume

Do not repeat all the facts in your resume. Use the space to be more personable. Talk about what brings you to the company. What motivates you?

Felt really down and didn’t know where to get help? Here is a list to help you next time.

October 10th was World Mental Health Day, an opportunity to talk about mental health.
What do you do, if you are in Dhaka, having a really bad day and need help?

Reaching this conclusion is an amazing feat in itself. There is enough stigma, social and personal barriers that prevent people from going to a therapist. You do not have to be diagnosed with anything, you are not ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’. Sometimes its just nice (and necessary) to talk to a professional, who has the tools to listen.

Here are a couple of places that we recommend.  Our recommendations are based on therapists who seem non-judgemental, are easy to talk to, maintain confidentiality while meeting mental health and wellness needs :

Praava Health

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/praavahealth/

Address: House 9, Road 17, Block C, Banani, 1213 Dhaka

Phone Number: 09678701701

Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic – PHWC

Facebook:facebook.com/PHWCDhaka/phwcbd.org

Website: http://phwcbd.org/ 

Address:3rd Floor, Caldwell Centre, House 54, Rd No. 11, Block C, Banani, Dhaka 1213

Phone Number: 01777-772764

Opening hours: Sunday-Wednesday 9.00 – 19.00, Thursday 9.00 – 17.00, Saturday 10.00 – 18.00

You can request English speaking therapists if needed.

Healing Heart Counseling Unit

Facebook:facebook.com/healingheart2010/

Address: House 121, Road 6, Block-B, Bashundhara R/A, Dhaka

Phone Number: 01752-074497

Nasirullah Psychotherapy Unit

Facebook: facebook.com/pg/npudcp.bd

Website: npudu.org

Address: 3rd floor, Arts Building (beside Population Science Dept.), Dhaka University

Phone Number: +880 1755654835, +880 1727906007