Two bus rides, one train ride, and one flight later, the nine of us accompanied by Ms. Pike, Mr. Tesal and Ms. Ritika reached the beautiful Paro airport, encompassed by mountains and clouds. We had just flown over the majestic Mount. Everest and the warm fresh air of Paro that foreshadowed the delightful five days of our Grade 12 English trip.
A cute little turquoise-white bus that accompanied us throughout our journey took us to Thimphu for the most exciting annual literary festival in Bhutan: Mountain Echoes, or as I like to call it, a communion of bibliophiles. The festival brought together writers, biographers, historians, environmentalists, scholars, artists, filmmakers and others to engage in cultural dialogue, share stories, create memories and spend three blissful days in the spectacular Bhutanese mountains.
After reaching Thimphu, the best thing in the world happened to us. We found a cafe right beside our hotel named Cloud 9. The ambience of the cafe along with the lovely ice-creams there made it a regular spot that we frequented every night. My personal favorite was the butterscotch cone with a wafer on top that reminded me of childhood and warmth.
On our first night, we had dinner with Mr. Palden Tshering, Class of ‘91 at Project Zza- a restaurant owned by the brother of Tshokey Gyaltshen, Class of 2017. It was a lovely evening spent talking about Woodstock and its traditions. We ordered two rounds of this lovely dessert with apple pie momos and coconut ice-cream. We ordered twice and the plates were empty within a minute both times!
The next day, we went to the festival that took place alternatively between the Royal University of Bhutan and the Taj Tashi hotel and met a myriad of different scholars with amazing stories to tell, and many inspiring people. The most notable event was the speech from the majestic Queen Mother, Dorji Wangmo, who sponsored the whole festival. Her story about her deceased father touched the hearts of many. That same night, there was a concert in the Clock Tower, with both Bhutanese and international culture equally and beautifully represented.
The prominent tourist attraction and sacred Buddhist site Tiger’s Nest was on our list of must-see places in Bhutan. Hence, the next dawn, an extremely sleep-deprived group of eight students and three teachers arrived at the foot of the Taktsang trail. It was a wondrous hike up. Priyansha Aggarwal, Class of 2020, came up with the greatest discovery of all time that “The best way to have a deep conversation with a person is taking them on a hike”. The monastery itself was so rich in history, and the ambience was so peaceful, that it was a heart-cleansing experience.
Later that night, we were enthralled by Karan Singh, an Indian magician who left us in complete awe by guessing Suhana Mehta’s phone password correctly. She later approached him and tried making him guess her crush’s name but he unfortunately denied.
On the last night of the festival, there was an open-mic performance at a bar named Mojo Park as part of the closing ceremony. Veer Arya, Class of 2020, won many hearts by singing “Like I’m Gonna Lose you”. There, Karan Singh reappeared again with a bunch of magic tricks up his sleeve, with Priyansha, who reminded him of his adolescent love Priyanka, as his volunteer. The night went by with music and magic, laughter and liveliness, and one last butterscotch ice-cream at Cloud 9.
Countless scoops of ice-cream and inside jokes later, we reached Woodstock just before midnight on the 26th of August. Some of us had cross-country the next morning, and all of us had a ton of work that had piled up in the past 5 days. But the trip to Bhutan was worth all of it and more.
Archi Arunima is a Staff Reporter
Edited by Navya Sethi
Photos by Priyansha Agarwal