May 25th, 2011
Welcome to the new look of Nirmala’s Kitchen! You’ll find great recipes and menus inspired by my travels and bursting with wellness and lifestyle secrets, and of course, online shopping. I’ll be posting regular updates about the happenings at my farm and my adventures across the globe. Keep checking back as we’ve got lots of exciting things in store for you. Have fun navigating the new site! And if you have questions or comments,
May 24th, 2011
There is always a point of beginning—a place where passion grows, beauty shines and a country is defined. Here’s a great way to learn why your travel choice matters and how you can be the change.
Nirmala’s Diary Excerpt-Journey to Tiger’s Nest, The Kingdom of Bhutan
“Bhutan, the locals refer to this place as the land of the Thunder Dragon. I can see why as it possess a mystical transcendent tranquility. I am nestled on a granite ledge, my halfway point to the Taktsang Monastery over 10,000 feet above sea level. The clouds hurried, blanketing me at times like a clothes-line of fresh laundered sheets. Whitewashed chortens, the ubiquitous Buddhist monuments, dotted the distant landscape, while luminous rice terraces cascaded down the slopes. I glance at a black spiny mosquito as it sings and dances its way onto my wheat-colored calf. I surrender to its painless bite and gaze while it fills its abdomen plump with my blood. The stir of a Himalayan Red Fox lures me out of the mosquito’s trance, as I ascend the conifer and rhododendron forest festooned with Spanish moss and vines of passion fruit toward Tiger’s Nest…”
The remote mountain kingdom of Bhutan is one of the world’s most insular countries I have traveled to. Its capital, Thimphu, doesn’t even have a single traffic light, and the sale of tobacco is forbidden. Its main airport is in Paro, and landing is an adventure by itself, as there is no traffic control tower and nature is the only guide in landing a plane. The landlocked kingdom lies in the eastern Himalayas, between Tibet to the north and the Indian terror ties of West Bengal and Assam to the south and east, and Sikkim to the west. Its current population is approximately 700,000, mostly with a Tibetan Buddhist heritage. Its temples and monasteries are in rugged mountain terrain, where dirt roads still exist and in some areas, horses, donkeys and yaks are the most common modes of transport.
In Thimphu you can safely wander and appreciate the location of the monasteries and forts that reflect the deep cultural heritage of this remarkable Buddhist kingdom. For a more adventurous trip, one can make a visit to the Taktsang Monastery, famously known as Tiger’s Nest located in the Paro Valley.
The monastery is one of the most venerated places of pilgrimage in the Himalayas. Legend has it, that Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew to this location from Khenpajong, Tibet, on the back of a tigress.
The Guru Rinpoche meditated for three months sometime in the 8th Century. The Taktsang Monastery was built in the 16th Century, and since then has become the cultural icon of Bhutan. Like all great buildings should be, the spectacular architecture in such an improbable location gloriously exceeds all expectations.
While red and white rice is the staple, typical Bhutanese meals are characterized by the hot chili pepper and cheese; made mostly from cows’ and yaks’ milk. These ingredients are used in what is considered the national dish—Aema Datsi (which literally means chili and cheese). Most dishes are lavishly spiced with chilies, and throughout the valley, you can see them drying on rooftops in the sun. This main dish has spun into numerous variations: Kewa Datsi (potato and cheese), like scalloped potatoes or Shamu Datsi (mushroom and cheese).
Minced meat or cheese Momos, along with a cup of Suja (butter tea), are favorites among the locals. There is also my favorite, a local brew called Arra, distilled from rice, barley or wheat; it’s good for cold nights.
Planning your trip:
Making informed choices before and during your trip is the single most important thing you can do to become a responsible traveler. The Internet, as your tool, will provide a wealth of information.
When choosing your hotel, airline, tour operator or other service providers, select ones that have good sustainability practices. Look for information on the company’s environmental initiatives; strategies to save energy and minimize waste; and involvement in a sustainable tourism certification program.
Wear comfortable walking or hiking footwear.
Use public transportation (rented bicycles, bus, train etc.) and alternative modes of transportation (walking, non-motorized vehicles, horses, camels, yaks, donkeys) as much as possible. It’s a more sustainable way to get around, and a healthier and more enjoyable way to get to know the place you are visiting.
Be respectful of the locals’ privacy. Ask permission before entering sacred places, homes or private land. Don’t snap pictures or take videotapes without first asking permission.
Never buy products made from protected or endangered animals.