Our Hotels in Bhutan

 

 

Bhut- Tiles Hotel

 

 

Our trip to Bhutan was designed around three valleys – Thimphu, Punakha, and Paro. We were to take our journey for eight days. Halfway through, an opportunity came up to visit Gangtey in Phobjikha Valley, a three-hour car ride from Punakha. All the different towns are about two to three hours away from each other by land. Amala Destinations, being a bespoke travel service, adjusted our itinerary and brought us to Gangtey. This explains the many hotels we got to stay in. Each one different but each reflects so much of the culture and architecture of Bhutan.

All new buildings in Bhutan, whether residential, commercial, agricultural or for tourism are mandated to follow the form of traditional Bhutanese architecture. A royal decree in 1998 mandated all buildings in Bhutan must be constructed with a mud brick structure (or the appearance of), either whitewashed or left as terracotta, multi-coloured wood frontages and cornices, small arched windows, and sloping roofs. You will see how the hotels and resorts have adapted this very unique architectural style and translated it into their own.

In our eight days in Bhutan, we stayed in a local inn, a luxury lodge, a hip hotel, a forest lodge and a luxurious mountain. Getting from A to B was quite an adventure and sometimes a test of patience. There is only one main highway in Bhutan – a one-lane meandering road that zigzags up, down, and around mountains. The country is predominantly Buddhist, and part of their belief is that mountains are sacred sites. There are still unexplored mountains in Bhutan. Needless to say, they will not be blasting mountains to make way for tunnels ever. Bhutan has a strict environmental stance and believes in protecting the country’s 72 percent of forest cover.

I loved the balance of our trip. Though the terrain was tough during the day, all our accommodations were more than comfortable, even luxurious. Amala Destinations chose a beautiful range of styles and services for us. By the way, there’s wi-fi in all the establishments we went to in Bhutan… except the dzongs and temples, of course.

Here’s what our journey from town to town looked like.

 

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Our Amala journey began in Paro. We went as far as Phobjikha. Amala’s Ee-Cheng gave me a wonderful book about Bhutan written by the Queen Mother of Bhutan.

 

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The cure for altitude and motion sickness… beautiful vistas that just don’t end.

 

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The Dochula Pass with 108 Stupas, elevation 3,000 metres above sea level. These stupas were constructed as a memorial by the queen, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, to honor the victory of the Bhutanese army in the 2003 war of Southern Bhutan.

 

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Bhutan roads are currently under construction for widening and repair. They have a system of closing the roads for thirty-minutes a few times a day. We ran into a couple of these road closures and though our driver and guide from Amala were very apologetic, we actually loved this little “inconvenience.”

 

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It gave us time to stretch our legs and taste authentic home-cooked food.

 

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The local vendors sold momo, milk tea, rice porridge with ginger.

 

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We had cheese momo (dumpling) with chili sauce.

 

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Patrick loved everything.

 

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In one of the stops, I ate the packed breakfast given by our hotel when we checked out early.

 

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Love from the “kingdom of happiness.” Little boy in blue gho looks like my nephew.

 

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You know you’re in high elevation when you see a yak. We were at 3,000 metres, which is considered low altitude for the yaks. Usually they’re at 5,000 metres above.

 

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Fun stops.

 

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The kind of traffic jam that we don’t mind.

 

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We were there in the tail end of winter. During spring and summer, these trees and entire valleys are filled with lush foliage and flowers.

 

GANGTEY GOENPA LODGE (5-Star)

Originally unplanned, our trip to Gangtey or Phobjikha Valley proved to be the prettiest and most unforgettable. This is where we visited the small village where Amala Destinations’ guests donated a monastery roof and where we interacted with the local villagers. It is in Gangey where I felt like I was in a really special faraway place cut-off from the outside world. It was almost magical.

There are very few structures in Phobjikha Valley – just some farm houses around Gangteng Monastery, a few local inns and a couple of luxurious resorts – the Amankora and the lodge we stayed at, Gangtey Goenpa Lodge. The reason for this exclusivity could perhaps be that Gangtey only got its electricity three years ago. This vast valley is the home of migratory birds – the almost-endangered black necked cranes. Gangtey is also 6 hours away by land (rough roads) from the Paro international airport.

From the outside, Gangtey Goenpa Lodge looks like a typical Bhutanese farm house with whitewashed mud brick walls, small arched windows, carved cornice, and wooden roofs anchored by big stones. But once you enter, the space opens up to an informal lounge and dining space with a wide view of the valley below. The lounge and rooms are decorated with heated stone floors, exposed mud brick walls, wooden beams and an earthy palette of leather sofas and woollen blankets. There are only 12 guest rooms. .

Our room had a stunning view of the valley, as all rooms do. And to maximize this special vista, the designer of the lodge set the enamelled cast iron bath tubs right by the windows. Amazing! Note that we were here in the beginning of February, the tail end of winter. In the spring and summer, Gangtey valley is filled with greenery and colourful flowers. Each room also has a bukhari fire place which provided warmth physically and visually. It was my favourite spot in the room – the couch beside the fire place.

Gangtey Goenpa Lodge, rated 5-stars, had all the beautiful design details and amenities of a luxurious resort. What set it apart for me was the impeccable service and personal touches — the welcome surprise when we entered the lodge, the five-minute back rub when arrived, the lovely staff that served us tea and lit the bukhari in our room, the turn down service with treats under the sheets, the friendly and very well-trained staff, the delicious food during all meals, the free laundry delivered on the same day, and priceless view from all corners of the property.

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DHENSA BOUTIQUE RESORTS (5-Star)

Dhensa Punakha, a new boutique hotel opened in March 2014, has successfully merged contemporary design with Bhutan’s traditional architecture. I loved the clean lines and modern, minimalist feel. Our room was quite generous and provided the perfect backdrop after a few days of trekking and rough roads. I loved our balcony, surrounded by pine trees. We loved it so much, Patrick and I sat out every morning to have coffee in our pyjamas (and coats). The mini-bar is complimentary in all rooms.

I took a lot of pictures of the main structure. I love how the designers translated traditional Bhutanese farm architecture into this unimposing modern hip hotel. I hope to use this as a reference for our future weekend cottage.

Punakha was once the capital of Bhutan until it was moved to Thimphu in 1955. It is also one of the warmest valleys, being lower than others at 1,200 metres above sea level.

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BHUTAN SUITES (3-Star)

Our first night was spent in Thimphu in the quaint boutique hotel, Bhutan Suites. I found this to be the homiest of all the lodges we stayed at. It also had the most local feel of all the hotels. Our room had a full kitchen and a separate living room. There were TVs in the room, but we honestly never turned on the TV during our 8 day trip. At nights we enjoyed slow dinners, nice conversations and read books. I particularly loved the wide balcony that had a stunning view of Thimphu valley. The food at Bhutan Suites Cafe was excellent. I loved that they served me chilli cheese (as in green chillies) at breakfast.

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NAK-SEL BOUTIQUE HOTEL & SPA (3-Star)

In Paro, we stayed one night at Nak-sel Boutique Hotel & Spa, with lovely mountain cottages surrounded by a forest on one side and a view of the vast Paro Valley and Mount Jumolhari in the distance. Every room, cottage, and suite of Naksel Hotel features dramatic views of Jumolhari. While we were there, the clouds broke a short time and afforded us a glimpse of the snow-capped mountain. Mount Jumolhari sits in the border of Bhutan and Tibet. Also visible from the cottages and the main chalet were cliffs where Tiger’s Nest Monastery sits. We were to climb Tiger’s Nest the next morning.

We had a wonderful experience wearing the traditional Bhutanese attire — the Gho for men and Kira for women. Amala Destinations sent spa staff to our room to help us get dressed in the ornate silk robes. We all wore them to dinner.

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AMANKORA (5-Star)

This small landlocked kingdom in the Himalayas has five (yes FIVE) Aman resorts under the brand Amankora set throughout Bhutan’s central and western valleys.  Aman means peace in Sanskrit, and kora refers to the  ‘circular pilgrimage’ in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language. We were fortunate enough to have had lunch, hosted by Amala Destinations, in Amankora Paro. This happened right after our climb up and down Tiger’s Nest monastery.

Amankora Paro is located in Balakha Village, 30 minutes from Paro International Airport. There are 24 suites in Amankora Paro with contrasting rustic elements and contemporary design. “Its architecture features natural rammed-earth walls, gently sloping roofs and wood-panelled interiors. Centred by a large flagstone courtyard, a lime-washed stone pavilion houses the living and dining room facilities, library and outdoor terrace, all warmed by fireplaces.” I don’t think I will look at corrugated iron the same way again. Its chic factor just went up.

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UMA by COMO, PARO (5-Star)

Our last night in Bhutan was spent at Uma Paro, a luxurious 29-room resort with private villas in a beautiful spot in Paro Valley. The architectural style of Uma Paro combines local craftsmanship with COMO’s contemporary style. The Bukhari restaurant is a beautiful space with a semi-circular view of the forest.

We had a Valley View room, which was perfect as I said farewell to Bhutan from our room balcony. The airport was just 10 minutes away from Uma Paro. From all over the hotel, one can see the distinctively traditional Bhutanese wooden roofs anchored by big stones. Very charming.

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Bhutan Phobjikha Valley Gangtey Goenpa
After our trek through Gangtey Valley, with our driver Sangay and guide Mani from Amala Destinations. All hotels, treks and tours within Bhutan were arranged though Amala Destinations. For inquiries regarding our hotels, tours and itinerary, pls email info@amaladestinations.com.

How to get to Bhutan, visa and other requirements, click here.

 

 

The Kingdom of Happiness, Bhutan

 

 

Bhut- Tiles Kingdom

 

A couple of weeks have passed since Patrick and I got back from our Bhutan trip, and we still can’t get back to our normal lives. It was one of those trips that was (as much as I refuse to use cliches) life-changing. Bhutan has set the bar for our future travel choices.

One of the last countries to open its doors to tourism, Bhutan is a small kingdom that sits in the Eastern Himalayan mountain range, flanked by China and India. It was ruled by absolute monarchy until 2008 when they had their first democratic elections. It is one of the most exclusive travel destinations in the world. A trip to Bhutan will require commitment, planning, and some saving up. But once you get there, you get to experience a small piece of an unspoilt environment, culture, and people.

The Royal Government of Bhutan has adapted a policy of “High Value, Low Impact” tourism. This means no mass tourism, no budget travel deals, no big chain establishments. They are very cautious about growing and developing their tourism industry and have decided to promote Bhutan as a high-end destination. This way, they can preserve Bhutan’s pristine environment, culture and society. Every visitor must spend a minimum of $250 per person per day (or $200 per person per day in the months of January, February, June, July, August, and December). This rate covers hotel accommodation, meals, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide for the extent of your stay, internal transportation, tours, camping and trekking. A portion of this fee goes to tourism royalty to fund free education, free healthcare, poverty alleviation, and infrastructure projects. Your licensed Bhutanese tour operator should be able to explain and arrange everything for you including your visa.

I knew that at some point in our lives, we would go to Bhutan. Patrick has been very fascinated by this “kingdom far, far, away.” So it was a complete surprise and a major blessing that I met Amala Destinations’ founder Ee-Cheng though a common friend, Ole Eugenio of Options Studio. Amala Destinations, licensed in both Bhutan and Singapore, is a “bespoke travel service” that focuses on unique and authentic experiences in Bhutan and other locations. Ee-Cheng invited me to Bhutan to experience Amala’s very carefully considered and personalized service in order to prepare me as the spokesperson/ambassador for Amala Destinations. Patrick came along to help me shoot videos (yes, we will have Video Postcards!).

I’ll be writing a quite few stories about the 8-day journey we took to Bhutan. Now I know why it’s referred to as “the last Shangri-la” and “the kingdom of happiness.” The minimum daily package is actually a small price to pay for the gift of seeing a pure, untouched world.

 

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We arrived in Paro on a flight from Bangkok. Bhutan has two airlines — Drukair and Bhutan Airlines.

 

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Most incredible landing experience. Our plane had to zigzag between mountains. I’d never seen hills up-close from a flying plane before.

 

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Mount Everest as seen from our airplane window (this was taken during our departure).

 

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Back in 2009 only 9 pilots were qualified to fly in an out of Paro, Bhutan. It has a short landing strip nestled between mountains. Planes can only fly during the day. And much of the flying relies on actual sight and not computer instruments.

 

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Loved the casualness of Paro International Airport. Everyone was posing for pictures on the tarmac.

 

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Airline personnel wearing the traditional costume, the gho for men and kira for women. Bhutanese are mandated by law to wear the national attire at work and official activities.

 

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At the airport, we were greeted with this beautiful billboard of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck.

 

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The immigration gate. All visitors need a visa to Bhutan, pre-arranged through a licensed Bhutanese operator. One cannot just go to Bhutan on their own. It is government regulation that all visitors be assisted by a licensed Bhutanese guide during their stay.

 

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Upon arrival in Paro, we visited the Tachogang bridge, a hanging iron chain bridge built by Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo in the late 1300s. He is said to have built 108 of these iron chain bridges around Tibet and Bhutan.

 

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The iron chain from ca 1300.

 

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The bridge was surrounded with colourful prayer flags.

 

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I was a little nervous crossing the bridge. But the sound of the clear water and prayer flags flapping in the wind calmed me.

 

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There was a newer bridge, with wooden floor boards. Apparently that’s what is used by cattle and those who want to cross easier.

 

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The prayer flags, stamped with Indian sutras, come in sets of five different colours arranged in this specific order – blue, white, red, green, and yellow. They represent the five elements — blue symbolizes the sky and space, white for the air and wind, red for fire, green for water, and yellow for earth.

 

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Bhutanese prayer flags trace their roots to Tibetan Bonism. Not all Buddhists practise the hoisting of prayer flags. Generally, in Bhutan, prayer flags are hoisted for happiness, long life, prosperity, luck and to offer karmic merit to all sentient beings. When the wind blows, the prayers and mantras stamped on the flags will spread good will and compassion into everyone within that space. Prayer flags are believed to benefit all, not just the person who raised them.

 

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This is downtown Thimphu. No traffic lights, just a traffic cop in an ornate gazebo.

 

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We visited a nature reserve where the takins live.

 

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The takin is Bhutan’s national animal.

 

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More prayer flags over Thimphu

 

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Patrick and I at Thimphu lookout point. Sometimes, the 4th King of Bhutan (the father of the current king) can be seen riding his bike in this path.

 

Bhutan is marketed as the “Kingdom of Happiness.” This is not to be confused with the “happiest place on earth,” for that we have Disneyland. Do not expect to see Bhutanese people laughing and smiling all the time. It’s not that kind of happiness.

Bhutan has a unique concept for development. Instead of only measuring the GNP or Gross National Product, His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck created the concept of GNH or Gross National Happiness in the 1970s. It basically means, they will lead the country to development and progress, but they will give equal importance to non-economic aspects of well-being.

There are four pillars in Gross National Happiness – good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. GNH is the reason why Bhutan is developing its tourism policy for only “High Value, Low Impact.” Yes they want to develop and be accessible to the outside world, but not at the expense of their culture and environment. The King has put a lot of importance on the preservation of their culture and the well-being of each Bhutanese. Example, all Bhutanese farmers own their land. Farmers children are given scholarships to good schools. I encourage everyone who is interested in local governance, urban planning or strategic planning to study this concept.

On New Year’s Day my brother in law, Fr Dennis Paez, in his homily, asked us to contemplate on the meaning of the greeting “Happy New Year.” We spend a lot of time on the pursuit of happiness through people, things, thoughts, places — always looking for the key to happiness. He said the true key to happiness is when you give it away – when you make someone else happy. He encouraged us to do something to make another person happy, and not expect anything in return.

In Bhutan, I witnessed that kind of happiness. Amala Destinations took us to Gangtey, one of the prettiest valleys in Bhutan. There we stayed in a luxurious lodge, Gangtey Goenpa Lodge, overlooking the valley. Amala’s founder, Ee-Cheng asked if I wanted to see the village where they donated a new roof for a small monastery, an informal project initiated by one of her guests. Apparently her guest felt so moved by Bhutan that he wanted to give something back to the community. With no formalities, the guest donated cash. Amala’s co-founder Phub Dorji personally took charge of buying roofing material at the border near India. Dorji was able to hitch a ride with an empty truck and got the iron roofing material delivered to Gangtey.  The villagers did the construction. Amazing.

This little act of kindness and generosity went a long way for the monks and villagers. At the end of our visit, the village elders served us tea and biscuits. I was moved to tears.

 

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We drove down rough roads across the Phobjika Valley.

 

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Our destination.

 

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Amala’s Ee-Cheng and I walking through this village. Bhutan’s economy, one of the smallest in the world, is predominantly agricultural. The major contributor to their economy is hydroelectric power, which is exported to India, and tourism. Majority of the population still live in farms, which they own.

 

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This is the monastery and the new roof donated by Amala Destination guests. All structures – homes, farm houses, temples, monasteries are made from mud brick. Typical roofing material was made of wood, kept in place by stones (they didn’t have metal nails). Recently, the government has started to encourage home owners to choose corrugated iron, as it is more practical and environmentally sustainable (wood has to be replaced regularly).

 

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These are slate shingles. Also used as roofing material, kept in place by heavy stones.

 

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Here’s what the new roof of the new monastery looks like. Corrugated iron, anchored by wooden planks and stones.

 

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Here,  Amala’s founder, Ee-Cheng and I pose for a photo with village leaders.

 

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It was quite cold for me, though nothing like Arctic weather we get in Canada. During the day, the sun cancels out the cold alpine temperatures of the Himalayas. Note that the villagers were just wearing rubber slippers while I was in double layers, thermal socks and trekking shoes, haha.

 

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Traditional Bhutanese architecture uses stacked earth or mud bricks as construction material. Roofs are made of light material, traditionally wood planks held in place by stones. Metal nails were not available. Here you can see the new roof, donated by Amala guests.

 

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This is the kitchen of the monastery.

 

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Monks’ kitchen.

 

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Monks’ pots and pans. Notice they have electricity. This valley only got electric power three years ago via underground cables. This was done in order to protect the habitat of the once-endangered migratory black necked cranes.

 

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The bukhari, a wood-burning stove, is the typical heater in this region of the world.

 

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In another room, they have open fire stoves made of mud brick.

 

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During our 8 days in Bhutan, we saw their grandest temples. But this modest temple in a far-far-away village in Gangtey left the biggest impression on us.

 

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As a sign of respect, tourists are asked not to take pictures inside temples. I was “allowed” to take photos in this one, but I decided not to. I wanted to keep that respect. I just documented whatever was outside the holy room.

 

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The very steep ladder that lead to the temple.

 

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Monasteries and temples are so important to the Bhutanese life. It is actually the centre of their village life. This small temple probably dates back to the 16th century or earlier. It was touching to see how much importance the local villagers put in caring for their temple.

 

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Centuries-old murals depicting Bhutanese ornamentation and Buddha’s life.

 

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Centuries-old iron bowl used to light incense

 

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The monastery and the temple.

 

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After our visit to the monastery and temple, the village leaders invited us to sit behind the temple structure.

 

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Turns out they had prepared some snacks for us.

 

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The village leaders served us hot milk tea and crackers.

 

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There were no expectations from both donors and recipients. There was no ceremonial hand-over, no speeches, no thank yous. And yet this simple act of serving us tea spoke volumes of both the sincere generosity and deep appreciation that went on. It reminded me that if you want to do good, you can do good.

 

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I was so honoured and humbled to have experienced this. I wish the actual donors could have been the recipient of the villagers’ gratitude.

 

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Thank you, Amala Destinations, for taking us on this incredible journey.

 

I still have so many stories to tell about Bhutan. There were a lot of jaw-dropping moments like stunning views, luxurious hotels, and bucket-list architecture like Tiger’s Nest monastery. But it is the silence and simplicity in the ordinary Bhutanese villages, that left Patrick and me so enamoured by this pure and untouched culture.

It was a real privilege to have been given a chance to be with them.

 

Read about the hotels we stayed at in Bhutan here.

 

Disclosure: This trip from Bangkok to Bhutan was sponsored by Amala Destinations, a bespoke travel service delivering authentic experiences to enrich and enlighten, with focus on Bhutan, Bali and other special journeys. I am now the spokesperson/ambassador of Amala Destinations in the Philippines.

 

 

  

Aruga

 

 

Sometime before Christmas, my family and I got treated by Rockwell to an overnight staycation at Aruga by Rockwell. December was so hectic that I wasn’t able to book our room right away. We ended up staying at Aruga just a few days before Christmas. We loved it so much, we bought another night and stayed the whole weekend. I was able to do all my Christmas shopping done in Powerplant Mall.

It was lovely playing house with the kids at a place we already knew so well. We loved that everything was within reach. Aruga is connected to Powerplant Mall underground, literally 20 steps on foot. Let’s backtrack a bit. I didn’t even know Rockwell had serviced apartments. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that there is this option for visitors coming to Manila – 114 fully-furnished apartments with the same level of service, maintenance, safety and attention to detail as we have come to know about Rockwell developments in the past.

 

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A lovely gift welcomed us at our two bedroom suite.

 

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In it were treats from Aruga partners within Rockwell – treatments in Emphasis salon, movie passes, facials, yoga services and Kerastase hair treatments.

 

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The living and dining room.

 

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The kids took over the couch at night. Jumanji was on TV.

 

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View from our window

 

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Free golf cart shuttle service within the Rockwell compound…

 

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… which the kids loved!

 

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Before bedtime, we received another gift delivered by the staff – milk and cookies from Eric Kayser.

 

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The view at morning.

 
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The first morning, we had breakfast at Rockwell Club.

 

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The second morning, we chose Refinery for breakfast.

 

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My Fifi.

 

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I did some last minute shopping at Powerplant Mall. I stocked up on DAPHNE Home Scents x Bench (yes, I buy my own products).

 

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Shopping spree at Gingersnaps.

 

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The kitchen was completely furnished. I cooked a couple of meals. The room also had a washer and dryer.

 

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We had a two-bedroom suite. This is what the second bedroom looked like.

 

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Bathroom amenities

 

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Throughout the stay, I’d find random little notes Lily left lying around.

 

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Lily got a letter from the house keeper.

 

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After getting that note from Rin, Lily wrote this. On our way out, the kids saw Rin. They gave her a hug. I asked how they knew it was Rin. She said, they read her name plate.

 

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I love turndown services. And Aruga does it so well.

 

For more information www.arugabyrockwell.com

 

 

MAC Cosmetics in Boracay

 

 

Leave it to MAC Cosmetics Philippines to present the Spring-Summer 2015 beauty trend report in the island paradise of Boracay. Every season and new collection in the past has so far been launched in very interesting and glamorous events. This one sets a new standard for seasonal launches. MAC Philippines flew the country’s top editors and a few bloggers to attend the presentation by Director of Artistry Romero Jennings. We all stayed at the luxurious Shangri-la Boracay for a couple of nights.

Here are some highlights.

 

Can't think of a better place to see the MAC Cosmetics SS2015 Trend Presentation. We're in paradise! #MACSS15boracay  #MACtrends #DaphneandNBS
Upon arrival we were treated to some island essentials – the Face Protect Lotion SPF 50 and Mineralized Charged Water. I had my DAPHNE & NBS margarita pouch. And my favourite pair of sunnies – Thierry Lasry limited edition.

 

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The Shangri-la welcome. Yes to tropical fruits anytime.

 

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Flying in, I wore my DAPHNE x Seek the Uniq wrap skirt.

 

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My spacious room.

 

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We were treated to a facial at Chi The Spa at Shangri-la Boracay.

 

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With my best bud Ingrid Go, and Manila Bulletin’s Arnel Patawaran and Town & Country’s Nicole Limos.

 

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We each had our own spa cottage.

 

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Orchids everywhere.

 

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I swear, my future cottage will have a lovely courtyard like this.

 

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MAC hosted a beautiful welcome dinner by the beach garden.

 

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Our table.

 

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Lovely personal touches. Our water glasses were engraved with our own monograms.

 

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So much loveliness.

 

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With my BFF since birth Mel Lerma.

 

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The cocktails were specifically designed inspired by lipsticks – Heroine, Ruby Woo, Morange, Candy Yum Yum and Sin.

 

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What the cocktails looked like.

 

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With MAC Director of Artistry Romero Jennings who flew in from New York and Country Manager of Estee Lauder Group Mel Lerma.

 

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The smores bar was a big hit.

 

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I finally got to wear my black silk dress that I bought from Magali Pascal in Bali. I love that shop.

 

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Shangri-la Boracay at dusk.

 

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MAC sent makeup artist Gee Vee to my room to prep me for dinner. Such luxury!

 

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Monogrammed linen napkins at our farewell dinner.

 

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Ingrid and I at the farewell dinner

 

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Perfect place to wear caftans.

 

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I wore mine during the day. My favourite caftan, from Mist in Bali.

 

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My DAPHNE & NBS hummingbird tote bag came in handy.

 

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Off to the beach to catch the sunset. Wore Melissa sandals.

 

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We did the sunset thing…

 

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Until it turned like this.

 

MAC Cosmetics Spring-Summer 2015 trends as interpreted by Romero Jennings, here.

 

 

Mexico, Me and the FEMSA Collection

 

 

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Have you checked out the FEMSA Collection at Ayala Museum yet? This is a rare exhibition that’s on display until November 9th.  Mexico: Fantastic Identity, 20th Century Masterpieces of the FEMSA Collection, includes 60 art pieces by Mexican artists. It will take you on a journey through the different movements that transpired in Europe in the 20th century and how they have influenced the works of Mexican artists. I attended the gala opening upon the invitation of the Mexican Ambassador to the Philippines.

 

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“We are honored to bring the FEMSA Collection to the Philippines for the first time, allowing us to further our goal of promoting education by encouraging appreciation for culture and the arts,” said Carlos Salazar, Chief Executive Officer of FEMSA.

 

Mexico: Fantastic Identity, 20th Century Masterpieces. FEMSA Collection sets about a superb Diego Rivera cubist oeuvre completed during his stay in Europe, followed by a significant assemblage created both by muralist José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, along relevant representatives of the Mexican School of Painting. These works display themes that reflect the Mexican national identity after the Revolutionary movement. Last century’s Vanguard and the self-styled Rupture movement – which promoted abstraction, geometrism and other plastic forms – similarly concur in the exhibit. The show is also accompanied by a photographic collection of artist’s portraits, several of which were produced by well-known Mexican photographers such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide.

 

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Being a bad girl. Photos were not allowed, but my friend (who shall not be named) snapped this. Oops. Sorry. But it’s Frida Kahlo! And a very significant piece!

 

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Left: Frida Kahlo’s My Dress Hangs There 1933, oil and collage on masonite 45.5 x 50.5cm. Frida painted in the US while her husband Diego Rivera was painting the mural at Rockefeller Center. It symbolises her longing to go back home to Mexico. You can also see references to industrialism and the social ills it brings. Right: Photograph of Frida Kahlo’s work and portrait of Frida. Photo from FEMSA media release.

 

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With friends in government — I knew them before they joined this government. Secretary to the Cabinet of the Philippines Rene Almendras and Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas. (I am wearing a charm necklace from Mexico City.)

 

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Photo from FEMSA media release.

 

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Photo from FEMSA media release.

 

I loved seeing all my favourite Mexican artists under one roof, and right here in Makati. I haven’t really written about it yet, but I had a huge Mexican period during the first half of the 1990’s. I worked on some projects there under the urban planning group I worked for in Canada. It was in Mexico that I found interest in rediscovering my roots in the Philippines. I saw a lot of similarities with the culture and history of both countries. During that time, I immersed in all things Mexican – from art, history, food, language, crafts, literature. Seeing some of the FEMSA Collection here really brought me back.

I don’t have many photos of my stay in Mexico. No photos at the house of Frida Kahlo. This was pre-digital era. Gasp! Most of my photos are at my mom and dad’s house in Toronto. I found some that I had brought with me to Manila. Here are some scans.

 

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Me in 1994 with an unfinished mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros from the 1940’s in Escuela de Bellas Artes, a cultural center in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

 

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In Hacienda El Soyatal, Aguascalientes. I was a 24 years old here.

 

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During one of my project management trips to Aguascalientes, I took a side trip to the state of Zacatecas, an old mining capital with beautiful colonial buildings.

 

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Zacatecas was one of the principal centres of silver mining from the early Spanish era until the 20th century

 

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The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City was massive. One of the world’s best. This is in front of the Mayan gallery.

 

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I spent one Easter in Mexico City and witnessed the many devotees flock to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. I didn’t know it then, I eventually became devoted to Our Lady.

 

I love Mexico. I am, to this day, greatly influenced by their art. I would love to one day take my family on a long trip there. It’s been too long for me. Time to rediscover.

And I am a huge fan of many Mexican artists especially Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo. I used to drag my mom, dad and sisters to far away galleries just to see some Frida Kahlos on loan – like in Mc Michael Art Gallery north of Toronto and the Knox Albright Gallery in Buffalo. And all these before Selma Hayek made the Frida movie.

 

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If you haven’t yet, you should go see the FEMSA Collection before it goes away on November 9th. Photo courtesy of FEMSA media release.

 

Mexico: Fantastic Identity, 20th Century Masterpieces, FEMSA Collection will run from September 30 to November 9, 2014 at the Ayala Museum.