Sunday, February 16, 2014

Czech Republic enhances bilateral relations with Bhutan

When I went on a holiday trip to Czech Republic in 2011, little did I know that Bhutan and Czech had bilateral relations then. Infact, the recent visit of Czech delegation led by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Czech Republic's exhibition - "Czech Castles", which is currently on display at Thimphu came in as a surprise to me. I am being told that the motive behind this exhibition is to enhance the bilateral ties between the two countries which was established in 2011. It is good to know that Czech is keenly looking for "meaningful engagement" with Bhutan especially on the developmental front.

Let me share my knowledge and experiences from that trip, if this may in some ways, help in enhancing the bilateral relations between the two countries. Czech Republic is a landlocked country similar to Bhutan surrounded by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland. Czech Republic and Slovakia Republic are the two countries formed  from the former Czechoslovakia after peaceful dissolution in 1993. It is located in the Central part of Europe with its capital as 'Prague' or 'Praha' as is known to the locals.

It was in 2011 Christmas vacation that I took a break from the studies and flew all the way to Paris and then to Prague. It gave me an opportunity to explore the central part of Europe. Prague remains one of the top tourist destinations in Europe mainly because of its rich history and many cultural attractions. The main attractions there are the Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, Dancing Tower, Jewish Quarter and Lennon Wall amongst many others. The people there are friendly, polite and helpful. What is more amazing is in the fact that modernization there has taken place in perfect harmony with the age old culture, tradition and architecture. One can see a seamless transition of past and the future portrayed in the form of present day Prague. Posted below are some of the pictures from  my visit.
Infront of the astronomical tower, Old Town Square
Wenceslas Square, Prague.
Prague Castle
Dancing tower
With the recent visit of Czech delegates, aid in many sectors were identified which includes Civil Aviation, Disaster Management and the film industry. However, the Czech Republic has prioritized the sponsorship of Bhutanese students. Besides, they are also considering investment in the film industry, hydropower and the tourism sector.
Hopefully the two landlocked countries can learn and gain from each other in due course and build an exemplary relationship despite the geographical isolation.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hotstone Bath and Social Values

Hotstone bath is one thing which attracts lot of tourists to Bhutan just to have this unique experience. Dipping in Tsachu (hotsprings), menchu (medicinal water), dotso (hotstone) are some of the ancestral practices of treating different type of ailments. Since hotsprings are very few in Bhutan, most resort to hotstone bath. The practice is mostly famous in the rural community. Further you go into the rural pockets more wooden bathtubs for such practices would be found.

Work in Process
To an outsider, the term "hotstone bath" is itself sometimes hard to make a sense out of it as expressed in Sabrina's blog What is a stone bath??? .
Unfortunately (with due respect to the hoteliers for using this word), the commercialized versions of hotstone bath tubs which is available in most resorts and hotels across Bhutan is just an attempt to make a close replication. Most importantly, it misses out the intricate social bonding process involved in the task which takes atleast a day. If the tourists are to pay a hefty price for this, then they must experience the process as well. More than the health benefit that one derives out of this "medicinal water", it is much about enhancing your family bonds, and building friendship.

As far as my knowledge goes, no scientific studies have shown the water to have health benefits but Bhutanese will not mind continuing with the practice. The placebo effect, good meals and societal bonding during the process may be some of the reasons attributable for the revival of health.

With this as a backdrop, the highlight of the story is about one such event which has recently been organized near my workplace. The spot is located just above the Wangdue-Tsirang highway, about five minutes walk including few hops over the boulders. The place is believed to be blessed by previous Jekhenpo's and they themselves have partaken in such bath several times.
Enjoying the fruit of the hardwork
However, my main motive in organizing this two-day event was something different. Deriving the health benefits out of this medicinal water was just secondary. It was primarily aimed at bringing the staff members closer together through such event and also introduce some sort of team building tasks. It involved a great deal of individual and a combined effort to make the event a success. With each of these tasks like collecting firewood, gathering boulders, cleaning pool, pitching tent and cooking meals, people knew each other better and learnt to work better together. There were no blame-games and excuses being played. All I could see was genuine understanding, sacrifices and cooperation getting stronger with passage of every hour. Just as you could see in the above photograph, people talked on different topics in the moonlit night. This two-day event drew close to fifty people which included elders and toddlers in equal numbers - all joyful and happy at the end. One might not see an immediate and a discrete effect resulting out of this team building tasks, but it will go a long way in making a harmonious community and a better place to live in. With the weekend well spent, I am all charged up to work now.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Travelling in a Metro

Few weeks back, I was at Delhi attending a two-day conference on hydropower in India. Delhi is one place I have mostly been to as compared to rest of the cities in India. My first visit to Delhi was some ten years back while I was a college goer. En route to college, after travelling for hours in a train, we used to halt at Delhi to meet our final shopping wishes. Since then I traveled to Delhi on several occasions both on personal reasons and official. Delhi being the capital state of India, one cannot even imagine the human and vehicle population. Take a ride around Delhi and the traffic will move at a snail's pace. To reach a destination of few miles away it will literally take ages to get it there. The honking of the cars will deafen you the first day and blacken your white shirt if unfortunately you are wearing one.
Throughout all these years, I have been experiencing the same fate and never even thought of travelling in a metro. Honestly, the image of Indian metros I had was that of local trains - overly crowded and suffocating. One thing that I dreaded most was falling a victim to pick-pocketing. Imagine yourself being rendered penniless in a wink of an eye and where seniority counts even in the beggar's community. As a matter of fact, not only in Delhi but in non of the metros in India did I commute so far. This time, since the group was large we decided to commute in a metro. I was quite skeptic at first and took a while to get out of my comfort zone. Infact, I got really surprised to see the condition of the train and the boarding system. In my rating it was at par with any other world class metros. It was neat, clean and most important always on time - a complete contradiction to the conventional trains in India. 

Delhi Metro
Inside view of metro

As I write this post I also learned that " Delhi Metro becomes the first metro project in the world to be registered with the prestigious gold standard foundation for its energy efficient measures...". It was not only convenient to travel but was also cheap, faster and reliable. Delhi proves impossible is nothing.
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