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I’m short on fully-formed thoughts about Bhutan. There’s no real story here, just some impressions that are as disjointed as my memories from this trip seem to be for some reason.

The flight into Paro. It’s a doozy. By some accounts, Paro is the third most dangerous airport in the world. On nearly every list, it’s one of the top ten scariest. I manage to get a window seat for the thrill of descending into that valley and twisting and turning to land on the runway at the bottom.

Are we gonna scrape?!

The prayer flags. I love a good mess of prayer flags. And by mess, I mean that joyful jumble of color, caught in the wind, sending good thoughts up into the universe. Added bonus when these vibrant supplications are attached to swinging suspension bridges, my favorite Himalayan mode of passage.

Church and state. Buddhism and its often cheerful monks are ever-present, a perennially appealing backdrop to life in the Himalaya, and they exist here in relative harmony with an elected government and a king (and his father), who are impressive stewards of all aspects of Bhutanese life. National happiness is a holistic goal here, with a balance always being sought among economic interests, environmental concerns, health, education, living standards, and psychological wellbeing and resilience. Noble ideals, seemingly well carried out.

Color and geometry. I’ve always been a sucker for Himalayan art and architecture in their native habitat. A mash-up of colors and shapes I would not abide at home makes me inexplicably happy in this part of the world.

Animals, animals everywhere. Temple cats, bridge and courtyard dogs, and a few stray cows to boot. Most are well-fed, and all are secure enough to sleep just about anywhere.

The landscapes. I went to Bhutan for the mountains and the trails that lead up through those elevated rocks and trees. I may not have gotten the trek I signed up for, but I got plenty of altitude, exercise, and other views. I could/should do a whole post on our day hike to the Tiger’s Nest alone; people find it fascinating, and it was a fulfilling day with a very special prize at the end. But … maybe some other day!