2010 was quite the travel year for me! 8 countries, 10 U.S. states, 37 bus journeys, 16 flights and 2 train rides. Somewhere in those figures are a whole lot of weird experiences. Here are some of my favorites:
A walk through Bhutan’s “Village of Phalluses” gives way to a seemingly ordinary Buddhist temple, named for a man who was famous for his sexual exploits. Childless couples hike to this temple to get a fertility blessing from the monks, who place a wooden phallus, a bone phallus and the Divine Madman’s bow on your forehead as they chant prayers! After, a name is drawn from a stack which dictates the child’s gender and what the child should be named. Of course, the alternative is to name your child after the Divine Madman himself Kunley. Strangely, that’s one of the most popular names in Bhutan…
This Bangkok restaurant gets its name from its mission, to promote family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. So why not raise money by opening a restaurant and replacing the after dinner mint with, what else? Condoms! In Republican or Democrat size… It’s certainly one of the strangest restaurants I’ve ever been to!
The backroads of China’s Sichaun province that brush up against the Tibetan border are rough. As soon as you leave the famed Sichuan-Tibet Highway (which is no walk in the park itself) for points south, you find yourself traversing twisty unpaved roads at mind blowing altitudes. Those altitudes would explain snow in May and I mean lots of snow…like 2 feet (0.6 meters), which, of course, my non-4-wheel drive bus drove right into. Next thing I knew, we were all out in the cold digging out the bus, which came prepared with plenty of shovels and pick-axes for all!
You’ve all heard of a squat toilet, right? Well enter China’s oh-so-lovely variation. The trough toilet! A long, waterless trough runs the length of the bathroom below door-less stalls while you squat there in plain view doing your business. And since there’s no flush, it’s a doozie to watch the workers brush that out…
A cheap way to traverse the East Coast of the U.S., which also gains an insight into a completley different culture, is to take one of the many buses that run between the Chinatown’s in various cities. I tried this once…and what happened? The bus broke down on the New Jersey Turnpike and we were stranded for a couple hours! When another bus passed through with a few empty seats, our group suddenly became “Lord of the Flies.” Little did we all know what great entertainment and bonding would await? I mean, what’s better therapy than making balloon flowers on the side of the highway??
Folklore says this animal, that is unique to Bhutan, was created by fusing a goat’s head onto a cow’s body! All I know is that the Takin is by far, the weirdest animal I have ever seen! Check them out at Bhutan’s national Takin Preserve, just outside of the capital, Thimphu.