"You did not include your visit to the penis valley. Why not? It's a great location and a great story!"
If you google Bhutan, you'd find many stories just like ours - about the amazing hike up to the Tiger's Nest, the wonderful people and so on and so forth. If scrolled even further, like we did... you'd come across a few stories talking about the country's "obsession" with penises and they're not completely wrong.
For one thing, it's not the entire country. It's quite a large number of them who are "obsessed" but not all. And for completely different reasons, none of them pornographic per se. But it is a rather amusing tale.
The penises you see (and believe me, they're rather hard to miss!) are in tribute to Drukpa Kunley (aka The Mad Monk / Divine Madman). He's rather revered in Bhutan and was credited for bringing Buddhism to Bhutan some time in the late 15th century.
The Tibetan spiritual leader was quite a character. Depending on who you spoke with, he loved his ara (the local moonshine), made happy with lots of women, ate with gusto and... here's where the penis really comes in, fought away demons with his sacred member. There are a lot more stories about this colourful lama, but that's basically the gist of it.
It is also why you will see fur-trimmed scrotum statues dotted across the countryside (we were in Lobesa, within the Punakha Valley), paintings of embellished penises on doorways and if you so wish, cart one home from the souvenir shop. Our driver, even had teeny one dangling from his car dashboard. Essentially, the Bhutanese believe it wards away evil.
So why were we in Lobesa? We assure it isn't to ogle at various forms of male genitals, although that was rather amusing (even for our guide, she blushed several times while telling us the stories).
Lobesa is home to Chimi Lhakhang, a modest temple but with a great claim - the site was blessed by The Mad Monk, himself. The hike is an easy one, relatively flat and cuts across the fertile paddy fields and little villages. It is great for photo ops and makes for a relaxing stroll.
Now we come to our portion of the story. We like to think we're quite sophisticated creatures but to be frank, we're not. We're just two big goofballs and thankfully, our friends and the people whom we've met on our travels, love us for it.
And so, this is what happened.
After our hike, we walked into Chimi Lhakhang to pay our respect and to have a bit of a look. While there, we spied the famous 10-inch wooden phallus at the altar. It is primarily "used" to bless the women who make the pilgrimage there seeking blessings because they want to have children. But it is also used to bless anyone... remember, it was meant to drive away evil.
And so Debrina was intensely skeptical and silently crept away from said penis. ML happily went to get her blessings with a nice "knock" on the forehead with it. It prompted much amusement from our friends when we shared the story and also much bawdy references in subsequent conversation - we shall spare you those.
All in all, a fantastic day out in the Kingdom of Bhutan! And as we enter 2020, let's see if that "knock" did the trick.
Wishing you all safe travels, grand adventures, love and light <3