The Wandering Scot

An occasional travel journal.

I’m in Thimphu, Bhutan, where I’ve been visiting the Royal Takin Preserve.

Takin are strange looking creatures. As every Bhutanese child knows, they were created centuries ago by Drukpa Kunley (aka the Divine Madman) who glued the head of a goat to the body of a cow. A fine combination to be sure!

Wild Takin are very shy of humans. But the Takin in the Preserve are placid and very used to posing for photos.

Apparently there was an attempt a few years back to close the Preserve and release the Takin back into the wild. Unfortunately no-one had consulted the Takin, who did not approve. They rather liked the idea that human servants should provide them with food and so they made a nuisance of themselves wandering around Thimphu looking for hand-outs.  So the Preserve was re-instated.  And the Takin have now been blessed with an excellent coffee shop too.

Beautiful Berlin!  City of Culture, Museums, Galleries, and … “Ritter Sport Colorful World of Chocolate“!

This is the flagship store of the Ritter Sport Chocolate Empire.  Unlike the Lindt Home of Chocolate in Zurich, it doesn’t have a museum, but it does have a delicious all-you-can eat chocolate fountain.  And the store sells the full range of Ritter Sport delicacies including some  specials that aren’t widely available yet, such as the yummy new “Crispy Banana” flavor.

You can also design your own custom chocolate mix, with your own cover art.  I did some quick jpeg wrangling and created the Baby Wombat Special Blend.  (Chocolate with extra added chocolate droplets.)

Why visit Zurich? Well, there’s lots of historic sights and then … there’s Lindt’s “Home of Chocolate“.  A museum and homage to chocolate, with an all-you-can-eat tasting bar.  Yes, really!

I survived my visit.  But it was a close run thing.  I hadn’t realized there would be three all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting areas.

The museum also provides an excellent overview of chocolate’s production and manufacturing.  Plus a slightly biased view of chocolate’s history, where everything important was invented by the Swiss and there is absolutely no mention of any silly Belgians.

Tianjin: The Kiev

I’m in Tianjin, China, visiting the Kiev, a legendary 1970s Soviet aircraft carrier.  Once the pride of the Soviet fleet, it was sold off in 1996 and is now a Chinese Theme Park. 😞

At 45,000 tons and 273m long, it’s a little smaller than the USS Midway, which I visited in San Diego a few months back.  But it’s a real aircraft carrier, with a giant flight deck and lots, lots, lots of interior space.  I always knew theoretically that aircraft carriers are “big” but rambling around in the vast interior of first the Midway and now the Kiev really brings the point home.
I can still remember reading about the Kiev back in the mid-1970s when it was commissioned as the first big Soviet carrier.  The Economist was trumpeting alarm that those pesky Russkis planned to build themselves a blue-water fleet to challenge NATO and the Americans.   I’d never have guessed that one day I’d be wandering around freely in the Kiev’s interior, with not a Soviet guard to be seen.

The interior now has lots of souvenir shops, often selling patriotic Chinese paraphernalia, including oddly enough, lots of models of the new Chinese aircraft carriers.

On the nearby dockside, there is a whole ersatz Russian village, with stores and restaurants selling Russian-themed food to rather uncertain-looking Chinese tourists.

Tibet: Mount Kailash

Holy Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva, sacred to a billion Hindus, site of holy pilgrimage.  I was only visiting as a tourist, but I saw others making the sacred kora circuit around the mountain.  The Chinese government isn’t issuing visas to Indian citizens this year, but I saw a modest number of non-Indian Hindu pilgrims, plus many Tibetans and the occasional Westerner.

It was overcast and cloudy, but the sun occasionally broke through and I managed to get a few clear shots.  It’s an imposing chunk of rock, notable for its unusual almost pyramid shape.

Tibet: Everest

We started with a distant view of Everest, from the Pang La pass. The pass is at 5159 meters and offers stunning views on a clear day. And today was clear!

The next shot is a (relative) close-up from the Rongbuk Monastery. This now hosts the so-called “Tourist Base Camp” which is as close as mere tourists are allowed to go to His Highness.

I’m on a two week trip across Tibet.  Rongbuk is at 4965m (16289ft), so I was definitely glad I’d spent a few days to acclimatize along the way. But my trip to Rongbuk was the easy way: by tour company car and then official tourist minibus. I am in suitable awe of those who trek up to the base camp, let alone those who make the actual ascent!