Eddie loves his ‘Beebies’: sheep soft toys which are a pair of plush pyjama cases originally bought by Nana for the girls but unused and then adopted by Ed when he was still in a cot. They’re identical but he swears one is ‘happy’ and one is ‘sad’ and can distinguish between them at ten paces. His only request for this entire 6-month odyssey was that he could ‘see some sheep’, or – more accurately – ‘hug one’. Here’s Ed with one of them (I’ve no clue whether it’s happy or sad but I can tell you quite accurately what Eddie’s feeling about having a new baby brother):
Santa came very early. Not only is he hugging a confused, grubby lamb in the picture below but it’s THE KING’S grubby, confused lamb, no less. We came upon the whole flock outside King 4’s (the dad of the current King) summer residence in the Punakha Valley.
The old guy in the pink hat in the pix is the King’s Sheep Farmer. As befitting the Land of Max Chillax, when we approached and asked if one of our children could hug one of his sheep he was totally WHEVS/THUMBS. The other guy in the pix is our second guide Sonam who went to school with the current Bhutanese Queen (Jetsun Pema) and who used to be in the National Basketball Team. It’s like a Right Royal Love-In.
No surprise King 4 chose Punakha for his pukka pad. It’s sensationally beautiful. THIS IS THE BIT WHERE I LOSE MY CYNICISM. Golden terraces of rice, warm sunshine, clear blue skies, crystal babbling brooks, temples and stupas erected with methodical attention to detail and breathtaking craftsmanship, the low, mystical murmur of monks mumbling mantras… and other things beginning with ‘m’: it’s by far and away the most beautiful place we’ve been on our travels so far and might be in the top 5 places ever.
I didn’t even attempt to do it justice with my photography but if you’re that way inclined, ask Adam to show you his fabulous drone footage (Quiet at the back!). The temple we were hiking to in the pictures above is the newest erection we’ve seen in Bhutan (and believe me, we’ve seen some erections) and has the most beautiful art yet. Alas, like all temples, photos of the interior are not allowed but Adam is already damned to live as a particularly attractive goat for all eternity so he doesn’t care about breaking the rules. Here are his covert snaps:
You see: it’s very dull when I’ve got nothing bad to say. I’ll be back to a barrage of invective and bile soon, fear not. Even the late morning’s white-water rafting didn’t drive me as nuts as it normally would, even though I look a colossal prick in the outfit:
And to round off an almost perfect day, we get back to the hotel and find that Stranger Things Season II has dropped on You Tube. Beer, vape, angry-looking phallus, Netflix subscription and a boy dreaming of running in the rice with the King’s sheep: what more could anyone want?