Punakha Travel Blog› entry 5 of 7 › view all entries
I will never forget Punakha because of the betelnut. Our guides, all Bhutanese people in fact, love betelnut. The chew it all day long if they can (our guides aren't allowed to, but they go to betelnut bars at night). It's a stimulant, kinda like ciggarettes. In Thailand only old ladies chew it, but in Bhutan there is no such social restriction. It's red and gooey and it makes you salivate...so you spit worse than a camel. A downside is that, because everyone chews it, there are red spit stains everywhere (which sometimes mars the picturesqueness of some places).
I wanted to try betelnut. I would never be allowed to do it in Thailand so this was my chance. Of course, our guides thought this was hilarious.
Thai betelnut is dried, and kinda smells like stale tea. Bhutanese betelnut is fresh, wrapped in a coco leaf with some pieces of anise for flavor. It's actually quite nice! Of course, the resulting red teeth and messy spit aren't too appealing but...when in Rome. And it does give you a buzz, like smoking a whole bunch of ciggarettes at once. I'm wasn't hard-core enough to chew it anymore, but that one day was really fun.
We also did a day hike to a Chorten (a type of temple) built by the number one queen. There are 4 queens in Bhutan, all sisters. The number one queen was the first to have a son (acutally, she's not the queen anymore because her husband recently abdicated...the present king was the crown prince when we visited). Punakha is the town where the royalty spend the winter and the queen built this temple.