Last week in Lingmethang was quite the change of scenery: going from 3000m elevation to 600m, from blue pine forests to broadleaf and chir pine forests, from cold and frosty temperatures to hot and sweaty temperatures, from eating one guava a month to eating eight guavas a day. Not to mention, if I were to rank the top five most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, Lingmethang would definitely be among them.

Lingmethang. All photos courtesy of Shanley Mitchell

What stood out most, however, was the hike into a forest. Among the many varieties of broadleaf trees, there were certain things that immediately grabbed our attention. We saw trees getting conquered by parasitic strangler figs, and while this is a slow death for the trees, it was absolutely gorgeous to look at. We also learned about (but unfortunately did not see) giant flying squirrels, which are four feet long squirrels that glide through the air.

Strangler figs

Of the whole excursion, my favorite experience was seeing butterflies puddling. Imagine a shallow puddle of water on a warm sunny day, with dozens of butterflies swarming all around. The butterflies are mesmerizing, hypnotizing and unbelievably beautiful. Some have vibrant colors that glisten when they fly around. Others have seemingly black wings that turn dark green when hit by different rays of light. Their movement is incredibly elegant and free. They fly back and forth either in small groups or alone. And if you stand still enough they could almost be the magic sparkles in a classic fairy tale, glittering in the air when the fairy godmother turns the ragged dress into a ball gown. It was truly the most enchanting moment I have experienced since I’ve been in Bhutan.

→ Himalayan Environment and Society in Transition; Bhutan