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Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Bhutan's Monasteries and Festivals - Page 2

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Bhutan really is unique in the world – its culture is one of the most well preserved in the world.  As a tourist, I felt I was almost stepping back in time.  Some of this may be due to the fact that television wasn’t allowed into the Buddhist kingdom until 1999, so, unlike most places; western culture has yet to take over. Another factor is that traditional Bhutanese dress is required in both school and the workplace, so one always sees the women wearing their Kira’s and the men in Goa’s.  Western style clothes are often worn by the youth on weekends, but the older folk tend to wear the Kira or Goa year-round.

 

Upon arrival, my guide and driver collected me and we drove through the golden-green rice fields to my home for the next two nights: Hotel Silver Pine. I was welcomed by a large room with a balcony overlooking the mountains and valley. It included a large bathroom and luggage room and the walls were hand painted in brightly colored traditional Bhutanese designs.

Bhutan's Monasteries and Festivals, the Unique Buddhist Kingdom, Sacred Himalaya Travel, travel bhutan, Thimpu Tshechu festival, Bhutanese culture, Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu festival, www.sacredhimalayatravel.com, Christina Kay BoltonAfter settling in we visited the National Museum which is a maze of rooms, hallways and chambers located in a former watchtower.  The most interesting display is near the top – it’s four large statues of Buddha showing the different branches of Buddhism. The museum has a fabulous view overlooking the dzong (a large building that houses the religious and government institutions) and the valley below.

 

 

Bhutan's Monasteries and Festivals, the Unique Buddhist Kingdom, Sacred Himalaya Travel, travel bhutan, Thimpu Tshechu festival, Bhutanese culture, Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu festival, www.sacredhimalayatravel.com, Christina Kay BoltonWe then proceeded down to the Rinpong Dzong. Inside the walls was a large courtyard with a monastery, a courthouse, and various government offices. The carvings are intricate and the painted roofs and walls extravagant.  A young monk offered me fresh walnuts as I went into the temple. I went back to my hotel, sat on the porch and enjoyed the perfect weather and view.

 

Day 2

We spent the day further up the Paro valley at the ruins of Drukyul Dzong, which is where many of the trekking routes begin as it is the end of the road. We hiked down to the river and had a picnic lunch next to the rapids. We also visited the temple of Avalokiteshvara which is one of 108 temples built in the Himalayan region by an 8th century Tibetan king, and one of only three still standing. In downtown Paro we watched the much loved national sport of Archery. Bhutan's Monasteries and Festivals, the Unique Buddhist Kingdom, Sacred Himalaya Travel, travel bhutan, Thimpu Tshechu festival, Bhutanese culture, Wangdue Phodrang Tshechu festival, www.sacredhimalayatravel.com, Christina Kay BoltonThe archer stands 140 meters from the target, so it’s a wonder that any of them hit it – it’s hard to even see them across the lengthy field.

For dinner, the hotels’ gracious servers brought an assortment of Bhutanese dishes which were okay, but not great. In general, the food in Bhutan is very plentiful but not too enticing.  Their national dish is chilies cooked in a cheese sauce served with rice.  Its very hot and lacking all subtlety of interesting spices such as Indian food has.  They also have similar dishes of potatoes or mushrooms cooked in cheese sauce which I found more palatable, but very heavy.  Ferns are another unique food and there are a couple varieties.  The more common fern I liked better – there is one variety that is rarer and considered a delicacy, but I found it rather bitter, where the abundant one is tastier.  Bitter gourd is another common vegetable as well, served either sautéed or deep fried, and again, it is quite bitter and I couldn’t develop a taste for it.  Some places serve descent Indian, Chinese, or Continental food.  Hopefully you’ve come to Bhutan for either trekking in the incredible mountains or the unique culture and not for the food; if you have you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you like large quantities of food you should be happy as most hotels have buffets or serve you about five different dishes and rice, figuring you’ll probably like something.  Interestingly, I never saw a menu in Bhutan and people don’t ask you what you like, you just sit down and they start bringing food. With three large meals a day you’ll never go hungry.

 

 

(Page 2 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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