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Tuesday, 01 September 2009

Bhutan's Monasteries and Festivals - Page 4

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.

 

After the festival we went for lunch at Chhimi Lhakhang Cafeteria in Lobesa which has a gorgeous view, a good buffet lunch, and definitely the best bathroom in Bhutan – decorated with antiques and a view over the rice paddies.  Lobesa is also the starting point for the short hike up to the Chhimi Lhakhang Temple for fertility.  You’ll probably notice the phalluses painted on the sides of the buildings before you head out.  When you’re at the temple, you’ll not only get the customary holy water, but you’ll also be blessed by a monk touching the top of your head with a large phallus and a bow and arrow.  That was definitely a surprising moment – I’d never imagined a monk in his long red robe blessing me with a phallus before.

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 also went to the Punakha Dzong – the largest dzong in the country which was also the original capital.  Sitting right at the conflux of two distinctly colored rivers – one a glacial blue and one dark green – it is a dramatic sight.  The paintings and the temple inside are very majestic, as well as the long stairways up just to get in.

I stayed at Kichu Resort, which is tucked right between the road and the river. The river is raging at this point, so the sound of rushing water will lull you to sleep.  The rooms are simple, but the staff is very nice. Kichu serves only vegetarian food. Wangdue is at a much lower elevation than Thimpu or Paro and is significantly warmer. It was hot during the day in late September, but pleasant at night.

Day 6

We embarked on a day trip to the Phobjikha valley, where the famous black necked cranes migrate in winter – this involved a beautiful drive over another high mountain pass.  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 went to the monastery where there was a festival rehearsal happening (which looks just like the festival without the masks).  Then we hiked down to the valley, since it wasn’t black crane season there weren’t many others around, but we had a picnic before heading back. Unfortunately, a bad rain storm came out of nowhere and quickly turned to hail and whiteout conditions – very nerve-wracking on the narrow, twisting, bumpy roads.  Luckily, the hail disappeared as quickly as it came, but the rain stayed with us for most of the drive.

Day 7

We headed back over the Dochula pass early and had breakfast at Dochula Cafeteria which has a panoramic view.  It was also my first authentic Bhutanese breakfast as I had tasty fried rice instead of the eggs and toast usually served to foreigners.  After checking back into the Pedling Hotel we went straight to the Thimpu Tshechu festival and watched many of the folk and religious dances.  Of the ones I saw the Eight Manifestations of Guru 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 BoltonRinpoche (who brought Nyingma Bhuddism to Bhutan) Dance was the most dramatic and ends with a huge line of attendees queing for blessings.

We also stopped at the national textile museum which is small, but interesting and highlights the different types of weavings from each area of the country.  During dinner my guide, Gumpa, who’d been very informative throughout told me his son had an accident so he’d have to stay home and the owner’s son would accompany me on my last two days.

 

 

(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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