Friday, October 12, 2012

Road Trip to Remember

Spent 4 days last week on a long-anticipated trip to the beautiful eastern part of Bhutan. After nearly 2 years living and working here now, I've probably seen less of the countryside than the tourists who come for 7 days!

I travelled with a couple of new friends working in Thimphu (the capital) with me...Zoltan, a Hungarian living in Belgium, and Axel, a German. We hired a good car, and with our trusty local driver, LB, set off for Bumthang, with a halfway overnight break in the glorious valley of Phobjikha.

This valley is famous for the black-necked cranes that visit annually, 'though unfortunately not until the end of this month, so we missed seeing them. But we also missed the tourist rush, so not a bad result.

The next day we moved on to Bumthang, often referred to as the spiritual heart of this Buddhist kingdom. We stayed 2 days there before attacking the 250km, 10 hour return trip. That's a normal speed for travelling on the roads in this country. High altitude, poorly-surfaced, narrow and winding tracks with fatal drop-offs should an accident or landslide occur. But this is not a country where people are in a hurry. And neither were we.

So the following is basically a compilation of photos of what we saw on the trip. You'll see what we saw.  If you like beautiful scenery, rivers, waterfalls, temples, snow-capped mountains and happy Bhutanese faces, you should enjoy it.

If that's not to your taste, you can always turn on the TV...

This is the Wangdue Dzong, built in 1638 and tragically destroyed by fire in June 2012. But in the inimitable Buddhist way, already in the process of being rebuilt.

The lovely guesthouse we stayed in overnight at Phobjikha

Digging Bhutan's best potatoes, in Phobjikha.

 Our Bumthang accommodation...

In Bumthang, Bhutan's oldest temple and monastery, built around 650 AD

Junior monks having a music lesson

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tsechu...Bless You!

Last week we had a 3 day holiday to celebrate Tsechu, a Buddhist festival that stops the entire nation of Bhutan. The origins of this event are steeped in ancient rites and mysticism, but unusually, Wikipedia seems to offer a good approximation of it...

Because the whole country participates in this day, and thus I could not find even one worker to cajole into joining me at our project site, I ventured down to the Thimphu Tashi Cho Dzong to witness the occasion. And what a spectacle it proved to be!

An open-air, (I have the sunburn to prove it), packed-house of excitement, enchantment and surreal colour, music and movement, all pulsating with unbounded joy for the participants and the audience alike.

Again, my poor little cheap "point-and-shoot" camera was not up to the task. I pointed it and shot it, but could never capture the true magnificence of the occasion.

So this is the best I can offer, starting with the approach to the arena...