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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Druk Yul: Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon

Druk Yul Bhutan Kingdom of the Thunder DragonD managed to sneak in a short break from his work in India and take a cultural tour of Druk Yul: Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon aka Bhutan.

While he has offered to do a guest post about his experiences one of these days, I am not holding my breath, considering the 10,000 things he has lined up that are much higher priority for him :)

Not being much of a souvenirs person himself, I had to specifically ask him to get back something for those of us who wished we were there but weren't. Kids got a simple and practical T-shirt each, a size bigger so they can grow into it.

Gho Bhutanese national outfitD got himself a traditional Bhutanese outfit, Gho, which he loved modeling for us but was reluctant to be pictured in.

I could be persuasive at times, as long as I have justifiable reasons and D is in a reasonable mood :)

It seems comfortable, has a belt and socks to go with it. When going to dzongs and such, apparently a sash is worn over the outfit, the color of the sash determines one's station in society.

Knowing my eagerness for experimenting and my unbridled passion for World Cuisine, he usually comes back from trips with cookbooks loaded with local flavors. I find that quite thoughtful and sweet.

Traditional Bhutanese Food Fair cookbook featuring recipes from various regions of the kingdom, plus a Nepalese cookbook featuring simple recipes from the neighboring country are my newest. And, am already excited about Ema Datsi turning out alright.

And, knowing my love for "artsy stuff" as he puts it, I got some stamps, handmade paper notepads, handmade paper notecards with pressed flowers and such, plus a short video that he managed to shoot that demonstrates how the handmade paper was made - De zo (Paper Making).

That is not all. Oh no, that is not all. While the kids got the well-recognized symbol of dragon in their tees, D decided that would be too blasé and would not aptly suit his wife... and, when he handed me this tee, I just burst out laughing, it was just too cute. While I am usually quite reserved, compared to D I am practically a chatterbox.

He visited Paro and Thimpu, and was particularly thrilled about going to the Tiger's Nest/Lair, which was a distant dream last year when he showed it to me on the web and suggested how wonderful it would be to build something like that for our home, while the practical moi sat there thinking, hmmm... would be lovely view but what about the hike each way to get supplies and take kids to school...

He visited many Dzongs, spun many prayer wheels, explored the Folk Heritage Museum in Thimpu, saw masks being carved, hand-made paper being made, and generally spent the few short days absorbing the local culture and foods as best as possible with a wonderful and friendly guide, Chhimi, who presented his country with quiet dignity.

paro thimpu dzong museum zorig chusum

In addition to the exotic images above, the ones that got my heart racing were the pictures of the Centenary Farmer's Market in Thimpu where villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their agricultural products.

Centenary Farmer's Market in Thimpu

The Institute of Zorig Chusum, of 13 Traditional Arts & Crafts seemed like an interesting place. Images/videos of masks being carved, quilting/embroidery in progress, paper-making, weaving and ornament-making were quite fascinating to see.

The Institute of Zorig Chusum Bhutan

Tashichhoedzong, "Fortress of the glorious religion" houses the throne room of His Majesty the King. The imposing 2-story Buddha statue was quite a sight, in the photos at least. Apparently, there was an Archery competition that D managed to see during his short visit, with the King's brother being in the audience.

Ooh, and the Takin Reserve... (more about it soon)
The story behind the Takin, Bhutan's national animal, was interesting.
According to legend, when the great saint Lama Drukpa Kunley (called "the divine madman") visited Bhutan in the 15th century, a large congregation of devotees gathered around the country to witness his magical powers. The people urged the lama to perform a miracle. However, the saint, in his usual unorthodox and outrageous way, demanded that he first be served a whole cow and a goat for lunch. He devoured these with relish and left only bones. After letting out a large and satisfied burp, he took the goat's head and stuck it onto the bones of the cow. And then with a snap of his fingers, he commanded the strange beast to rise up and graze on the mountainside. To the astonishment of the people the animal arose and ran up to the meadows to graze. This animal came to be known as the dong gyem tsey (takin) and to this day, these animals can be seen grazing on the mountainsides of Bhutan...-- Wikipedia

Takin Reserve...

takin bhutan national animal

While I couldn't be there, I guess the images and stories D brought back makes me feel like I took the tour myself.

I know many would scoff at the stereotypical tourist seeing everything through camera lens instead of enjoying it straight-up, but, I say Bah! to them... 'coz, if D had not taken the trouble to capture the sights through his unique perspective, I would have missed out on what, to me, at this point, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity...


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Blogger Dale said...


Bhutan! Someday.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Sheela said...

I was thinking the same thing, Dale!
Some of us get the call a little late, I guess.
Well, am dreaming of settling somewhere in the Himalayas some day, when kids are grown up :)

12:23 PM  

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