Prayer wheels, Bhutan

BHUTAN TRAVEL DIARY30 May 2011

The ceremony started right on the dot at 10:00AM with a blast of horns and drums.

Thousands of Bhutanese sat in the staged areas or milled about, dressed in their best “gos” and “kiras”, the traditional long overcoat with superb embroidery. I was wearing mine of course with a white scarf, argyle socks and proper shoes, pretending to blend in. The long procession of dignitaries and monks was single lined, coming out of the inner courtyard of the dzong (fortress) and several parade officers actually cracked whips, not only for show, going WACK, WACK, to keep everybody at bay...

We were extremely fortunate, being with Si Fang, as we sat in the front row and soon enough the first traditional dance started with a group of 20 dancers wearing elaborate masks twirled in unison. The whole atmosphere was something I had never experienced before, a mix of carnival, religious celebration and demonstration of a deep cultural heritage.

Our guides explained the dances were more like a theatre play, where good triumphed over bad, locals commenting on dance moves, clapping when the bad guy was dealt with, cheering for the masked deities. What helped us also was we had been allowed to meet some of the dancers a few days before and witness a practice session, so we could finally see the final “product” and understand a bit more the story line.

These festivals, called “Tshechus” are a huge part of Bhutan’s cultural life, a way for people to get together, party, exchange news and also gain “merit” by attending the festivals, some lasting 2-3 days. Each year, the government along with the senior Bhutanese religious leaders release a set of dates for the dozens of festivals to be held around the country for the coming year and these pageants are a unique way to see Bhutanese life in full swing.

Our guests had a great time on that day, each hosted by a local Bhutanese and meeting their friends and family during the day followed by an evening BBQ at a government official’s home. Meeting one of the King’s wives at the BBQ and partying in a Bhutanese disco with Lady Gaga is, as they say, another story...

Bhutan

Our Bhutan Boutique Travel itinerary takes you through the main centres of Paro and Thimpu but also further into the interior of the country where you will meet locals and explore villages and the countryside.

Find out more about Bhutan

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Email: info@sifangexpeditions.com

24 Matariki St, Dunedin 9014, New Zealand
Fax: (+0064) 3-4478-0085
Cell: (0064) 27-223-0364

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Find out more about Denis Pagé by visiting his photographic website: www.denispage.com

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