The Kingdom of Bhutan has captivated me always. Its venerable way of life, ancient traditions, proximity to celestial parts of the earth, such the Himalayas and Tibet, and its governing principle of gross national happiness have influenced my enchantment. The country is located on the ancient Silk Road but remained unaffected by it. A rarity on a trading route which impacted the spread of religion, literature and cultures of nations along it. Bhutan is also the last Buddhist kingdom. Furthermore, it’s never been colonised in its history. In this second part of my series on Bhutan I delve a in to the culture and landscape to explain why you must travel to this ancient kingdom.
Bhutan’s heritage has remained unscathed because it retreated from the evolving modern world. Agriculture and farming being the main occupations the population is concentrated in rural areas. As mentioned in my previous post traditions are deeply rooted in Buddhism and much of every day life is focused around seasons and religion.
National dress is highly respected and many wear it as formal attire. The gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist is worn by men and women wear a kira which is an ankle-length dress, clipped at the shoulders with two identical brooches and tied at the waist.
Bhutan has a climate that varies with altitude. The southern border near India is tropical, hot and humid. The Himalayan mountains northwards are snow-covered all year. Spring time trekking between March to May is popular; days are warm and the mountain peaks visible. Daytime temperatures remain perfect for long treks between 17 to 22 degrees Celsius. Eastern Bhutan is particularly suited for treks due to its drier climate. If trekking in autumn, between September to November, much lower temperatures, especially at high altitudes, can be expected.
The Tiger’s Nest
No visit to Bhutan is complete without a journey to Paro Taktsang or The Tiger’s Nest. This ancient monastery, built in 1692 around a cave, clings, 3000 feet above sea level, to a mountainside of Paro Valley.
Trekking is the only way to get to the monastery and takes around five hours both ways. You will be accompanied by locals, prayer flags, prayer wheels and the occasional donkey along the way. The scenery, as expected, is said to be unforgettable.
More information on trekking tours can be found here: Trekking tours
Tshechu, meaning day 10 are annual religious festivals held in every district of Bhutan to honor Guru Rinpoche and his introduction of Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. Festivals are social occasions as much as religious.
It’s believed that anyone who watches a Tshechu earns religious merit and will be granted great luck. Before a Tshechu begins, prayers and rituals are carried out to evoke deities. Masked dances and dramas are typical and are accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful masks and bright costumes depict gods, demons, animals and caricatures of people. To expereience a Tshechu is to experience Bhutan at its finest.
Full list of festival dates for 2019 can be found here: Festival dates 2019
Look out for the final instalment of this series for more on this alluring, mysterious land that left time behind.
For more information visit: Blue Poppy Tours & Treks