Whirling Monk27/09/06 – 29/09/06 Wangdue

Sure enough with Bless-ed Rainy Day over, the weather picked up and we started having sunshine and blue skies. Our journey back West was initially to the Yanghill Resort in Trongsa.

Our first incident of the day was a landslide on the road. We whiled away a few minutes in the sun waiting for the JCB to clear the boulders away. It didn’t take too long ,this was the main East – Wast highway after all!

Following our morning traveling, we went for an afternoon drive south, following the valley to an old village, Kuenga Rapten. En route, along the side of the road, sat two characters; country folk in country hats. We stopped and agreed a fee of some apples in return for photographing their expressive, photogenic faces.

We stopped at the older winter palace of the 2nd King of Bhutan (from around 1910-1915). Nearby the Palace, school children were just emerging from their day at school, and, as usual, happily posed for photographs and rushed round the back of the camera to see the results on the tiny 2” screen.

The Yanghill Resort hotel had beautiful views looking across the Pensive Schoolgirlvalley and rice field to the Trongsa Dzong. We spent our evening admiring the view, as well as the incredible view of the stars in the night sky, made even more impressive but the constant power cuts to the town, cutting out all light pollution.

Continuing our journey the next day, we detoured to the small town of Phobjikha. The valley is famous for the endangered black-neck cranes (although not in season during our visit) and is considered one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan. The small dirt track road leading up to the town had market stalls on either side and people were dressed in their finest clothes. Unexpectedly, we had arrived at festival time and a full dress rehearsal was under way. It was a fantastic opportunity to photograph the Bhutanese people, from the families and children comprising the audience, through to the monk elders in bishop like hats playing turquoise ceremonial drums, whilst other monks whirled and twirled the ceremonial dances.

The next morning we walked from our hotel up to the Dzong. We crossed the river and up the steep steps in hot sunshine, our hottest day yet in Bhutan. As per the Whoopsprevious day, there were more ceremonial drums and dances but this time, four masked jesters teased the crown with wooden phalluses and generally acted the fool.

After lunch we headed back to Thimphu, over the high passes, this time with views of the distant snow capped peaks.

After arriving at the Wangchuk Resort, a girl from the hotel offered to take us for a walk through the woods to a viewpoint that looks out over the town. We followed a tiny track amidst the pine trees (with a couple of friendly dogs in tow) and came out in a clearing high up on the hill side looking down over the town Dzong. A small temple stand near the Hotel, built on the site of a much older temple that had been destroyed. We entered the temple to find the head monk seated on his seat praying. He stopped his prayers and showed us around the temple, once again with ornately painted walls.

In the evening we hit the night life of Thimphu with visits to the trendy night spots of Ohm bar and Four Degrees, with our guide Anan and some of his friends. You would never Man in the bowler hatfind any bars in Thimphu! Both of them were up stairwells, one at the top floor of a shopping mall, where everything was closed except the bar. Thanks to Anan, we did find the bars and have a great night downing a few drinks.

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