Bhutan 2009 Day Two: Thimphu Tsechu Festival

by Kara on September 30, 2009

The Thimphu Tsechu attracts a large crowd

After a good night’s sleep, we went down at 7 am to a breakfast of toast, fried eggs, bacon, beans, porridge and apples. We met Pema at 8 am to head over to the fortress for the tsechu. All the people were in their finest clothes, and it was an impressive sight. The women wore kira, long woven dresses with Chinese brocade jackets. The men wore the traditional gho. They looked fantastic, although they surely must have been very hot. I felt quite underdressed in my jeans and t-shirt. I wore long sleeves to protect myself from the sun. We were told not to wear hats, so we lathered ourselves with sunscreen. They laughed at me for taking two huge bottles of water for myself, but I drank almost all of it. I don’t do well in the heat, so I tried very hard to stay hydrated. Even at 8:30 am, it was getting very hot and the sun is quite strong here.

Dance of the Sixteen Fairies

At around 10 am, Stephen went off in search of good photo taking spots. This suits me fine. I sat and watched the dancing and wrote in my journal while he moved around. Pema sat with me a bit, but also walked around awhile. I hate to admit that the dancing did not make all that big of an impression on me, but this was undoubtedly because it was too hot to be comfortable and too sunny to see very well. I am sure that had it been cooler, I would have enjoyed the show more. I spent most of my time people watching. The little boy next to me had a veritable feast inside his gho. He pulled out potato chips, an apple, some dumplings and slices of zucchini. Pema calls the gho, “the world’s biggest pocket,” an apt description.

Bhutanese children were always very friendly

I felt like I was baking out there, so at 11 am, I finally went and stood in the shade in the gate area. I was not the only person to take shelter there. It was packed. There was a little boy and girl playing a sort of kick the can type game with a plastic bottle and they were entertaining to watch. The little girl accidentally kicked the bottle into my foot, and her hands flew up to cover her mouth as if she was horrified that she did it. I just gave her a big smile and told her it was okay.

People of all ages attend the Tsechu

So far, Bhutan has been everything I expected. The people are warm and friendly and the country is beautiful. But there is one big disappointment, and it’s one that I didn’t expect. There is litter everywhere in Thimphu. I saw people throwing trash on the ground all the time. Not just at the festival, but all over town. It is a big mess. It makes me really sad to see people do that. It’s pretty common in the U.S. too, but in a Buddhist country like Bhutan, where Gross National Happiness is a way of life and nature is revered, I just didn’t expect it. Littering is completely mystifying to me. It takes so little to carry something until you find a trash can, but it contributes so much to the beauty of the world that surrounds you. Why people would want to turn their world into a dump, I don’t know, but it is pretty common behavior worldwide. However, if that is my chief complaint about Bhutan, then I really don’t have much to complain about. But it still makes me kind of sad.

Four dancers with white skull masks

At lunch, we sat with a couple from San Diego. As it turns out, they both went to San Jose State, so they know our area very well. After lunch, we ran back to the hotel to refresh our sunscreen because I forgot to throw it in my backpack. I found one spot I missed in the morning – the back of my left hand and wrist. When I took off my watch, I had a stark white stripe in the middle of a field of red. Ouch!

We headed back to the festival, and while Stephen walked around, I sat next to an endless line of people waiting for a blessing. I had a lot of little kids come and sit with me for a bit and watch me write in my journal. There were three little girls who were just all over me, and it got to be a bit much. They wanted me to name all these body parts in English (nose, mouth, neck, legs, etc.) and they were clapping my hands for me. It made me even more tired than the heat. They would leave, but kept coming back. Finally I escaped and went to stand in the shade to wait for Stephen to finish.

Young Buddhist monks sit on the steps just outside the courtyard at the Thimphu Tsechu

The people really seem to have a sense of humor – they are very playful. I saw a monk with an empty water bottle, and when another monk turned his back, the first one bonked him on the head with the bottle. When he noticed that I had seen him, he gave me a big grin. When we were driving back to the hotel, we saw the following written on the back of a car, “Don’t be hurry – no space for you at hell.”

We took a brief look at some of Stephen’s pictures and I think he got some good ones. I will have to post pictures when I get back – he doesn’t have anything to edit photos with on this computer. His new camera also takes videos, so I will post a couple of those when we get back home too.

After a rest at the hotel, we went out for a dinner, which was excellent. We had red rice, puta (buckwheat noodles), kewa datse (potatoes with cheese), dumplings with spinach, a ground beef dish, and a dish with pork, cabbage and chilies. All very delicious.

It’s about 8:45 pm now and we are zonked out again. Time to get a good night’s sleep before a day of sightseeing tomorrow.

Check out more of Stephen’s pictures of Bhutan.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

VPM October 1, 2009 at 10:59 pm

The story is fantastic. I love to read more regarding your stay in Bhutan. Also, I would be glad if I get your email Id so that I can share something useful for you to cover up. Are you coming to Kathmandu (Nepal) from Bhutan? Let me know if you do so. I may be of some help while you remain in Nepal. Regards

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