April 17, 2019
Yesterday I mentioned the old iron bridge and the new bridge – here is a picture Norm took of me on the new bridge!
And here are some pictures of our hotel room.
We dinner at the hotel and there was no alcohol – Tuesday is a dry day here! This is an all inclusive trip so everything including all of our meals are covered, but not drinks.
In the lobby, there are some small booklets and they describe a lot of classes that are offered in the area, everything from painting, basketry, weaving, etc..
I found this one – Not one I would be interested in, but hey, I guess they get enrollees!
As I mentioned in my previous post, this is a very clean town and most of the buildings are pretty modern. But this one is right behind the hotel.
Tashi and Kinley picked us up at 9:30 after we had our breakfast at the hotel.
Our first visit was to the National Memorial Chorten, which is what they call the stupa in Bhutan. It honors the third king of Bhutan who is credited with unifying the country. When he died, his wife had this temple built in his honor. When visiting these temples, women must have arms and legs covered, and for reasons we don’t understand, men must either have their arms and legs covered, or if wearing a short sleeved shirt, it must have a collar.
The second picture is of the giant prayer wheels. There were a lot of elderly people sitting in this area. Tashi told us that working people drop their elderly parents off at these temples where they spend the day in the company of others!
Next we visited the giant sitting Buddha. This temple is still unfinished inside and even around the grounds. It was completed in 2015 and Tashi said it is the highest sitting Buddha in the world. It sits high up on a hill and is visible from most of the town. The platform is gold tiles. You can also see the views of the town and the many steps to climb up. Now people can drive around to the top, as we did, but when it is all complete, everyone will walk both ways. We walked down the stairs.
The third place we visited was Changangkha Lhakhang, which was built in the 12th century, but had two different fires and was rebuilt each time. It honors the monk who spread Buddhism to Bhutan. Here there is a 360 degree view of town. This is also the temple known for blessing babies and we saw several of them during our visit. You can see the mud and stone construction. You can’t take pictures inside any of these temples.
Here they had a separate temple for the queen of snakes (legend has it that a snake found the spot!)and also a structure for the oil lamps so that if it burned down, it would not harm the temple itself.
Bhutan is a democracy since 2008 and is a constitutional monarchy with a king. There are two equal positions under the king, one is the Prime Minister and the other is the head monk. The king is highly respected but the government is run by the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister. This is the King’s palace. You are not allowed to take pictures close to the palace nor are you allowed to point at the palace or really at anything or anyone in and around the temples.
The national animal here is quite unusual and also rare. It is called the takin and is native to Bhutan. It has the head of a goat and the body of a cow. It is very muscular.
We visited the mini zoo to see the takin. There are also some deer there, and it is really a large wooded area surrounded by fencing with plenty of places for these animals to roam.
Next we visited the Folk Heritage Museum. Tashi is showing us how they made the mud walls and the next picture shows how thick they are. Many wonderful examples of saddles, baskets, clothing, etc., are inside the museum, but we could only take pictures on the outside. The kitchens were always on the top floor of the homes so if there was a fire, hopefully it could be put out before the lower floors were involved.
Lunch at a local restaurant was next. Tashi and Kinley do not eat with us. And Kinley jumps out of the car to open the door for me every time, while Tashi insists on holding any bags when we make purchases. They are just great.
After lunch we visited the school for the arts, where we saw students doing clay sculpting, woodworking, sewing and weaving. There is a celebration at the school tomorrow so many students were cleaning up the school and the grounds. They have the sewing machines with the foot pedals.
The next stop was the textile museum – and it was so impressive. These cloths take 7 months to weave.
We did some shopping at an area with small shops in wooden structures that lined the street.
The last stop of the day was at the Tashi Cho Dzong, or the fortress that holds the most important temple here in the capital and also all the government buildings. Tashi had to wear a special shawl there and we couldn’t enter until 5:30 after all of the workers had gone for the day. All of the important ceremonies are held here. Again, no pictures inside, but it is huge and we could take these in the courtyard.
A very full, fun and educational day. In some places, Tashi had to show the papers that we were visitors that had paid the daily fee, in others, he paid which also comes out of the daily fee.
Tomorrow we leave Thimphu and travel to Punakha.