Superstition and Smiles: Bhutan

Superstition and Smiles: Bhutan

green, red, gold, spicy, tranquil and sweet… On my second
day into a month-long road trip through Bhutan, we stopped to visit
the 108 memorial chortens of the Dochula Pass.

Our driver, Dorji, let us out and drove around the chortens,
bowing his head with each complete circle. When I asked him why, he
explained that you have to drive around either nine or 108 times
for good blessing – thankfully, he chose nine. This is part of the
charm of Bhutanese people; there seem to be many rules, but the
people we met were a relaxed, happy bunch.

The country is nestled in the Himalayas, where a rugged
landscape is covered in pine trees. We visit mountaintop Dzongs and
temples entered through red wooden doors which are decorated with
ornate golden plates and faded illustrations of Buddhist gods.
Maroon-robed monks cook us ema datsi (spicy chili peppers with
cheese) and buckwheat noodles washed down with butter tea. We visit
snowy mountain villages where locals are adorned in yak fur and
children practise archery with hand-carved bows. We are invited
into farmhouses where turnip leaves are hung out to dry in the
living room, above metal pots of red rice which bubbles on a
wood-burning stove. Wild horses canter across the land outside.

On one of my first nights in the country, I ended up soaking in
a hot spring in Gasa until late at night. I was drinking a large
Druk beer wedged between a breastfeeding woman and a young monk
performing a deep guttural meditation chant, with steam rising off
the three of us. I look over to my companion and ask if this is
what Bhutan is like. He simply nodded and smiled – the moment
couldn’t have captured the country more perfectly.

@marquandphoto |

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