Saturday, September 26, 2009
Our guide, Sangay, recommended by a friend on Whidbey Island, is wonderful, happily answering our endless questions. When we stayed on in Thimphu, his hometown, we were able to meet and have dinner with his family which gave us another look at Bhutanese life. We had a conversation with his wife about education here since she is a primary school teacher. The official policy is education for all children, but some children in rural areas still don't receive an education.
Although we attended the festival for the first day of the sacred cham (dance), there was such a big crowd of thousands that I, being of short stature, could see almost nothing. Fortunately, there was a second day of cham and because it was not an official holiday and most people were back to work and school, we were able to see everything clearly. The monks perform these sacred dances in elaborate costumes and masks after having performed rituals for 23 hours a day for the previous 15 days. The dances last several hours and are quite complex.
These past two days we have traveled a hundred miles in about 7 hours of driving (2 hours yesterday, five today). We are traveling on the main east -west highway which is a very narrow, very winding, often one track road through some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen. Since Bhutan is entirely mountainous, we are always going up to passes or down into beautiful valleys, traveling through small villages.
There is a plan afoot to increase tourism from 30,000 last year to 230,000 in five years. We and our guide think this is unrealistic and potentially harmful for the environment and the people of this country. This makes me very glad we are here now.