Cows! There are, what at first glance, feral cows everywhere. I expected that in India but hadn’t really thought about their presence in Bhutan. There they are, on the side of the road, in the middle of the road, climbing the steep slopes adjacent to the road. I’m told they do belong to someone and every once in a while we see a person herding 4 or 5 cows, headed for who knows where. But, I have questions. Hindus can’t eat beef, so why do they keep cows? There is milk of course, but I haven’t noticed any milk for sale in the ‘general stores’ we’ve been in. Then there are the Buddhists that can eat the meat, but they cannot kill the cows. So why do they keep cows? I really do find this a bit of a puzzle.
I have to take back some of what I said about the food in Bhutan. Since I wrote the blog about the food being bland and boring it has steadily improved. The food at the hotels has been quite good of late. Most of the food we are being served is the Bhutanese interpretation of what tourist types might eat. For the most part it is good, but I do think that us tourists could stand to try some food that is native to Bhutan. I do not think it would kill us.
Most of the interior floors in the dzongs and the monasteries are made of wood. They are extremely well kept and polished constantly by the barefooted monks shuffling thick cloths along the floor as they walk through. Yesterday I slipped on one of these highly polished floors and managed to (I think) break my toe as it slammed into the adjacent board. (For those of you who might care, I have taped it to the adjacent toe as a splint, we hiked today and I did not have any pain.)
As we were standing in front of one of the Buddha altars, R noticed that there was an imprint of 2 feet and all the toes worn into the 12″ wood planks that make up the floor. These foot prints have been worn in over time by the monks standing in the same spot and prostrating themselves repeatedly believing that by doing so they are absolving themselves of sins.
The other day L made a crucial traveler’s error. She fell in love with a carpet that was hanging on the wall before she knew the price that the vendor was asking. We were in a shop that displayed locally woven products and there it was. There is not supposed to be any bargaining in Bhutan but after obtaining the ‘list price’ R asked for the sale price. There of course was a ‘sale’ on at the time and now R has to figure out how to cart a very heavy 3’X6′ carpet back to Canada.
Today,we hiked from the Dochula Pass at 3,100 m to the Lungchutse Temple, up at 3,569 m. The hike was a 369 m gain over 3.5 km. It was a strenuous hike in parts but we were rewarded with great panoramic views at the top. Saw a few cows on the way and had a trusty local dog follow us up and down. Tashi and Karma (our driver) heroically carried up a 5 dish lunch for the hungry hikers. The dog, of course, was well fed at the top, eating what we could not finish.
Bhutan is abuzz with the Royal Wedding. On Oct. 13, K5 will marry a commoner and the entire country is gripped with wedding mania. (Sound familiar to all those in touch with the British monarchy?) Although it has caused some disruption with our tour itinerary we are being compensated by being able to watch as a country sets up for a very auspicious day.
Yesterday we tried to visit the premier dzong in Bhutan and as I explained we were not allowed in as that is where the wedding is to take place and all visitation had been curtailed. Today we attempted to visit the offices of the King. Although normally open to visitors, for the next few days they have been closed. There was a bombing at the Bhutan border today and the security has been tightened a little bit more. We can still view the exterior of these sites and because they have been dolled up for the wedding it is worth the time to go visit. The dzong in Thimpu has been decorated with skirting around all of the eaves and there has been some lighting added to the exterior of the building making it a very noteworthy structure. Personally I think they should leave the lighting intact after the festivities are over.
As for the cows, one way or another the wedding does not seem to affect them. They remain calm cool and collected munching on grass at the side of the road.