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Legendary Cultures
March 12 to April 1 2011
Day 1 (London)  |  Day 2 (Lille)  |  Day 3 (London)  |  Lapland  |  Armenia  |  Mongolia  |  Lijiang China  |  Papua New Guinea  |  Indonesia  |  Calcutta  |  Bhutan - Day 1  |  Bhutan - Day 2  |  Petra  |  Turkey  |  Reprise

PARO, BHUTAN

Even considering all the unusual places we have been on this trip, Bhutan has impressed me a lot. It is a strange mixture of the exotic and the familiar. The houses are all pretty much the same in architectural style. In fact, by edict, they must all mimic the monasteries that dot the countryside. They are wildly colorful, almost Mexican, and heavily carved in stylized patterns. The effect of the carving, color, and style is reminiscent of a Swiss village. (CC comment: a Swiss village with extreme chromatic exuberance.)

After going through the longest immigration delay of the trip, we head for the city of Paro to visit the Dzong. A Dzong is a combination Monastery, civil headquarters, and, in the past, a fort. The Dzong in Paro is a huge place, beautifully decorated with paintings on the walls. The paintings are religious stories and teachings, colorful and graphic. One side of the Dzong would be occupied by civil servants but today is Saturday and so it was empty. The other side has is the home of the monks who live in this Monastery. We saw mostly young boys. These boys can join the Monastery when they are seven and then they spend the rest of their life in the order. They can be placed there by their parents or can decide to join on their own.

We then proceed to our hotel and checked in. We have the best room in the hotel. I am sore from walking up and down stairs and steep inclines at the places we visited today - why do all stairs at temples have to vary in depth ( but are predominantly more than a foot and a half tall)? In our hotel, we are on the third floor and there is no elevator. It is an striking suite. There is a monk who seems to just hang around in the common area on the third floor where there is also a Buddhist shrine. Our suite is called the Royal Raven. We have been in some pretty unique and impressive hotel suites in the years we have been travelling together but this is the first time our room has had its own shrine (floor area is about 15 feet square) adjacent to the living room! It is ornately decorated and has a lit votive candle.

After lunch we return to the Dzong to see the former watchtower which has been converted into a museum. Again a massive and inspiring structure. We then proceed to a local farm to see a working farm. It would not be thought strange by most family farmers in the U.S. today. We were supposed to go to still another Temple but we passed this honor to go shopping along the main street of the village. Most of the tour joined us.

In the evening, before supper, we had a lecture on Buddhism. I was only familiar with the religion in a vague general way. After the lecture I realize I don't understand Buddhism at all. One of the takeaways was that because of reincarnation, all animals and humans are related to each other. On the basis of this, there is a necessity for respect for all living things because after all, they are also you and, as the lecturer said, could be your forebearers. I am not sure how this squares with DNA analysis. If this basic tenant is not enough, a feature of reincarnation is that when you die you go to various afterlives awaiting rebirth. It is not clear how one is assigned to these afterlives, who judges where you go, or how long you are there.

Part of my confusion was a language barrier. There were other reasons also.



Day 1 (London)  |  Day 2 (Lille)  |  Day 3 (London)  |  Lapland  |  Armenia  |  Mongolia  |  Lijiang China  |  Papua New Guinea  |  Indonesia  |  Calcutta  |  Bhutan - Day 1  |  Bhutan - Day 2  |  Petra  |  Turkey  |  Reprise



HOME  |  AUSTRALIA 2003  |  ACROSS AMERICA  |  IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA  |  VIETNAM  |  AFRICA  |  AROUND THE WORLD 2009  |  SOUTH AMERICA 2009  |  LEGENDARY CULTURES 2011
  |  TURKEY AND GREECE  |  CIRCLE THE ARCTIC