Nov. 8 (Thur.) Bhutan Day 2 Tango Gompa Monastery Climb & Arts & Crafts School
We rose to a frosty morning at our hotel in Thimphu, had a good breakfast and met with our guide, driver, and Tom & Lois at the civilized hour of 9AM. We headed by minivan out to the beginning of our "warm up" hike to a monastery on the top of a small mountain.
On our way to the trailhead, we passed a gigantic painting on the face of the rock along the side of the road. Besides stopping to take a picture of the painting, we had to wait until a dump truck filled with big rocks and small boulders was able to aim and climb up the dirt road that clung to the side of the hill. Our driver helped direct the dump truck driver to negotiate the rutty bumps. As we were returning to our van, a car came around the corner and seemed to be out of control as it skidded to a grinding stop with a large flat rock wedged under its right front wheel and almost crashing into our guide who was plucked away from danger by Anne.
We were becoming acclimated to the heights which were all over a mile and often reached 9,000 - 10,000 feet. Breathless was the watchword of the day as we followed the switchbacks up to the top. Our goal was the Tango Gompa Monastery which was established in the 15th century by the famous "Divine Madman" (Drukpa Kunley). Our guide, Tshering Wangchuk, is a font of information on the "saints" and "sinners" of the early establishment of Buddhism in Bhutan. Drukpa Kunley could probably be considered a sinner by todays standards, but is revered throughout the land for his zeal. However, he is also purported to have slept with every available woman he encountered. Thus the nickname, "Divine Madman."
After nearly two hours, we were near the end of the trail, the monastery, and the fluttering prayer flags that adorned almost every part of Bhutan. We were quite winded.
While photography of the outside of the building and the monks is allowed, we had to remove our shoes and hats to enter the temple where no photography is permitted. We descended the 9,000 foot mountain and had a box lunch at the side of a stupa near another fast moving river. The rivers of Bhutan are a valuable natural resource, generating electrical power in excess of the country's needs. This excess is exported and comprises 45% of the GDP (about $5 Billion). While GDP is the usual measure of a country's prosperity, Bhutan actually measures prosperity in Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) - a unique measure and one that fits right into the national culture of peace and happiness. Bhutanese smile a lot. The GDH measure has been applied to all countries now - it would be interesting to look up exactly how that is quantified.
We completed the day with a "just in time" visit to the Zorig Chusum Arts & Crafts School where we saw woodworking, drawing, painting, and fiber arts being practiced by students. We returned to our hotel where a hot bath in a claw foot tub soothed the aching muscles from the hike up the mountain. Dinner was at a local restaurant and we slept soundly despite the legendary barking Bhutanese dogs.