Or: The One in Which Crapital redeems itself. And where I try to be a bit less snarky and cynical but fail quite early on…
This fine, sunny morning we went to the Memorial Chorten in Thimpu, a temple built in blah blah blah for ptang yang kipperbang on the occasion of tiddly om pom pom … see below* if you’re interested in pesky facts.
Anyway the temple was exceedingly temple-y but the main draw was the excellent selection of faithful circling it, fingering beads and murmuring the chant ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ (loosely translated this means ‘Erm Give Us A Break Next Time, Yes?’) The lovely lady in the photo above with Alice was one of them. She’s called Aum Tashi Lhamo and was super smiley, arrestingly so. I put up a fairly tentative high five and she grabbed my hand joyfully and flashed a megawatt beamer.
The other stone cold dude was this guy, Aap Dorji. He jabbered on to Adam, no doubt imparting the sort of wisdom you can only acquire the hard way, unless you happen to meet someone like him and can speak Dzongkha. As it is, Adam remains unwise.
(An aside: It’s always a bit strange, photographing local people in places you go. I always ask permission but I wonder how dashed odd it appears to them that someone wants a selfie? I’m very much hoping it never comes across patronising because it’s never meant that way. I am very happy to patronise lots of other ways, but NOT THIS. NEVER THIS.)
This big gold chap on the hill above Thimpu (so chosen by Buddha because it’s the only place you can’t smell the sewers) was also being roundly pestered by people mumbling the chant and fiddling with their rosaries. And then there was about another five thousand people sat in a couple of massive hangers doing a bit more mumbling.
It makes you wonder who’s doing all the work in this country. They’re either agnostic or already pretty sure they’re coming back as leeches so there’s no point wasting any time praying.
After the Thingemibob Temple and Big Bothered Buddha, Thimpu is beginning to look a lot less crap. Next is a Traditional Bhutanese Handicrafts College with separate schools full of eager pupils doing Thanka painting, embroidery and sculpture. It takes 6 years to become a fully-fledged artist and about 6 minutes to get fed up of tourists wandering around sticking their cameras up your nose while you’re doing it.
Finally, on this day of wonders, we get to meet the Bhutanese National Animal – the Takin. I have to apologise for the terrible photos but these animals smelt so historically bad that I couldn’t spend more than a few seconds close enough to get a decent shot. They’re kind of like Buffalo, but much gruftier. They’re Gruffalo. So sue me.
Kids liked them enough to spend a full 10 minutes inhaling Gruffalo vapours, while I began mentally mixing a top-shelfer back at the hotel bar. Because after Dry Tuesday comes WET WEDNESDAY. And after more sightseeing than is surely decent for a woman of my age and stature, I’m gonna get soaked.
*1973 to commemorate King 3, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. So now you know.