Chorten and view
After a dinner at our house with friends Chodra and Yangchan, the offer was extended to drive us to Dochu La the next day. Dochu La took about one hour to get to. It is an area with 108 chortens, white stone monuments, surrounded by prayer flags. They were built recently, 2005, as atonement for the loss of life during the flushing out of Assamese militants in S. Bhutan. 108 is also the number of beads on the Bhutanese rosary. Dochu La was beautiful. It lies at the top of a mountain in between Thimphu and Punakha. There is a good view of Punakha and the surrounding mountains and valleys. On the way back from Dochu La we stopped at Yangchan’s aunts house in a tiny village along the way. Yangchan is from Tibet but her family has long occupied Bhutan. The restaurant was dark and small but the aunt was extremely hospitable and offered us tea and cookies. I was feeling odd because of the elevation so I gobbled up those cookies. Upstairs of the bar they were having a puja, or religious ceremony, with instruments, chanting, and candles. It was a ceremony blessing Yangchan’s grandma who
was 91 to live a few more years. She was “too old” to travel which I found odd until I realized she meant by walking. Many Bhutanese, outside of Thimphu, are still not used to cars and refuse to ride in them. The local bus is referred to as the “vomit comet”.
Descending day of Buddha:
I was fortunate enough to accompany representatives from the Amankora lodge to Tango Goemba, a monastery that Guru Rimpoche meditated at. I was the kitchen representative since the kitchen was too busy to send anyone. They were supposed to pick me up at six in the morning but that became seven quickly. There is definitely Bhutanese time here. There were six other Bhutanese men, Ian the Lodge Manager, and a Canadian tour guide. The drive took about 45 minutes and then the hike took another 45 minutes. The hike was straight up hill and very cold so it seemed to affect my lungs quite a bit. We made it to the Goemba. It was located on a mountain side and was very picturesque. Monks greeted us and had us sit while they served milk tea and crackers. I’m starting to really enjoy
Shane and I (ignore our faces and enjoy the surroundings)
this tea and cracker thing. We then headed into the prayer area. We first took off our shoes. Each room has shrines and altars dedicated to different Gurus or lamas. People had to explain what was going on throughout the entire time to me. I prostrated by putting my hands in prayer motion and touching my forehead, nose, and chest, kneeling and touching my forehead to the floor. You prostrate three times towards the back and then three times to the front. Many people brought money to pray with and leave on the altar. I was told that it was okay that I didn’t bring money since I did not know to beforehand. One wall of paintings supposedly wept when Rinpoche died. We went from room to room and up endless stairs. The stairs which are really ladders were very steep and I was scared I was going to slip down them in my white sports socks. Women are not allowed into the top most room. We then headed to an area called the horse’s head. There was a cave in this area in which if you fit through it you would wash away all your sins. The hole has
gotten small in recent years so we were told not to attempt this as we might get stuck. Too bad we couldn’t wash away our sins. I was very soar for a few days from all the prostrating and hiking. For some reason I stood up each time with my right leg. Bad idea. We went early so we avoided the crowds. By the time we left there was a steady stream of Bhutanese heading up the hill to pray during the descending day of Buddha.
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