Even the most privileged travelers consider Bhutan a special destination. Its secluded location, limited accessibility, and preservation efforts have shielded many from visiting this jewel in the Himalayas. Bhutan only opened its doors to tourism in 1974, with the number for tourists kept to an environmentally manageable level through government regulated tourist tariff. Bhutanese are renowned for their happiness and are a proud people who wear their national costume with pride.
Here are our recommended 2014 experiences in Bhutan:
Nuns or anims are less numerous than monks in Bhutan. There are about 21 nunneries in the country where young nuns learn the rituals and Buddhist texts. They dedicate their lives to religion and provide social services to the local communities. The nuns live within the premises of the temple in a close community (50-100 nuns) and like a family each one of them are assigned daily chores and responsibilities. The local people offer tea to the nuns during the evenings to gain merit and good Karma. Join the nuns during the prayers, reflect on your thoughts and enjoy the serenity and calmness you feel as you listen to the melodious chants.
Tsewang/Longevity Blessing Ceremony
The sacred ceremony is dedicated to Amitayus/Amitabha, the Buddha of Longevity. The Buddha Amitayus/Amitabha is invoked to enhance a person’s life - the general well being of a person and to ward off all obstacles and negative energy. The ceremony is performed by a high level learned monk who will recite prayers, offer symbolic food offerings representing the Buddha of Longevity and bestow blessings. The entire ceremony will take about an hour.
Cooking Demo in the Punakha Valley
Visit a farmhouse in the picturesque Punakha Valley and join the family for a cooking demonstration and tasting. Enjoy a delicious lunch of fresh yak-butter tea and home brewed liquor - fiery arra or sweet sinchang. Help them make ema datsi (cheese chili) and pancakes with red rice, served along with hot chili curries. After lunch, join the family with their daily chores such as taking care of the livestock and crops. Over 85% of Bhutanese still practice subsistence farming and this afternoon affords an authentic encounter with the traditional way of life.
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. Spectators marvel at the dexterity of the Bhutanese and gasp at other members of a team who stand close to the target and sidestep the flying arrows. The traditional bows and arrows are made from bamboo. There are two painted targets placed at each end of the range at about 120 meters apart. Two teams of 11 archers compete, each player shoots two arrows and the first team to get 33 points wins the match. The best archers wear multi-colored scarves tied to the back of their belts. Each time an arrow hits the bulls-eye a short victory dance is performed by the team. Experience a quick and shortened version of the traditional game of archery. (The normal archery game lasts a day and can extend to several days.) Two teams of local archers (2-3 people per team) will demonstrate and you are welcome to join the team!