We started off early, before dawn. I was hitching a ride with a UNICEF vehicle that was making a morning run to the airport. My friend Jake, a journalist with NPR who I’ve mentioned before, was catching the same free ride. Jake was on his way out of the country. I was on my way to Paro for tsechu, an annual Buddhist festival held each spring.
I’d been trying to get out of Thimphu for weeks, dying for a short break from the city. And when Jake told me about his free ride to Paro and I realized I could catch the last two days of tsechu, I figured I had my weekend getaway.
Once in Paro, locating a room wasn’t easy; a sizable chunk of the country makes the pilgrimage to the small town for tsechu. But after a couple of hours and a self-guided tour of practicably the entire town, I found a cheap enough little guesthouse. Bucket showers and no hot water, but a bed.
By the time I’d checked in and grabbed a quick bite to eat, day four of the five day festival was already underway up at Paro Dzong, which towers over the town atop a hill a short walk from Paro’s main square. Finding my way there was no trouble; lines of people moved from every direction, up the hill and to the grounds outside the dzong where music and Buddhist cham dances had been going on all week.
The festival was really a wonderful thing to be a part of. A disorganized family affair, children of every age ran around the robes of monks and through the legs of tourists. Everybody had brought food up the hill and lunch was shared from one blanket to the next. And with the men wearing their best ghos and the women their finest kiras, the audience was nearly as colourful as the marvellous costumes of the performers.
From the trip, I pulled together a post for the magazine I’m working for here, Drukpa. There, you’ll find some of the above pictures as well as photographs of Paro Dzong’s “great thangka“, which I’ll write more about soon.
Also, more photos at my Flickr stream.Social tagging: bhutan > buddhism > dance > paro > photos > tsechu