Day two in Thimphu
Dec 31, 2008
• Memorial Chorten
• Hike to Wangditse Temple
• Handicraft Emporium
• Tashichhoedzong Dzong
The Memorial Chorten was built quite recently, 1974. Sangay and I do the usually and walk around three times, clockwise along with a number of older folk. Apparently the older folk spend all day walking around and around swinging their little prayer wheels. They swish them, stop occasionally to kneel and pray, actually it’s more of a prostration.
It’s so difficult no to judge the culture and I see such parallels between say, Peru and here. The smart ones have bastardized the message of Jesus and Buddha and turned it into control and money. These are simple folk without education and without hope of education.
We drive to the viewpoint, the Bhutan Broadcasting System Tower and hike for about forty-five minutes to the Wangditse Temple. We walk and stop occasionally and I enjoy the stunning views of the valley below. It starts to snow, then hail, then stops and repeats its cycle and we make it to the temple.
It’s not a working temple but there’s a caretaker monk who keeps the place clean and tidy. The place was built in the twelfth century and I can feel the oldness. That said I haven’t felt any spirituality here in Bhutan at all. When I was in Laos I almost lost it when I went into a cave, it was similar to the movie ‘A Passage to India’ when she went into the cave.
The temple’s inner sanctum is for men only as women are lower in the ‘enlightenment’ scale than men. In other words, if I do bad karma then I will come back as a dog or a female human. But like most religions, it’s a male construct so here one sees ‘Po’s’ decorated on the walls of houses, a Po is a penis and these are huge erect penis’. They even have penis’ ejaculating. OK, so it’s a symbol of fertility very similar to Hinduism but, hello.
I watched a Bhutanese television station last night and it discussed Domestic Violence. The statistics showed that in 70% of marriages, women are physically abused which equates to over 200,000 women. I discuss this with Sangay that alcohol is a major factor but I think it goes much deeper. It’s a way of life, its not new, as women do not know their basic rights which is exacerbated by the fact that’s it’s a male dominated society, i.e. swept under the carpet.
Lunch at a traditional Bhutanese Restaurant – finally! They serve beef, pork, vegetables, rice with corn, red rice, chilies and cheese, and more. The food is not very spicy and I wash it down with their mild rice wine.
Next stop is the Handicraft Emporium with anything from absolute crap to $3,000 beautifully woven table-cloths. The work-person-ship is amazing and the colours change continually across the weave. It’s beautiful.
Sangay and I stroll through the town of 100,000. Its cold and Sangay buys this ‘thing’ which is a beetle-nut in a green leaf with limestone on the leaf. He offers me one and it’s the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. I spit it out and buy a couple of candy and as its cold out, it’s almost frozen!
We go back to the hotel and I check my email to see if I am OK for my flight from the border to Kathmandu and hopefully all is well. However, British Bloody Airways could actually learn from Air Canada as I cannot change my flight arrangements on-line or by telephone but have to go into their office. Ah me – true customer service! And the email response I get is charming, “we are so sorry that we cannot help, yardy, yardy yar’. They didn’t even read my email and jumped to conclusions – bastards!
So now to the gigantic Tashichhoedzong Dzong, i.e. ‘The Fortress of the Glorious Religion’. The Dzong houses the secretariat and the main monk body as well as the throne room of the King.
It’s lavish and true to form of all Kings (and Queens), the people (serfs) were taxed to death to keep the people in power in power. In order to do this, first control the mind, and give them idols and spinning wheels and chants and mantras. Am I on a roll or what?
It’s sad but satellite TV is changing the face of Bhutan but I feel it I won’t be this generation or the next to change things. Today’s young are still socially conditioned and still imprisoned by and to the ‘system’.