Today we said goodbye to Brad, Bea, Terry & Gillian and drove to Punakha from Thimphu. But before we left Thimphu we all went together to visit a local school. It was the school that our guide, Jas’s children went to. This school had 1,074 students from age six to grade 10. We arrived at the school before it was to start for the day and all the students were in the courtyard by class, lined up ready for assembly. It was Friday and their tradition was that one class stood at the front and sang to the rest of the school. Then the principal spoke to the children before allowing them to enter their classrooms. It turned out to be an examination day so we could not visit a classroom but the principal gave us a tour of the school and we did get to visit a special needs classroom because they did not have exams.
The school was very neat and tidy. All the children wore uniforms and it was a very disciplined and proud environment. Apparently, when the principal was talking to the children at the assembly, he told them that some children had picked flowers in the village and they knew who they were and the children were not to behave like that. Each classroom had their own garden area with herbs, vegetables and flowers. The classrooms would compete with each other on growing the best garden.
Leaving Thimphu we drove up the mountains of Bhutan and it reminded me a lot of British Columbia’s mountains. It was 19 degrees Celsius and a beautiful day. The roadside venders were selling apples and vegetables.
Farmers were not allowed to convert wet land into dry land but they were allowed to convert their dry land into wet land to grow rice. The maximum number of acres a person could own was 25 acres. This prevented the wealthier people from buying up all the farmland. If a family divided it’s wetland to another family member that family member could build a house on their wet land but if someone purchased wet land they could not build a house on it. If you purchased wet land you could only grow rice on that land. The king was trying to make everyone in Bhutan self-sufficient and from what we noticed it was working. If a citizen was poor with no family or land the king would give them 5 acres but they would have to keep that land for 10 years minimum.
There was no litter to speak of in Bhutan. There were signs everywhere reminding people to use the trash bins and to keep Bhutan green! The signage was working because Bhutan was green and very clean. We loved what we had experienced to date in Bhutan. The Bhutanese people were happy, everyone appeared to have a purpose and it was clean, friendly and very peaceful.
We stopped to visit the temple of The Devine Madman. Prince Sangay had talked about this Devine Madman and we were curious to see it for ourselves. The actual name of the temple was Chimmi Lhakhang, it was built in 1499 and was famous for the worshiped Phallus symbols. It was a temple of fertility. Phallic symbols were everywhere, painted on village houses, hanging from door frames and hanging from the eaves of rooftops. Souvenir shops sold wooden phalluses of all different sizes and colours. It was believed that phalluses kept evil spirits away from the local’s houses and brought fertility to the families. Many barren women from around the world came here to be blessed by the head monk with a wooden phallus, hoping to get pregnant.
The Devine Madman was actually Lama Drukpa Kunley, who came to Bhutan from Tibet and there were all kinds of stories about him. How he saved the locals from threatening demons by killing them with his penus! One story told how he pretended to be asleep and when a demon stood over him, the Devine Madman hit the demon in it’s mouth with his phallus and knocked out the demon’s teeth. The demon ran away holding his mouth. The inside walls of the Chimmi Lhadhang temple were painted with stories all about this Devine Madman and how he saved the villagers from their demons using his phallus. A famous quote from Drukpa Kunley (1455 – 1529) “The best wine lies at the bottom of the pail, and Happiness lies below the navel”.
That night we stayed in another Uma hotel, which was lovely. Slightly different than the Uma in Paro but it was also located high in the mountains overlooking the valley and the river below. I love these Como chain hotels they added a little magic to our stays in Bhutan by their locations high above the villages in their quiet settings.