Bhutan Cross Country Cultural and Festivals Itinerary

Day 9 — {date9}

Ugen Choling Cluster Village – Second Night at Ugen Choling

Bhutan Festival Dancer
Festival dancer steps through the temple door at Ugen Choling during our private festival.  Photo by Robin Smillie, one of several used on the cover of Tashi Delek magazine, the in-flight magazine of Royal Druk Air, the national airline of Bhutan.

After breakfast we each raise a personal prayer flag in the grassy terrace with a panoramic view of the Tang Valley. You can write the names of loved ones on your flag prior to hoisting it around the small chorten that is there. A local gomchen (lay monk) will conduct a ritual and read prayers for good health, remembrance and prosperity, a traditional Bhutanese ceremony that is enacted thousands of times each day across the country.

Then it’s on to a day of much celebration and frivolity as our guides and drivers have a formal archery match in the center of the village and a formal lawn dart match next to the Palace—you are invited to attend and participate at whatever level you feel up to. It’s an all-day event that the villagers look forward to every year, with lots of laughter and singing, dancing and revelry.  We pack in things that are not available to them including beer, sodas, prizes and archery equipment and after dinner meet for the awards ceremony in the village hall.

We don't just observe, we participate in Bhutan archery competition.

The cluster village of Ugen Choling rarely gets visitors who meld into their lifestyle like we do and they truly enjoy our interaction. They have even started calling Robin, Dasho Robin. (Dasho means /the important one /and is normally reserved for those who hold high government posts.) You might also want to explore the village of Ugyen Choling and the surrounding countryside. Just take a guide to carry your gear and strike out from the guesthouse in any direction—all paths lead to photo ops. Beyond the village are farmhouses and fields for cultural exchanges, mountains and meadows for landscape photography. You can leisurely stroll through the village and observe the daily life of the Bhutanese. You will feel very welcomed to enter any farmhouse as the Bhutanese see it as an honor that you would want to see how they live their lives.

Bhutan  Dance
We celebrate a good shot by learning the Bhutanese archer's dance.

Shortly before lunch the monks from Jakar Dzong will arrive for our private festival. These are the same monks that perform ancient Buddhist dances in the Jakar Festival and look forward to our festival as a way to earn personal pocket money, something they don’t usually get back at Jakar Dzong. Since we sponsor this event we are allowed special access to the temple and dressing room for close-up photos. The courtyard there is quite intimate so you can also take close-ups of the dancers while they perform. Local villagers, especially pre-school children and elders, hear the noise and come to watch. You will enjoy serving them KoolAid from a bucket, ladling into their tea cups that they pull from their ghos and kiras.

Overnight: Ugencholing Guest House

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Background image: detail of Bhutanese temple window. Bhutan window