October 9, 2012

Gangtey, Bhutan September 28-30, 2012


The drive from Timphu to Gangtey is brutal.  The roads are sometimes dirt and sometime paved.  These roads are made by hand and cut out of steep mountainsides by laborers from India.  If you can tear your eyes away from the bad roads, there is some pretty scenery and waterfalls.
Typical hillside with plantings of rice

Steep Slopes

Kids at school in traditional uniforms

Washed out roads, waterfalls along the roads

 We were able to break up our drive with another hike to a mountainside temple.

We hiked through farms that grow potatoes

We passed school girls along the way

We were always rewarded with a temple at the end of our hikes

Stupa next to the temple

At the entrance  Tashi with the Lama.  There is always a caretaker and usually a few monks at each temple.  The monks will usually stay at each monastery a couple of years

Prayer flags like this in all white indicate a death they are honoring

An old stupa on the trail with a prayer wheel

The temple

This is a prayer wheel stupa that turns with hydro power.  The water wheel runs through it to turn the wheel and send continuous prayers

This is a new farm house that was just built.  Notice the picture of the penis.  They believe that if you have a penis hung over your door, it will bring much luck

The first pass we cross is Dochlu pass at 10,500.  It is the site of 108 stupas donated by the Queen Mother of Bhutan.  Our guide told us they represent the 108 bones or joints in the body but we are not clear on this.

Pass with 108 Stupas

Barb with the Himalayas in the far distance

Monks enjoying lunch

Scott on the top of the first pass at 10,500 feet

The next pass we cross is 11,200 feet.  Driving on these roads is scary but we have confidence in our driver named Namgay.  Along the way we see many landslides that have taken out part of the road.  One landslide crushed a dump truck.  The driver survived but the dump truck is a mess and is on the side of the road as a grim reminder of the dangers of driving on these roads.

The accident happened 3 weeks prior, but it took them a while to clean up and remove the truck

Gangtey is a small agricultural area nestled in a beautiful valley and is famous for the migration of the black neck cranes that occurs from November to January.  The crane have their babies in Tibet and then fly to Gangtey to roost.  The Bhutanese believe these cranes to be sacred and will not allow hiking around the area or roosting when the cranes are there.   We spent 2 nights in Gangtey.

The beautiful valley of Gangtey

In the morning we go to the festival at the Gangtey Monastery.  It is a small festival and you can mingle with the festival characters.  People watching is almost as colorful as the festival.

This festival is smaller than the one in Thimphu.  People mostly sit on the ground in the monastery courtyard

Horns played by monks, along with drums for the dances

Dancers each perform individually for the high monk at the end

The Gangtey monastery.  It is up on the hill and this is where the festival takes place

Crowds and families gather to watch with their lunches

Most of the dances are performed by monks

Looking through the entrance at the monastery

Gangtey is a farming community.  Most only own a tractor.  For the festival they use their tractors to carry their families to the festival

Enjoying the festival

The dancers have to be pretty athletic

Cute girl

Watching from the balcony

Scott watching the festival

These girls just presented an offering

Intent faces

There is a dance that has these performers that are what we would call clowns

The clown performance

Monks on the drums

They eat a nut that is red.  I think it is like a tobacco (although smoking is not allowed in all of Bhutan).  It rots their teeth.

The entrance to the monastery

All ages enjoy the festival
This is the high monk that is the reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche.  He comes at the end of the day and people line up to get a blessing and get a string for your wrist or neck.

Just outside the monastery is the old village of Gangtey.  They were selling trinkets for the festival.

One character comes by and waves a scarf over you and gets donations.  Everyone makes a donation.  The festival character is carrying a big wad of cash.  Some of those who make donations ask for change.  The Buddhists believe that any donation is fine, even water.  All donations gain merit for the giver.
Giving blessing with a wave of a scarf and getting monetary donations

After the festival we went on a beautiful hike along the foothills and past where the cranes roost during the winter.

The old town of Gangtey near the monastery

The Gantey nature hike
Beautiful through a spanish moss hanging from the trees forest

Scott pointing to prayer flags
Barb and Tashi

After our hike we took the mountain bikes from the lodge and rode back up to the festival.  We left the bikes outside and had fun inside.  Barb made a donation and got a blessing from the presiding holy man.  When we came back to our bikes some boys were looking at them so we let them ride the mountain bikes.
Riding past horses and people walking to the festival

Riding up the hill to the monastery

We looked a little unusual.  I don't think too many people own bikes.
There was a steep hill.  I could tell we are finally acclimating because I rode it without stopping.

That night we opted for a hot stone bath in a tub for 2 people set up on the hillside in a bamboo hut with divided wooden tub.  The divider is to keep the hot rocks away from us.  The water must be about 106 degrees because we can hardly get in.  Soon we are enjoying our bath in nature.  We ring the bell and our attendants bring drinks and put more hot rocks into the water.  The rocks are taken directly from the fire and put into the water and they are glowing red.

First they give us tea.  Our bath is behind those doors

Once inside the tub, they open the doors so we are having our bath in nature
They heat the rocks for 3 or 4 hours.  There is a side window with a separate area in the tub to place the hot rocks.  It  heats up the water pretty fast.  They put many different herbs in the water and the minerals from the rocks are supposed to help any ailments you might have.  Lighted candles surround the interior for ambience.

Our herbal hot stone bath in nature

 Throughout Bhutan we are staying at the Aman Resorts.  Here are photos of the Gangtey property.

The rooms

Enjoying breakfast outside

Dining area

Sitting area


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