Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Domkhar Tsechu #2

We returned to Domkhar for the 3rd day of the Tsechu with our friend Kyle, a fellow BCF teacher who is staying for the weekend.

The first thing we had to do when we arrived was look for ice-creams. The boys have learned that usually at these festivals you can buy ice-cream in a cone, but not this one – we surveyed the stalls set up in tents that sold an array of cheap plastic toys, junk food and clothes, but the closest things were some ‘super-dooper’ icypoles. We were ready to enter the Lhakang!
I bought Remy a little plastic motorbike whistle here.

 The children enjoy Tsechus as much for the entertainment outside the Lhakang as what goes on inside!

These young girls at the stall had beautiful hand-woven kiras on.

 The first thing I noticed about the crowd today was that there were nearly as many foreign tourists as  locals. With big fancy cameras poised, and standing close up to the action, dressed in matching outdoor gear in subdued colours, it was interesting to see such a large group of foreigners. I wonder what the Bhutanese people make of all of us at their sacred events?

Domkhar Lhakang has a wide open feel with a large area for dancing and spectating. Around the perimeter, trees in blossom created a beautiful backdrop to the festivities. Grey skies and the threat of rain set a moody tone for the day.We watched some masked dancing around the courtyard, to the sound of drums and horns. The colours were amazing and I wished there was someone there I knew who could explain the significance of the dances. Watching the dancers spin and twirl is mesmerising, their costumes extravagant and vibrant. Similarly all the locals were dressed in their finest hand-woven kiras and ghos – a noticeable change from the more ‘ordinary’ colours and styles we wear to work everyday. I still don’t have one of these hand-made kiras and look longingly at their intricate and beautiful designs. I’ve been told they can cost a couple of hundred dollars. It was very cold and raining so after a while we decided it was time for tea and momos.
It's hard to capture in a photo how energetic the dancing is. Dancers toss their heads and bodies around, amazingly keeping balance most of the time.

Close up of dancer - they all wear distinctive masks - some resemble animals, others look like demons.


We went down to the food hut and enjoyed a couple of cups of tea, plates of momos and some fried chickpeas – it was good to warm up. Even though it is spring, the weather feels like winter again.
Keeping the crowds fed kept these men busy in the kitchen making momos.

We really needed our cup of tea to warm up!

Three of my students were wearing their finest ghos and enjoying a momo snack.

Near the food hut were some side-show alley type stalls where you could throw a ball at a stack of cups, or gamble some money on your number coming up in a game of chance. We met an Australian family travelling in Bhutan with their two young daughters and it was nice to have a chat about their trip and our experience living here. There is no doubt that living here for a length of time and being involved in living in a community helps us get closer to the ‘real’ Bhutan rather than a fleeting impression gained from moving quickly from one comfortable hotel to the next. Both are fine in their own right – I wouldn’t mind a few nights at a comfortable hotel with a buffet dinner provided - but knowing how much more we are experiencing of Bhutan makes the hard work worth it.
I bought some bananas from this young girl who used her counting in 5s beautifully - I bought 10 bananas for 5 ngultrum each.

Surprisingly, disturbingly the favourite toy to buy and play with at Tsechu is a gun!

We returned to see more of the masked dancing, this time Kyle seemed to understand what was happening – it was similar to a dance he’d seen at Punakha or Trongsa Tsechu. Although the crowds cleared out dramatically I enjoyed watching the women dance that came on as an interlude between the more vibrant and exciting mask dancers. A lone atsara (jester) teased the ladies as they danced. We missed the antics of the atsaras who had really livened things up at the Buli festival and kept us interested to watch the dancing for hours and hours on end.

We talked to another group of tourists from USA and decided it was time to start walking home – but the rain and tired kids was not a great combination.
We reached the main road and a van came past with just two passengers – so I flagged them down and asked if they could give us a lift to Chumey. At first they declined and drove off but moments later they reversed and we piled in. They drove us all the way home and then turned back the way they had came – obviously living somewhere else, but kind enough to help us out in the rain and cold. Kadinche la.


  1. I am always in such awe at your experiences Andrea. I love the updates, and would love to have some momos again!!

  2. Thanks Aroha, we are fitting in some great experiences around work! Momos are so cheap and easy to buy here I am not learning to make them myself - I will have to make an effort so I can make them when we get home. Hope you are doing well too Aroha xx

  3. Fantastic photos - thanks for sharing Andrea! It must have been a really interesting day... and I am still enjoying seeing all the beautiful ghos and kiras - the costumes looked fantastic too! wow.
    Hope the weather warms up soon for you.xx