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Himalaya

Day 112: Paro

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe great religious festivals of Bhutan are known as tsechus and commemorate the deeds of Padmasambhava, aka Guru Rinpoche, the saint whose rocky perch in Takstang I climbed up to a few days ago. Tsechu means 'tenth', which was the day of the month when, by tradition, these deeds took place. Today is the start of the annual five-day tsechu in Paro. Primarily a religious event, it's also a big social occasion, with people taking time off from work to dress up in their best outfits and watch dancing, have picnics, attend archery contests, and generally let their hair down. Opening and closing days are the most important and the crowds will be the biggest, so we're up at 5.30 to make sure of a good position. This is also a big draw for tourists and, though only a few thousand come in every year, the hotel accommodation is easily overrun and we're staying in a rented bungalow a half-hour out of town.

We drive in past the airport, so neat, tidy and largely uncontaminated by aircraft that it looks like a toy lay-out. Northeast of the airport and commanding the valley are the imposing white walls of the Paro dzong. Like the fortress at Drukyel, where we ended our trek from Jomolhari, it was built in the 1640s, in the flush of national victory over the Tibetans. By coincidence, it also suffered a serious fire, being virtually razed to the ground in 1915. Unlike the Drukyel dzong, it was restored to its former glory after a special tax was levied throughout the country. Its two longest walls extend for some 500 feet (150 m) and taper gracefully upwards in the Tibetan style. The uppermost of its five storeys have long windows, the main ones projecting out from the wall, and all surrounded by finely carved frames and lintels. A band of ochre paint connects them all up and marks it out as a religious as well as administrative building.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 112: Paro
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Paro
  • Book page no: 255

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