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Himalaya

Day 105: Gantey to Thimpu

Gantey, Bhutan 
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Retail opportunities on the road out of the Phobjika valley. This lady yak herder who so successfully waylaid us made the yak-hair bags herself.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThe monastery has been undergoing renovation for two years and outside the main door a temporary roof has been erected to shelter a timber yard and workshop. Four craftsmen are at work carving a complex decorative motif on a 50-foot-long, blue-pine beam. One man is using a dagger to carve out a dorje, a diamond thunderbolt motif that is a recurrent theme in Bhutan. It's all done by hand, and each has a line of wood-handled tools and a portable radio laid out beside him.

An ancient gateway leads to a big courtyard, in the middle of which, in the Bhutanese style, is the impressive main temple, with the monks' accommodation surrounding it, in single-storey cells with painted lintels, door frames and eaves. It's a building site and looks as though it will be for some time to come.

Over the barking of a pack of dogs I can hear prayers are being chanted from somewhere. The restoration work is largely being done by gomchens, lay monks who don't have to be celibate or live in the monastery. The monks who remain here support themselves by offering their services out for family occasions, providing blessings for births, marriages, deaths, new houses and performing any ceremonies these innately religious people require.

On our way out a dishevelled, tousle-headed young man who can barely walk, approaches us and shows us a deep and nasty gash low on his right leg. Pete, who is a saint in these matters, washes the wound and advises him to go to hospital before it turns gangrenous, but the man says it's been like that for four years. He then starts to sing a love song to me. Benji shakes his head disapprovingly. He says the man's obviously mad. I try not to take this personally.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 105: Gantey to Thimpu
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Gantey
  • Book page no: 245

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