Thursday, December 17, 2009
A National Holiday!
one of the rangers drove by on his motorcycle and noticed me outside the building. Apparently today is a National Holiday in Bhutan; the anniversary of the First King Wangchuck's birth.
I assumed this meant the same thing here as it did back home. All government offices closed, most businesses closed, and every one enjoying a mid-week day off. This all was true, but there was also a huge celebration taking place in the market and I was late to the party! I ran to the apartment, grabbed my camera and jumped on the back of his motorcycle. Upon my arrival I found what had to be the entire town gathered in the market place. Every one wasdressed in kheras (women) or ghos (men). Have you ever walked into a gathering and felt like the entire place stoppedand turned to look at you? I'm sure some still paid attention to the procession and speech, but it sure didn't feel like it!
I had milled around for 30 minutes or so hoping to spot some one from WWF when a government aide appeared at my side, accompanied with a member of the Royal Bhutan Army. He asked me if I was with a tour guide. I said no and that answer surprised him. After I explained to them my reason for being here, they told me I was an invited guest and please join them in the tent. Since I was about 5 people deep from the circle of the events I figured I would follow their lead. I ended up in a tent directly next to the main stage, seated in the front row, with local and national government officials. I met the governor of the city, some of the parliament, the head monks of the local dzong, and the only other white face I had seen since my arrival in Bumthang. She was also a solo traveler, but her guide had arranged her spot.
From here we watched as local schools performed dances and songs, a mask dance, and the final farewell chant. OH, and we met the Princess of Bhutan. All in all.. not the ordinary day I was expecting.