In this larger world where we live, there are numerous smaller worlds, each nurturing itself in a different way, completely hidden from the rest. Backpacking across Bhutan will not only give you a chance to explore the country like a local, but it will also show you the raw and untouched sides of the country that you would otherwise miss out!
Such was Haa Valley (‘Haa’ in Dzongkha literally translates to ‘rice’), situated in the Western part of Bhutan, bordered by Tibet. Scarcely populated, Haa Valley appeared like a dreamland to me. Being an atheist, I don’t really believe in God, but I would love to thank the Creator, for creating such an alluring place.
In the small world of Haa, where people are completely reluctant about what is happening in the rest of the world, I found an even smaller world – a little shack next to the Karpo Lhakhang (‘Lhakhang’ in Dzongkha literally translates to ‘temple’).
My morning started quite early that day, and I was excited to attend the Tsechu Festival in Karpo Lhakhang. The music of the drums, lingm (six-holed flute), and the chiwang (Tibetan two-stringed fiddle) could be heard from a distance, and everyone around me wore brightly colored clothes. I could feel the essence of celebrations in the air.
This little shack was right next to the Lhakhang, inside a shady lane. Probably the magnificently decorated Lhakhang made the shack look more dull than it usually is. I was with a friend, who thought it’s a bad idea to have breakfast from there – he said the place was stinking and I wouldn’t be able to eat there. But we didn’t have many options, and there was something about that place that dragged me in. Located at the edge of the cliff, surrounded by the Himalayas on all sides, the Haa Chu (‘Chu’ in Dzongkha literally translates to ‘river’) flowing behind it, and the entire jolly ambience somehow supressed that pungent smell that lingered around the shack. In a 10x10ft room, it had two benches with two tables, and a rack full of Bhutan-made chips, local liquor bottles, Coke, Fanta and large cans full of tea made with yak milk, and big vessels full of beef and cheese momos.
We instantly grabbed some steaming hot momos, served with an even hotter chili sauce!
In a world where the people are waging wars over religion, this shopkeeper worships the King and Queen, and has cut out their photos and pasted all over the walls of his little shack. Mr. Wangchuck, living in his Royal Palace in Thimpu, would never come to know about this guy, who considers him to be equivalent to the Almighty.
Soon, three men stepped into the shack, wearing bright yellow and orange ‘gho’ (the traditional dress, worn by Bhutanese men). They spoke to the shopkeeper in their local language, after which he poured three cups of tea, and they walked away. Later, we realized that those three men, wearing identical clothes, were to perform at Tsechu.