A Travellerspoint blog

Weekend Market

By Becky

semi-overcast

We’ve visited the large open-air weekend market several times now. It is roofed, with concrete stalls selling a large variety of local fruits, vegetables, diary products and incense, including eggs, fresh butter, soft and hard Bhutanese white cheeses, bananas and banana flowers, squash, giant cucumbers, spiny cucumbers, plums, walnuts, persimmons, cilantro, ginger root, several kinds of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, mangoes, pineapples, apples, citrus, sugar cane, bread fruit, and lots and lots of peppers. There’s also dried fish from India. One stand also sells potted plants (fuchsia and citrus), another just pots. In some corner, there is supposed to be freshly slaughtered meat, but I haven’t found it. Noah drags me away from the vegetable stalls fairly quickly; he doesn’t like the smell. At least four varieties of rice and other grains are sold in an adjacent covered area.

Across a covered cantilevered bridge over the Thimphu River are two other parts of the market. The bridge is layered with so many prayer flags that it is hard to look out and see the river. Two old men with hand-held prayer wheels, one at each end of the bridge, beg for small change. Here jewelry, religious and metal items are sold. There are prayer beads, prayer wheels, ceremonial daggers, masks, cups, bells, horns, stylized lightening bolts, even a few flutes made of human bone and skull cups. On my first visit, I didn’t intend to buy anything but I was seduced by an old Tibetan woman who kept lowering the prices on her jewelry. So far, I’ve bought a door pull in the shape of a dog and one in the shape of a horse, a necklace of faux amber and real coral, a set of prayer beads of small skulls carved out of yak bone, and another set of prayer beads of real amber alternating with intricate metal beads depicting dragons and birds. She also sells jackets and hats of yak hair felt and fur. Much of the jewelry here is made from yak bone, as are many carved cups and small Buddha and Tara statues. There are also belts encrusted with turquoise and coral, arrows (for the national sport), darts, and farm implements.

A third part of the market sells clothing, and I have bought something close to the traditional woman’s outfit, a long wrap skirt, a button-less silk blouse with very long sleeves, and a short, button-less jacket. The long sleeves of the blouse are used to create contrasting cuffs for the jacket, which is held closed with a broach, My outfit is only of machine woven cloth, the gorgeous hand woven and embroidered cloth that is the country’s pride is quite expensive. To do the traditional dress right, I need to buy a kira instead of a wrap skirt. A kira is a long piece of fabric that wraps around the body from under the armpits to the ankles and is secured over the shoulders with jewelry made expressly for that purpose. The kira goes over the silk blouse and a tight, woven belt cinches the kira at the waist.

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Posted by rsherry 07:33 Archived in Bhutan Comments (2)

Housing and Thimphu Cityscape

By Becky

semi-overcast

Tuesday (July 7) we began the process of opening a bank account. It requires two passport-sized photos of each of us and took nearly a week. That afternoon, we also moved into the new apartment RIM selected. The building is in Bhutanese style, white-washed with prominent painted timbers. In front of our door is a small garden, and someone has erected prayer flags above the wall separating us from the street.

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Inside is a wood-paneled living room with western-style furniture, and a rather steep set of wooden stairs. (Though they’re not nearly as steep as those in the monasteries.) Upstairs is a large bedroom with a double bed, a smaller bedroom with a single bed (both paneled in pine), and a bathroom. The floors of the living room and bedrooms are wood too, possibly pine, cedar, or cypress, all of which are common here. Behind the living room is a kitchen, large for an apartment, with a two-burner gas stove, a new microwave oven, a rice cooker, a water boiler, and a small frig. In the cabinets were two pots, two pans, a plastic colander, a spatula, a large holed metal spoon, 4 glasses, 4 cups, 4 bowls, 2 plates, 2 saucers, 2 small dipping bowls, a can opener, a vegetable peeler, a cutting knife, and an assortment of unmatched tableware. I use one of the dipping bowls as sugar bowls because Noah loves hot chocolate, but the “drinking chocolate” available here does not contain sugar. We are in a rather upscale part of town and quite a few small cars, taxis, taxi vans, a few SUVs, and an occasional truck go by. All the guide books say to bring ear plugs because of barking dogs at night, but that has not been a problem for us yet.

We’ve made our first ventures downtown for groceries and restaurants. We’re about a five minute walk from one of the main streets of Thimphu, lined with shops and government buildings, including the National Textile Museum, the National Handicrafts Emporium, and the Bank of Bhutan (BOB). It also has the only intersection with a traffic cop; no traffic lights here. All the roads in Thimphu slope slightly down to the south, or more steeply up to the west, necessitating a set of steps in the sidewalks every block or so. On my first few trips back uphill to our apartment from downtown, I was pretty sweaty.

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The largest grocery store in town, on clock tower square, is big enough to have shopping carts. They carry most things you’d need, except fresh meat and fresh vegetables. You have to go to meat shops for beef, pork, chicken or fish, and to the officially-sanctioned weekend market for vegetables. Also, stalls in the small “Hong Kong Alley” have the basic vegetables during evenings all week. Mornings, the streets are pretty quiet. Things pick up in the afternoon, especially after five, as people buy ingredients for the dinner on the way home from work, and get loud and crowded after dark. The people on the street are about half men and half women, half in Bhutanese clothing, and half in Western clothing, with a sprinkling of monks in red robes, an occasional woman in a sari or a Hindu holy man. After 9pm, the streets are still crowded but the balance has shifted a little towards more men in western garb.

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Posted by rsherry 07:27 Archived in Bhutan Comments (0)

KGOU Broadcast On Our Trip To Bhutan

sunny

National Public Radio affiliate--KGOU--FM, Norman Oklahoma, has just broadcast an in depth interview on our trip to Bhutan and also on U.S. federal tobacco policy. The broadcast can be listened to in mp3 format here: http://kgou.org/ok_news.php?ntype=Oklahoma Voices#842

Posted by mgivel 01:49 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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