Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1790: Bhutan - Land of the Dragon
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2009
Page 19 of 24: Shingkar and Ura
These two small settlements are on the way to Mongar but we asked to visit them as a full day trip from Jakar.
We left the Chamkar valley and drove along the Tang Valley. This is sheep farming country with rolling grasslands. The Government introduced sheep farming intending the wool to be used for weaving. However, most weavers find it cheaper to buy direct from India.
It was a nice climb up the far side of the Tang valley through blue pine forest beginning to change colour and turn golden. There were long strands of greyish green lichen handing down off the branches of the trees giving it a mystical feel.
Once over the pass the road begins to drop down to the head of the Ura valley. Below were the settlements of Tangsibi and Shingyer surrounded by large fields used for growing potatoes to sell to India. These had been harvested and the fields left fallow.
We turned off the main road onto an unmade track through Somthang Village with neat, well kept farmhouses and stone barns.
It was a long drive along a rough track climbing to Shingkar Village. This is still an unspoilt traditional village. The plain, unpainted, wooden houses were arranged higgledy piggledy along the stream. Solar panels on the house roofs provide electricity. Above the village were prayer wheels which had first use of the water before it was used to power the water mills lower down. One of the mills was working and grinding roasted barley which would be used to make small cakes called tampa, which are eaten with butter tea. A system of leats and paddles controlled the water flow.
There were raised pavements beside the stream. Narrow winding unmade roads ran between the houses between tall stone walls with logs neatly piled on top. Stiles made from a log with steps cut into it gave access over the walls. The houses had a small vegetable garden and with barns and sheds.
The Chief Monk had a large highly decorated house next to temple.
We drove further up road to find a picnic spot with views over valley. Yak come down here to graze the low bamboo pasture at the end of November. A flock of crows began to collect as we ate, waiting for the leftovers.
After Shingkhar we drove to Ura, reached by an unmade road off the main road. There were many well cared for, painted houses laid out along a network of small lanes.
Ura Lhakhang is in the centre of the village and was rebuilt about 27 years ago by the villagers. They were preparing for a special three-day celebration. Villagers were arriving with big bowls of food to be left in the temple. Stills were bubbling away in a courtyard round the back of the Lhakhang. The old ladies of the village were busy making ara for the celebrations. Barley and water were boiled in a large container. A bowl filled with cold water was balanced on the top. Spirit vapour condenses and collects in a central reservoir in the large container. We were offered sample which was very nice but lethal. We declined the offer of a cupful.
The guide arranged for us to visit a traditional farmhouse. This was very much like the building we had seen at the Folk Museum in Thimphu. The ground floor was still used for storage. Upstairs was a small dark kitchen with a wood burner with hot plates and a small gas hot plate. There was a small storage area off. There were no table or chairs as the family sat on the floor. In the sleeping area there were thin mattresses on the floor covered with rugs. There was no hanging space and no spare clothes. We were proudly shown the family shrine with priestís bed and holy books.
We were offered a cup of tea by the Grandmother which we were expected to accept. Her husband had died. Her daughter was in hospital with health problems and her granddaughter didnít go to school as she was needed to help her grandmother in the fields and lifting the potatoes. This was essential help as there was no one else to do it and they would starve. There is no social security. It is a very hard, basic life.
Gradually the youngsters are leaving the countryside to live in towns where there is work and money. There is increasing concern that only the old will be left to work the land and the villages will die.
|Car Rental||Hotel Booking||Flight Booking||Train Tickets||Books, Maps, Events|
|Europe Cell Phones||Long Distance Cards||Luggage, etc.||Travel Insurance||Classifieds|
Copyright © 2000 - 2013 SlowTrav.com, unless noted otherwise. Slow Travel® is a registered trademark. Contact Slow Travel