Tshechus, is a festival celebrating an important event in the life of the second Buddha, Guru Rinpoche who is also known as The Precious Gem. Even though to the outsider these festivals look like a secular celebration or one that is ancient and performed for tourists, they are not. Each one of these is a sacred religious feast and social gathering sometimes performed by monks only and at other times, performed by monks and specially designated men of the village. For that reason, spectators are welcome but asked to be appropriately respectful of the people.
A chart of all the festivals, their locations and dates for 2017, is included at the end of this article.
Simtokha Dzong – a fortress with the only tower with 12 sides and a large statue of Mahakala, the Buddhist deity that protects the household
Jakar – a tiny “one street town” in Central Bhutan that has plenty of restaurants and small gift shops as well as an Internet Café and espresso bar!
Since there is a moratorium on the number of tourists allowed to enter Bhutan each year, shopping districts as are common in other countries are equally as minimal. The products made in Bhutan are primarily for the use of those who live and work there.
Sleeping and Eating
There are plenty of good hotels in Bhutan, namely:
- Taj Tashi in Samten Lam, Thimphu, Bhutan
- Amankora Lodges – consisting of 5 lodges across Bhutan and the only foreign hotelier in the country
- Hotel Gangtey Place – Paro, Bhutan
- Meri Puensum Resort, Woolakha, Punakha, Bhutan
- Como Uma Paro – Paro, Bhutan **this hotel was once owned by the Uma group and has been recently purchased by Como Hotels
The restaurants at the Amankora Lodges and Como Uma Paro hotels offer some of the best food in all of Bhutan. You will need a reservation for either one and, may have to wait anyway, but it is worth the wait.
Bhutanese food is similar to Chinese, Tibetan and Indian foods with slight differences. It’s not as oily as Chinese and Indian and less spicy than Tibetan – which doesn’t say a whole lot since Bhutanese cuisine is loaded with red peppers and designed to make you sweat (a good thing for cold climates!)
If you like fresh mushrooms, Bhutan has more than 400 varieties that are identified as safe to eat. There is even a festival dance dedicated to celebrating the Matsutake mushroom.
You’ll definitely want to try the Red Rice of Bhutan which is grown in fields irrigated by glacier waters high in manganese and phosphorus that make it very red when raw. (It turns a pink color when cooked so don’t be put off by the color.) Bhutan’s red rice is the ultimate in sticky rice and full of antioxidants!
Momos are likely something you’ve heard of or tried in some other Asian cuisine, but Momo is an authentic and original dish of Bhutan that was transported to China, India, Tibet and Thailand over the years. These are usually eaten as snacks or treats between meals.
Jasha Maroo (Jasha Maru) is a spicy chicken dish made with diced chicken, hot, hot, hot chilies, onion, garlic, coriander and ginger. It’s a soup laden at the end of the cooking time with chicken broth. If you don’t like spicy food, be sure to let your server know this in advance – or order several portions of yogurt to cool your mouth.
A Country Too Big For One Trip
The actual square mileage of Bhutan may be small but getting around on mountain roads – even those that are paved – takes longer than it would in more cosmopolitan nations. Once you’ve been to this fantastic country, you’ll want to go back again and again.
Be sure to book well in advance for your second trip.