Punakha to Thimpu

Wednesday – We set out in the morning to visit the Chimi Lhakhang on the way out of town – just past the penis stores (hey, this place is the reason they’re here!). It was a very scenic and pleasant walk through rice fields to the temple and monastery, where young monks were taking music lessons. This is the temple of Drukpa Kunley, a sixteenth century monk known for his “crazy wisdom” and sexual exploits. His story explains the penis paintings on houses through out the town (and throughout the country as well). This is a very interesting culture.

Once in the temple, Winna donated a rose quartz crystal for the altar which the head monk accepted graciously. We again rolled dice (it was 17 for me this time, also a good number) and received a blessing from the sacred penis stick (this is, in fact, more than a bit hard to explain – and on this occasion it was probably a good thing photos weren’t allowed). The temple is of course a place focused on fertility. We met several young couples bringing their babies (conceived following the parents’ visit there) for blessings.

Afterwards we walked back, had tea in a restaurant and continued for two hours on the bus back to Thimpu, with another stop at the Dochu La restaurant for lunch (still too many clouds to see the Himalayas – bummer!). After checking in to the hotel, we began getting ready for the evening reception.

We arrived at the home of Ashi Sonam and her husband Dasho Wangdi. She is the younger sister of the four wives of the fourth king. The king married the second through fourth sisters in the family, not marrying the oldest and Ashi, the youngest. Her brother also joined the dinner, with his wife.

Dasho greeted us as we entered through the garden of the beautifully appointed home, filled with exceptional art pieces. A barefoot server brought us wine and arra, a rice spirit poured over egg. After spending time talking, we were served a fabulous buffet dinner. It was an honor to be there, really. The other guests included the Indian ambassador and his wife, and the international artist Olaf Van Cleef from Paris.

Dasho and Ashi were incredibly gracious hosts, making sure every guest was happy, engaging in wide ranging conversations with all. I also connected really well with their friend Benji and his wife Tandam. Benji is a businessman importing furniture from China, who was interested in music – we talked about Nashville country music, and also the Earthdance gatherings!

We left around midnight with gifts of rice. Growing up in Louisiana, I’d always thought “southern hospitality” was something famous, but this evening was so comfortable and welcoming, it went far beyond that standard.