Trip to a Temple

This weekend we we took an amazing trip to Wangduetse (Wang-DE-Sey) lhakhang, an ancient temple in the mountains above Thimphu. It's only a few hours walk from the center of Thimphu town, but it's a world away. Perched on the side of a mountain, the temple's grounds afford gorgeous views of the surrounding valley and mountains. One old gomchen (lay monk) chanted as he sat and turned a nearby prayer wheel with a little bell on the top that went ting ting ting almost the whole time we were there.

Wild roses with intoxicating sweet smell.

Wild roses with intoxicating sweet smell.

One of the things I love most about walking in Bhutan is the smell. This May the wild roses are spectacular and give off an intense aroma. They, combined with clean mountain air, the pungent smell of pine resin and the slight whiff of smoke-- a smell that is forever associated with Bhutan-- make me feel kind of drunk. Walking in Bhutan is one of my main reasons for living. Some kind of physiological thing happens apart from the endorphins that separate my head from my feet. As my feet and legs negotiate the occasionally trecherous mountain paths, my head goes off into infinite space.

Often the custom in Buddhist Bhutan is to save the lives of roosters by letting them live out this samsara on the grounds of temples and monasteries. So you can see lots of roosters at many of the temples in Bhutan. Wangduetse has two monk roosters, and here they are.

Two monk roosters.

Two monk roosters.

They, along with a little black dog, visited us as we ate a small lunch of jam and bread. The "pecking order" was obvious. The dog got whatever scraps of bread he wanted as the roosters deferred to him. He'd take a piece and walk over to a tree and chew on it and lick it for a moment, until we threw down another piece. Then he'd go and get it and put it with the old piece. Clearly he didn't really want the bread. He just wanted to keep his place. The smaller, more colorful rooster was dominant, and as we finished eating and were admiring the view of the valley he jumped up on the table and started crowing, I guess maybe to make sure we were clear about his position. The other seemingly more sensible rooster went and sat down in the shade under a tree and puffed himself up nicely.

Wangduetse in the distance.

Wangduetse in the distance.

Later, as we were leaving, the gomchen's wife walked with us out the gate and said something to me. "Na me sa me cadenche," I said to her. Thank you so much.

"Did you hear what she said to you?" my nephew, Dorji, asked.

"No," I said, "I didn't catch it."

"She said lob jege." We'll meet again.

What a nice thing to say.