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Showing posts with label bhutan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bhutan. Show all posts

Mar 15, 2018

Traditional Bhutanese architecture to Preserve

At the deliberation on the survey on traditional rammed earth buildings yesterday in Thimphu, three traditional houses from western region of Bhutan were proposed for preservation.
These buildings are in Kabisa in Thimphu, Changjokha in Punakha, and in Talung Toed in Haa.
The survey began in 2012 and is ongoing.  The project is scheduled to be completed in 2019.
The project began following the September 2012 earthquake, which damaged most of the traditional buildings in the country.
Head of Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS), Nagtsho Dorji, said that among the main objectives of the project were to study the structural characteristics of traditional buildings, methods to improve disaster resilience, and to study feasible and appropriate manner to preserve their heritage value.
She added that activities in the project concentrated on architectural study, which looked at typology of the traditional houses, chronological and regional features, construction methods and practice of traditional buildings, and to understand the views of Bhutanese on conservation of the traditional buildings.
“After the earthquake in 2012, everyone wanted to reconstruct the buildings in a very modern design, which would have sufficed to the immediate requirement but in the long run would have actually affected the cultural heritage of Bhutan,” Nagtsho Dorji said.
The survey also measured and analysed vibration characteristics of the traditional buildings. More than 100 buildings in Haa, Punakha, Thimphu, Paro, and Chukha were surveyed.
Along with officials from Department of Culture (DoC), experts and representatives from Japan, house owners of the proposed buildings for preservation attended the workshop.
Financial constraint for renovation and sustenance viability were among the concerns raised at the workshop.
Nagtsho Dorji said that the works and human settlement ministry had taken the concept of providing incentive in certain areas. She added that waiving off underdevelopment tax and timber subsidy were an option. “We want to look into providing financial support without interest. We also hope that the government will provide money, which will happen once we have legislative documents.”
Experts from Japan said that the scientific evidence from the survey on the importance of the traditional buildings and initiatives from the locals in conservation of the buildings would help gain financial support from government and donors for sustenance.
DCHS’s senior architect, Yeshi Samdrup, shared the benefit of enactment of the culture heritage bill.
He said that the bill’s registration and designation of the culture heritage aspect would foster people’s sense of ownership and help achieve good balance between culture heritage and other values, including economic development. “For the buildings to be recognised as a culture heritage, distinctive typology, specificity of style, historical value, aesthetic and artistic value, and social value are required of the vernacular houses.”
The bill, which was drafted in 2016, will be forwarded for enactment in the next Parliament.
Head of the conservation planning research section of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Japan, Masahiko Tomoda, said that the most common typology of Bhutanese traditional houses are on the verge of disappearing.
He added that a legal framework for the protection of the traditional houses, which is important, is encouraged. “The old buildings are important as a testimony of the past. It is not only important to preserve these houses, but also to encourage the people to make similar houses in the future. So, we are looking forward to the outcomes from the survey’s structural strength of the buildings.”
Source: Kuenselonline

Dec 18, 2015

Bhutan: Gelephu domestic airport received its first scheduled flight, yesterday.

More than three years after it was inaugurated, Gelephu domestic airport received its first scheduled flight, yesterday.
The national airline, Drukair, flew seven revenue paying local passengers and four government guests, including the information and communications secretary to Gelephu from Paro. From Gelephu, the airline picked up the information and communications minister and other government officials on its return flight to Paro via Bumthang.
The airline will conduct two flights a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays to Gelephu.
The promotional fare for Bhutanese is currently Nu 6,000 for a return ticket to Gelephu, and Nu 3,500 for a one way ticket. The flight time between Paro and Gelephu is 45 minutes.
Foreigners will be charged USD 250 for a return trip and USD 140 one way.
Drukair CEO, Tandin Wangchuk said that commercially the flights will not be financially sustainable and that the airline is simply following the government’s directive. “We’re respecting a government directive and we’re operating,” he said.
The government instructed Drukair to begin flying scheduled operations to Gelephu in April and in November.
He pointed out that Drukair would operate to Gelephu even if there is only one passenger flying one way. But when there are no passengers, the airline will not operate.
The CEO said that the government could make the business more sustainable for Drukair if it were to provide aviation fuel facilities at Gelephu domestic airport. Up to 30 percent of the cost of a flight is spent on fuel.
Department of Air Transport (DAT) director, Karma Wangchuk said that it may not be commercially viable for the Bhutan Oil Distributor to have in place aviation fuel facilities at Gelephu given the potentially low number of flights to the airport. However, he said that the DAT will ask the fuel company.
Tandin Wangchuk also said that the government should consider expanding Gelephu airport so that both airlines can use it to temporarily halt there when there is bad weather at Paro international airport. He said this would be a cheaper alternative than having to halt at Kolkata or Bagdorgra.
Karma Wangchuk said that there are plans to eventually expand the airport but that significant costs would be involved. He said any expansion would depend on the government and fund availability.
Tandin Wangchuk did not rule out Drukair approaching the government later on if it is found that the route remains unsustainable.
The erstwhile Department of Civil Aviation constructed the airport at a cost of Nu 225.3 million. A further Nu 9 million was spent to build a new terminal at the airport when the runway had to be shifted and it was found that the first terminal was located too far away.
Source: Kuenselonline

Bhutan Celebrate 108th National Day

The whole town is awake and the people are rushing to the celebration ground.
This day’s observation of 108th National Day celebration in Paro is special. And this is happening at a historically significant venue – The Ugyen Pelri Palace – the seat of the once powerful Paro Penlop Kusho Tshering Penjor.
It is early morning, 3am. Paro, December 17.
The winter sun is mellow and the air cold. But the day is bright and the atmosphere most serene. The significance of the day has added special colour to the day. And the King arrives.
People turn solemn and earnestly reverent all of a sudden. Glad they are that the monarch extraordinaire has come to partake of the joy and success of the nation with the people of Paro Dzongkhag. And there is His Majesty the Fourth King and the Royal Family.
The National Day is important to us, His Majesty said. “On this day in 1907, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck became the first hereditary King of Bhutan, and from that day onwards, the successive Kings, the government, and people, have worked together in harmony to build our nation. Their collective efforts over the years have resulted in the peace and prosperity that we enjoy today.”
His Majesty said while some countries suffered economic crises, others had to deal with internal conflicts, terrorism, war and natural disasters in 2015, Bhutan, with the blessings of theKenchosum, the merit of the people, the prayers of our ancestors, and the protection of our guardian deities, this year was filled with peace and happiness. “I am deeply satisfied by our hard work and achievements.”   His Majesty informed that next year is not only the birth year of Guru Rinpoche, who came to Bhutan in the 8th century, but also marks 400 years since Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel began the wheel of the dual system of governance in Bhutan.
“Since then, 54 desis governed the country, beginning with Desi Umze Tenzin Drugyel, and ensured that Bhutan remained united. We have had an unbroken line of Je Khenpos beginning with Je Pekar Jugne, to Je Trulku Jigme Chhoeda today. Their efforts have helped the dharma to flourish boundlessly,” His Majesty said.
“Since 1907, with the installation of the hereditary Monarchy, our successive Kings, along with the people, have worked tirelessly to achieve our national goals and strengthen our country.”
The collective efforts of those years culminated in the establishment of the democratic system of governance in 2008, said His Majesty. “With democracy, we aspire to build a just and harmonious society, strengthen our beloved country, and fulfill all the aspirations of our people.”
His Majesty bestowed upon some 45 retired civil servants gold medals for the service they rendered to the nation and the people with true faith and utmost dedication. Among them were teachers and educators, engineers and agriculturists, linguists and lamas.
This award to the citizens emeritus was instituted by the Royal Civil Service Commission in 2013 to remind and encourage the young and highly potential civil servants to work even harder for the benefit of the country and the people. The success of this fast prospering nation hinges on the strength and dynamism of its civil servants, said His Majesty The King.
This year’s National Day in Paro, the one-time capital of Bhutan, was also markedly extraordinary because His Majesty the King gave special recognition to education and the educators. Bhutan has come a long way in terms of socioeconomic development, but its future will inevitably depend on the success of education and growth of excellence in teaching, said His Majesty the King.
His Majesty The King emphasised on the importance of protecting and preserving Bhutan’s rich culture and heritage that give shape to the face of a nation that is increasingly becoming an example of a good and successful country in the comity of nations. In the last one decade, seven dzongs in the country were renovated, three newly built, and some 300 choetens entirely rebuilt. There are still 2836 choetens in the country to be rebuilt.
That is why the service of some seven Bhutanese traditional engineers and architects were recognised with gold medal.
“We are lucky to have been able to celebrate the nation’s most important day with His Majesty The King. We pray for the nation to succeed beyond what it has been able to until now. Peace and prosperity will come so long as we have monarchs like we have been blessed with,” said 78-year-old Aum Kencho.
His Majesty the King informed the people that Bhutan has a unique advantage to achieve great heights. Time has now come for the people of the country to act for the benefit of the country and its people.  It is a matter now of whether we can muster the courage to do it, not of whether we can, said His Majesty The King.
Source: Kuenselonline

Dec 15, 2015

Bhutan: Sex tourism, an emerging vulnerablity

Bhutan is slowly emerging as a destination for sex with tourists from the West and the sub-continent looking for young girls and boys in Bhutan.
This was one of the emerging vulnerabilities listed in the recently released study on status of vulnerable children conducted by RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women) with support from Save The Children.
While there are no figures to support this “invisible findings” the study states that this has been happening for some time.
“This is the area where high-end sex workers also enter,” the study states. “Tourists are preferred due to the monetary incentive and also the fact that they would leave the country, thus protecting identity of the service providers.”
Other emerging vulnerabilities, according to the study are commercial sex workers, which include children besides children born to HIV/AIDs patients but are negative, family and neighbours of children with mental illness and children of parents serving time in prison.
Based on case studies, the study states that with various categories of sex workers, the profession was slowly becoming well organized. It further states that single women can be picked up at bars and discotheques and are paid a paltry sum of Nu 200 to 500 while school drop-outs and the unemployed, who mostly approach men themselves in intoxicated state, often siphon off everything that the man has.
The study also states that there are commercial sex workers below 18 years, whose identity and phone numbers are known by few people. “High-end girls, both children and youth insist on going to hotels of their choice for sex,” it states.
The study highlighted that under-age girls, including students being engaged in the trade and attributes this trend to poverty. Those serving high-end customers charge a minimum of Nu 15,000 a night.
“Clients are mainly Thimphu’s mobile population, particularly Indian tourists and those working in various hydropower projects, apart from other tourists and few Bhutanese,” the study found.
Tour operators and guides agreed that there could be women catering to tourists with the increase in visitors. However, they said it has to be verified as the information are based on hearsay.
Guides Association of Bhutan’s president Garab Dorji said that from what he heard, it was quite rampant.
“We hear of cases where some tourists indicate or demand female guides and escorts to accompany them during their stay in the country,” he said. “If true, it needs to be monitored as it could lead to bigger issues in future especially if it’s arranged by tour operators, guides or drivers.”
A tour operator said the issue was more prominent among regional tourists than the tariff paying tourists.  “But it’s not right as Bhutan is known as an exotic cultural and spiritual destination,” he said.
The study also states social stigma, low self-esteem, single parents and poverty have made children born to HIV/AIDs patients but are negative, more vulnerable.
Lhak-Sam, the study states was not able to bring this group into their family while there is no record on the number of HIV/AIDs patients who are married and have conceived. “Neither is there a record of children who are negative but born to HIV/AIDs parents,” it states.
Mental trauma such children faced has led to attempted suicide among them, the study states.
The study also categorises children of parents serving time in prison as the vulnerable lot as they are often subject to social stigma,  poverty, negligence, exclusion or deprivation and exposed to abuse.
One of the limitations highlighted in the study was the difficulty in contacting vulnerable groups like commercial sex workers. As conducting focus group discussion with them was impossible, since the girls do not want to know each other, snowballing sampling was adopted to get information on this vulnerable group.
Another limitation was lack of a standard definition of vulnerability or a baseline indicating the prevalence, type and factors making children vulnerable. “For obtaining a nationwide status of the vulnerable, a national level study should be conducted,” the study recommend.
For the purpose of the study, a vulnerable child was defined as “a child in difficult circumstances,” incorporated from the Child Care and Protection Act.
Of the total sample size of 891 children, 459 were in Trashigang, 235 in Paro and 197 in Tsirang. Respondents were children with one form of vulnerability or the other.
Source: Kuenselonline

Oct 17, 2015

Bhutan: 60th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, celebrating from November 9 till 11

The entire country will observe three days of celebrations and festivities beginning November 9 and culminating on the 11th for the 60th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, it was announced at a press conference on Thursday.
The conceptual guidelines for the three days of celebrations was presented by special coordinator Dasho Sonam Tenzin.
While celebrations and festivities will be occurring, Dasho Sonam Tenzin pointed out that His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo has made it clear to the organizers that the emphasis should be on “nation building” as commanded by His Majesty The King, rather than a birthday party, Dasho Sonam Tenzin said.
In line with this over arching theme, the focus of the celebrations will be on reflecting the achievements of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, taking stock of the current status of initiatives and achievements, and to plan for the future based on the vision, wisdom, and direction of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
“Everything we have is because of what He has done,” Dasho Sonam Tenzin said.
His Majesty The King will be addressing the nation on November 11.
While prayers are already being conducted for the occasion, the Zhung Dratshang on November 7, will hold a Goempoi Tongtshog Kurim by 100 monks at Tashichhodzong and a public Nyen-ney Yenlag Gye-Pai Dompa by the Dorji Lopen at Tendrel Thang. On November 8, three thongdrols will be unfurled at Tashichhodzong and other rites conducted.
The activities, which will commence on the 9th, are divided into three categories: paying tribute and gratitude, the offering of collective prayers, and celebrating the occasion of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s 60th Birth Anniversary.
Some of the highlights during the three day celebrations include His Majesty The King presenting one statue of Chenrizig to each of the 205 gewogs enabling the people to pay homage to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Each statue is to be placed in a temple that is mutually agreed upon by the people of the gewog. However, if there is disagreement, throw of dice will determine which temple is chosen.
The Queen’s Project Office in collaboration with the 60th Birth Anniversary Celebration Coordination Unit will launch 60 different products from various dzongkhags under the One Gewog, One Product programme. The products shall be displayed in tents and sold to the public.
While deferred to after the celebrations, a Druk Gi Norbui Kachen to pay tribute to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s extraordinary qualities of Ku-Sung-Thug-Yonten-Thinley will be built. The monument will be made out of solid stone and be 30 feet high. “The presentation of the monument will be simple but striking with profound significance as the Asoka pillar,” it was pointed out.
The monument will eventually be replicated in all dzongkhags.
The celebrations have been organized into four themes.
The first theme is the offering of kurims and longevity prayers for His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Nationwide kurims in all dzongs, monasteries, temples, gomdeys, and shedras will be held. A collective recitation of Kanjur by various shedras will also take place. Soelkha will occur in all goenkhangs nationwide and Baza Guru, mani, tshedo, and tshedrub, will be recited jointly by the dratshang, rabdeys, chhodeys, drubdeys, and the public.
The second theme is to create a special event and environment for people to express their gratitude, love, devotion, and loyalty to the His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
An elaborate chipdrel seldrang will be staged for the final day of celebrations. A guard of honour by 1,000 army personnel, will be presented three times to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. The Zhung Dratshang, rabdey, chhodey, civil service, dakhagsum, and public, will offer a Mendrel Ku-Sum-Thugten or Mandala.
A zhabten for His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, described by Dasho Sonam Tenzin as perhaps the highlight of the programme, will also be offered collectively by the 1,000 representatives of the Dratshang and Chhodey, and representatives from various other sections of society.
Dzongs, boulevards, institutional buildings, and streets will be decorated with flowers, trees, the respectable display of pictures of the monarchs, and illuminations.
The third theme is to stage for the highest quality entertainment programmes that legitimises the event philosophically, ritually, and ceremonially. All schools will be provided with the opportunity of coming up with exceptional programmes and the best ones screened in their respective dzongkhags.
The Dratshang shall display the Zhing-Sheg Pem Chham by 100 monks at Changlimithang.
Senior citizens, above the age of 70, both male and female, will perform a traditional dance for His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
Thousands of colourful bio-degradable balloons will be released.
The fourth theme includes parallel entertainment programmes to be organized at different places at different timings in Thimphu city by private entertainment associations.
Shows will be organized at the Centenary park, Dechenchholing, Changjiji, Clock Tower square, Mothithang park, and on Norzin lam.
A treasure hunt is planned for November 9 to be held at Mothithang, Dechencholing, and Nazhoen Pelri.
On November 10, a marathon for the elderly, above age 60, will begin and end at the Clock Tower square, besides various other entertainment programmes.
On November 11, a cake cutting ceremony will be held in three locations.
Separate avenues may be created to stage all traditional sports of Bhutan.
All 205 gewogs will observe and celebrate the occasion.

Oct 14, 2015

Bhutan Jumolhari Third Mountain Festival

After trekking for two days from Shana in Paro and as temperatures dipped to almost zero degree, about 200 people including tourists joined the local communities last week at the third Jomolhari Mountain festival to celebrate life in the mountains.
Amusement: Winners of a horse race, which was held as part of the Jomolhari Mountain festival last week (Photo: Lhendup Tharchen, JDNP)
Perhaps the coldest festival celebrated in the country, the two-day fiesta at the base of Mount Jomolhari, which is about 3,850 meters above sea level, is organized annually to encourage wildlife conservation through community participation and promote ecotourism opportunities in the Jomolhari region.
Among others, one of the highlights of the fest this year were the hikers sighting the elusive snow leopard, the national bird ravan, the Himalayan black bear, blue sheep and marmots.
About 50 visitors, in groups with local guides hiked to Tshophu, Lhaliphu, Bagala and Thomphuna. The guided tours, said festival organizers help the local community generate income besides the fest also providing a forum for them to market their dairy produces.
Health camp: A resident gets his BMI checked during the mountain festival
Health camp: A resident gets his BMI checked during the mountain festival
Through various events such as the horse race among the community’s men, the festival, which the Department of Forests and Park Servcies’ director general Chencho Norbu opened on October 7 also showcased local culture and tradition and encourage yak herding among the people in the highlands.
Unlike in the last two festivals, this year, a team of five officials from the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health (FNPH) joined the community and provided a free health checkup. The Bhutan Foundation, which had supported the first two festivals, funded the health camp, which the people received well, said park officials.
“The health checkup, which was done for the first time benefitted the communities including park officials,” Jigme Dorji National Park manager, Lhendup Tharchen said. “Given the long distance that people have to travel to avail health care, the check up saw a good turn out.”
About 100 people got their health checked, the dean of FNPH, who led the team Dr Chencho Dorji said. “We checked their Body Mass Index and people were quite happy to get the facility, even though there is a BHU there,” he said. “Those who were found with hypertension and high sugar levels were asked to visit a hospital.”
The teachers and students of Jomolhari School also participated in the fest with cultural programs while an art competition was also organized for the students.
“The main objective of the festival is to strengthen community based conservation by involving the communities,” Lhendup Tharchen said.
The Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) with the gewogs of Tsento and Soe organized the Nu 5.5M festival that the Tourism Council of Bhutan funded. The festival is held every year on the 25th and 26th day of the eighth month of the Bhutanese Calendar.
Source: Kuenselonline

Sep 29, 2015

Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO): Regional tourists will be able to process tourist permit online

Regional tourists will be able to process tourist permit online if the government agrees to the request from the Association of Bhutanese Tour Operators (ABTO).
The ABTO recently wrote to the government to make the service online, and the association is hopeful of a positive response. “We are yet to hear from the government,” ABTO’s Executive Director Sonam Dorji said.
Regional tourists coming in by road today need to show up in person at the border check points to process their tourist permit which will be valid for Thimphu and Paro dzongkhags only. If they plan to visit other dzongkhags, they need another permit from Thimphu.
Regional tourists coming in by air do not need to process the permit for Paro and Thimphu dzongkhags like those coming by land. However, they also need to avail another permit from Thimphu if they wish to visit dzongkhags besides Paro and Thimphu.
“So far, only dollar paying tourists can apply for permit online,” Sonam Dorji said. “It takes time for regional tourists to process permit at the Phuentsholing international border.”
Last year about 85,000 of the total 133,000 tourist arrivals were regional tourists, out of which 68,000 were from India. Regional tourists comprise tourists from India, Maldives and Bangladesh and officials argue that it has become important to transfer the issuance of the permit online.
Tour operators believe that the proposed system would not only reduce hassle for regional tourists but also help formalise the informal tourism in the country. Those tourists coming in on their own without routing through tour agents are called informal tourists.
Sharing his personal view, home minister Dawa Gyaltshen said he was positive about the idea although the government is yet to reach a consensus. “In this era of ICT, I think we need to do that in future,” lyonpo said, adding that the cabinet hasn’t been able to sit in the recent weeks.
Indian tour operators also raised the issue when they recently attended the Indo-Bhutan tourism conclave in Thimphu. They said it was a hassle for regional tourists to process the permit, which they said takes time.
An Indian tour operator from West Bengal who attended the conclave said having to wait for hours at the border check point to avail permit was a big problem for regional tourists. “I have been visiting Bhutan for quite sometime and I had to wait for four hours to avail my permit to Bhutan,” he said
“We have to come in person, which is a big hindrance for the growth of Bhutanese tourism industry itself,” he said. If tourists can book permits online, he said they could do that in advance and make a secured trip to Bhutan.
Some tourism officials said that the introduction of the proposed system would contribute in bringing regional tourists during off-season. Bhutanese tourism being seasonal in nature is the main constraint the industry is facing today, according to officials.
Indian tour operator Rajat Goswami said services such as issuance of permits should be made easier. He said regional tourists are equally important for Bhutan, as are dollar-paying tourists.
“We give business when Bhutan has nothing. It’s not alternative business,” he said.
Indian tour agents said they also receive late responses from their Bhutanese counterparts. “People these days have no patience,” he said. “But we get response from Bhutan counterparts very late,” he said
Source: Kuenselonline

Sep 26, 2015

Bhutan Festival: What’s tshechu really, and why do we observe it?

The answer is simple you may think. It is in many ways. But tshechu is much more than how it is understood today.

History has it that Guru Rinpoche, the great scholar, visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th century and 9th century. He visited Bhutan to help the dying king Sindhu Raja in Bumthang. Guru performed a series of such dances to restore the health of the king. The grateful king helped spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Guru organised the first tshechu in Bumthang, where the eight manifestations of Guru were presented through eight forms of dances.
But tshechu is more than celebration of Guru Rinpoche’s extraordinary life and contributions. It is a moment to give thanks; it is a time for people to supplicate for good days ahead. However, with time, tshechu has come to mean something totally different.
Tshechu was initiated long time ago as the most profound public teaching – how we live our lives, how we need to conduct ourselves as an individual member of society, and how we could work together for the benefit of all. It was meant to be a time of celebration for people who had to work for days on end in the fields, a moment for members of family to come together and celebrate their success.
All these have taken a different turn today. Tshechu these days is a holiday and time to have some fun, nothing more than that.
“Tshechu is fun. We get to see a lot of different things and time to hangout during nights,” says 17-year-old Kuenga Tenzin. “Chams are a bore, really. There should be more modern dance and songs.”
But 76-year-old Aap Thinley Penjore disagrees. Tshechu is not a plain celebration, he says. It has a deep significance. “Tshechus are kurims for the nation and the people. What is important is that one should have a complete devotion. Prayers need to be earnest. Only then will good things happen to the people and the country.”
But to the young people, the twirling and twisting of the masked dancers mean nothing. There is nothing to be gained from it, materially, emotionally and spiritually.
Raksha Mangcham, the dance of the Rakshas and Judgement of the Dead, which is based on the Book of Dead – Guru Rinpoche’s scared teaching – is, at the best, a funny act to most young people today.
“I don’t understand why these dancers are going about wasting so much time. And look at the rain. What’s the purpose of it,” says Sonam Choden, a 19-year-old student. “I have heard that the dances have special meaning. I don’t get it.”
Shingje Choegi Gyalp, the Lord of the Dead, has been basking for a long while, in the rain not for no reason. The judgement time will soon begin. Black and white deeds will be counted and the fate of a person will be decided.
“Not many people understand the significance of tshechu today,” says Aap Kinley Sithub of Kabesa, Thimphu. “Tshechus were initiated to thank gods for peace and prosperity and to invoke the power of the higher beings to grant us continued prosperity and happiness.”
Today, tshechu has come to mean a time to flaunt one’s wealth. How best one is dressed and how richly one eats is Tshechu. For young people, it is a time to find a mate and have a good time, however fleeting the moment.
Says Lopen Pema Thinley, a retired teacher: “It is good that we now have commentators at tshechus. Otherwise, our young people will not understand anything about tshechu. It is crucial that we understand why we are doing this. It is more than just culture, tradition and belief system. It is a life lesson.”
Shingje Choegi Gyalp is looking on, almost motionless. Acts unfold and the rain continues. Thimphu Tshechu is coming to an end. Outside, on the streets, traders and merchants are busy selling garments and things varied.
Has tshechu also come to mean business?
Source: Kuenselonline

Sep 25, 2015

Higher flexibility.Lower fares

Tourist arrivals in Bhutan fall during Peak season

While spring has not been so bountiful, there is not much to look forward to in fall either for the tourism industry that saw a drop in international tourist arrivals by about 14.62 percent as of August this year.
Even the ongoing Thimphu tshechu, one of the highlights of the peak season failed to draw as many international tourists as it did last year.
Records with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) show that a total of 3,495 international tourists have been booked to arrive for the Thimphu tshechu this year against 5,280 international tourists in 2014 for the same period.
Bhutan recorded a total of 99,709 tourists as of August 31 of which 32,877 were international visitors and 66,832 regional visitors. While this is an overall increase of 30.83 percent, in terms of international tourists, this season saw a drop of 14.62 percent.
Regional tourist arrivals continued to increase this year. As of August 31, regional tourists recorded an increase of 77.25 percent compared to the same period last year.
Visitors from India, Maldives and Bangladesh are considered as regional tourists. They are exempt from the minimum daily tariff of USD 250 and 200 during the peak and lean seasons that the international tourists pay to visit Bhutan.
TCB officials said the Bhutan-Thailand friendship offer for the lean months of June, July and August brought in a total of 8,842 Thai visitors that boosted the international tourist arrivals statistics.
However, they also said that the tourism industry continues to be affected by the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake and the bomb blast in Bangkok, Thailand since Bangkok is the preferred choice of entry point and circuit destination for visitors coming to Bhutan.
The drop in arrivals, which is compounded by the increasing number of tour operators and guides leaving, has left the industry in doldrums.
Hotels and Restaurants Association of Bhutan’s president Thinley Palden Dorji said that while the association doesn’t have data on occupancy yet, going by the demand, there is a decline from last year. “This year it’s relatively calmer and easier to get rooms unlike last year,” he said, adding this has left many hotels worried.
However, Thinley Palden Dorji said that last year as the Thimphu tshechu coincided with the puja holidays in October, it had increased demand for rooms from regional tourists.
As for tour operators, most said they recorded a drop in arrivals compared to the past years.
“For us, it’s been the same like last year but this year it wasn’t difficult getting hotels,” a tour operator said. “Still there are many hotels available while last year there was shortage of rooms everywhere.”
Etho Metho tour and treks’ director Sangay Wangchuk said they experienced a drop in tourists by about 30 to 40 percent compared to last year. He attributed the drop to the Nepal earthquake, which led to cancellation of trips.
Some tour operators said that Myanmar and Sri Lanka emerging as new destinations had an impact on Bhutan as a destination. Besides, tour operators said that the increasing number of Bhutanese tour operators led to more competition.
Guides Association of Bhutan’s (GAB) chairman Garab Dorji said that at this time of the year, the association receives many requests for guides. “This year there are hardly any requests which means there is a drop in arrivals,” he said. “Most guides were saying they aren’t engaged this time.”
During peak seasons, GAB arranges freelance guides for tour operators when the demand soars. However since last year, Garab Dorji said the market has been inundated with guides.  “Every year about 400 to 500 guides enter the market,” he said.
A tour operator said that the drop in international tourist arrivals this fall is proof of how volatile the tourism industry is. “It only goes to show what we are up against if the country becomes too dependent on tourism,” he said.
There are more than 2,300 guides, 1,600 tour operators and 123 tourist standard hotels in the country as of last year.
Source: Kuenselonline

Sep 19, 2015

Bhutan Khesar Gyalpo Archery Tournament

The Khesar Gyalpo Archery Tournament (KGAT) started in Trashigang yesterday with three teams from the gewogs of Merak, Sakteng and Radhi.
Teams from the 15 gewogs of Trashigang will be using traditional bows and arrows. Teams are to follow the rules and regulations of the Bhutan Indigenous Sports and Games Association (BIGSA).
Similar tournaments are also happening in the other five dzongkhags of the eastern region. Top two teams from each dzongkhag will qualify for the finals that would be played at Gyalpozhing.
Archers must only Tabzhu and Changzhu bows. Archers are also required to wear their team colour (Nyarey) to differentiate one team from the other.
Apart from the commemoration of the 60th birth anniversary of The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, Trashigang’s Sr. Dzongrab, Pema Dorji said that one of the objectives of KGAT is to promote Bhutan’s national sport.
“Further, the tournament will provide a platform for interaction among people from different places,” the Sr. Dzongrab said.
The Office of The Gyaltshab in Gyalpozhing is organizing the tournament under the command of HRH The Gyaltshab Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.  The KGAT committee will coordinate the tournament and shall act as the dispute settlement body as well.
Meanwhile, the dzongkhag administration should submit the lists of those teams, which have qualified for the final level tournament (FLT), to the Office of The Gyaltshab. Finale is scheduled on October 18
Source: Kuenselonline

Jul 23, 2015

Bhutan’s saving unique written culture

Traditional calligraphy and xylography in the country are on terminal decline with increasing population being exposed to computers and electronic gadgets, researchers said.
In an attempt to preserve the traditional calligraphic, xyllographic and print culture in the country, experts from around the country are working on the National Library and Archives of Bhutan’s (NLAB) three-year project. German Bhutan Himalaya Society is funding the first phase with Nu 2.16 million.
They are conducting a research on historical significance of ancient calligraphy and xylographic print culture, and making videos of the calligraphic skills. The national library would also have a small museum with various exhibits collected during their research.
The project is divided in to two phases of 18 months each. In the first phase that ends in December 2016, besides collecting initial samples, the researchers would compile and produce a draft book.
One of the researchers and the project consultant, Gregor Verhufen said that the country has a unique written script, a vast and great tradition now threatened by the explosion of technology.
Gregor Verhufen is a German researcher on Tibetan language and culture including its neighbours and has helped create a digital catalogue of the 140,000 texts in the national library in a 10-year project in the early 2000.
Mgyogs yig (jo-yig), a script introduced to Bhutan by a disciple of Guru Padmasambhawa, Denma Tsemang during the Guru’s second visit is unique to this country,” Gregor said.
However, an English explorer in 1907 discovered a sample of the script in a monastery now called Dunhuang, on the old silk route, in China.
“So the question is how did the script reach thousand of miles away from here, which is interesting to research,” he said. “This is not just significant from a religious point but also from the cultural side.”
Chief research officer of NLAB, (Dr) Yonten Dargye said the project could not lose any more time. “There are still few experts on the writing culture and we would document every aspect of it for preservation,” he said.
“Few years down the line, we may not be able to achieve what we can today.”
Researchers said that without proper research and documentation, the significance of this heritage that forefathers valued may not be properly understood and appreciated by future generations.
Given that great Buddhist masters introduced the preponderance of this heritage to establish national identity, it is important that the most accurate information possible is gathered, analysed, and documented for posterity, researchers said.
The book has eight chapters on topics including traditional paper-making, ink, pen, origin of the Bhutanese script (Mgyogs-yig), xylography, and printing texts, among others.\

Jun 20, 2014

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay yesterday refused to receive the revised salary

Surprising parliamentarians and the people, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay yesterday refused to receive the revised salary, and announced that he would donate the additional Nu 50,000 from his revised monthly salary to charity.
While presenting the State of the Nation report to Parliament, lyonchhoen said many people have criticised the salary for members of parliament and cabinet ministers.
“I’ll not defend the increase or argue whether it’s too high or not,” lyonchhoen said. “However, on the prime minister’s (PM) salary, I also agree that it’s too high.”
“Our country can’t afford it and my conscience will not be able to accept it,” lyonchhoen said.
Lyonchhoen stated that he would be accepting the salary equivalent to that received by the cabinet ministers, and the additional monthly amount of Nu 50,000 would be donated to charity organisations at the end of his five-year term.
“There’s no motive, I’m just driven by the understanding that the PM’s salary was too high,” lyonchhoen told Kuensel.
Lyonchhoen said that, on one hand, the government was trying austerity and, on the other, the PM can’t be accepting such a big salary.
“Several members, both in the opposition and the ruling party, said that I have to take it, but I said I couldn’t accept this and, if the PM must get more, than give him Nu 1 more, just as a token, which wasn’t accepted as well,” lyonchhoen said.
He added that the first Parliament, in its sixth session, approved the pay scale and the present government, the day it took office, should have legally started accepting the higher salary, because it was already passed by the parliament.
“But we didn’t, because we felt responsible to drive the austerity measures, and we didn’t want to take the high package,” lyonchhoen said.
He said that the salary reduction was discussed earlier and submitted to Parliament.  However, the proposal had been already endorsed and approved by the first parliament.
“That is law. We can’t just change it and that’s why, we didn’t accept it and we didn’t change it,” he said. “We submitted it back to Parliament and I requested to revise the PM’s salary downward, but none of this was accepted.”
Lyonchhoen had however not identified the charities that he will donate his approximately Nu 2.7M at the end of his term.
Economics affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk said that the PM’s decision has been made in good faith, and it set the tone for others to follow.
“It’s a noble gesture and will set a role model for leaders,” he said.
Minister for information and communications, DN Dhungyel, said the PM was recommended a higher salary, but it was the wisdom of the PM to not accept the recommended pay scale.
Personally, the minister said he did not support this decision, because the cabinet ministers and the PM had two very different types of responsibilities.
Finance minister Namgay Dorji said that the pay scale for PM and the ministers was a resolution of the National Assembly, which could not be over-written.
“However the PM’s intentions are clear and we respect his decision,” lyonpo Namgay Dorji said.
While some cabinet ministers applauded the move, Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party tweeted, “An intentional raise of 131 percent disagreeing to the pay commission report and now a donation gimmick…wake up Bhutan and realise.”
It also tweeted that the pay commission’s report on pay raise for PM and cabinet ministers was lower than the government’s pay revision report.
Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party president Sonam Tobgay said, “There are large variations between the pay commission’s report vis-à-vis the government’s pay revision report.”
Meanwhile, Druk Nyamrup tshogpa’s interim president, (Dr) Tandin Dorji, said he appreciated the PM’s gesture.

Source: Kuenselonline

Mar 13, 2014

Trashi Yangtse Tshechu

The annual Tshechu in Trashi Yangtse drew a huge crowd this year compared to the past years. This is because the Tsechu was held for the first time in the new Dzong, accommodating the increasing number of people.
In the past the annual Tshechu was held in Dongdey Dzong, which used to be the old Trashiyangtse Dzong. Since Dongdey Dzong is about five kilometres away from the proper town, not many people could attend the Tsechu.
After completing the construction of the second Utse for the new Dzong, the Tshogdue decided to organise the Tshechu in the new Dzong. The decision was taken for the convenience of the public, according to officials.
Our reporter, Cheyche, said that the courtyard of the new Dzong is also more spacious than the old Dzong accommodating more devotees.
“It is more interesting to watch here compared to the old Dzong. People were not willing to come to the old Dzong to watch tshcehu. But here everyone is interested to come since there is lots of sitting space to watch the Tshechu,” said one of the local reidents, Neten.
According to some of the regulars, the number of people coming to witness has increased by almost thrice. “I also went to witness in the old Dzong and there were not many people. People were not willing to go to the old Dzong since there is no proper place to sit and watch Tshechu,” said Passang Tshering, a local resident.
Some of the people said that only Dzongkhag staff and monks would watch the Tshechu when organised at the old Dzong.
The monks and the Dzongkhag mask dancers performed various mask dances during the three-day tshechu. The Dzongkhag dancers and students from various schools performed cultural dances to entertain the crowd.
The Tshechu concluded with the unfurling of Guru Tshengay Thongdrol yesterday. The Tshechu was initiated in 1999.
Source: BBS

Dec 7, 2012

The “Queen of Bhutan” Tulip

The “Queen of Bhutan” Tulip, named after Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen, was publicly launched today at the Nehru-Wangchuck cultural Centre in the capital.
The new tulip plant has been specially cultivated in the Netherlands for the Royal Wedding. It was chosen by Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen from a lot of newly to-be-developed tulip bulbs.
With deep red petals edged with golden yellow colours, the “Queen of Bhutan” Tulip has been developed and cultivated in the Netherlands.
It was offered to Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen as a royal wedding gift from the Dutch citizens at Lingkana Palace.
The tulip was first launched in the Netherlands on September 22, this year.
The tulip reflects the longstanding friendly relationship between Bhutan and the Netherlands, and also symbolises the growing business relations between the two countries.
Speaking at the launch, the Director of Bhutan and Partners, Hank De Jong said the flower reflects the Queen’s personality  that of  warmth and kindness.
Various government officials, diplomats, representatives from the Dutch community and the local business community were present during the launch.

Source: BBS