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Beautiful Bhutan

Bhutan, officially known as "The Land of the Thunder Dragon" is serene and green, has no traffic lights and no fast food restaurants. Televison first made its appearance in 1999 in Bhutan. It is a step back into simpler times and the only commonality it seems to share with Nepal is the border.

Now here is a shot or reality. What is it with these early flights? Bleary-eyed, we gobble down our breakfast, carwash our insides with coffee and leave for the airport at 6:30 AM. Are we having fun yet? The answer is no but after a short flight time on Druk (Dragon) airlines we are in Bhutan witnessing how much it appears the Bhutanse love their royalty. Standing prominently before us as we deplane is a huge billboard plastered with the royal family proclaiming 100 years of monarchy. The Bhutanese love for their royalty is plastered on a billboard at the Paro airport, readily seen upon arrival. Within a short time we dump our luggage at the hotel and head to the Drugyel Dzong, a fortress which has a history of repelling many Tibetan invasions. Since Bhutan lives between two giants-China and India-and only has a popuation of 675,000, it has had its history of invasions.

Next we go to the Paro Tschesu festival which lasts for days and is enthusiatically attended by locals and tourists. We expect this festival will be the pinnacle of our trip and we are not disappointed. As we walk upon the long cobble-strewn pathway and enter Rinpung Dzong, we see Bhutanes women adorned in their finest, bejeweled costumes and jewelry while the men are wearing outfits that look like above-the knee plaid bathrobes, long black knee-high socks, varying types of black shoes, and sashes of different colors that denote their social status, such as, a farmer or a government official. Some of the men wear a traditonal boot which is red, white and green in color. Children are also dressed in their finest clothes, although some of them go for comfort by wearing sneakers. The air is penetrated with pureness and merriment as the children laugh, run, dance as sing as they proceed to the festival grounds.

In the Rinpung Dzong, the site of the festival, waves of color, intricate dances, and melodious music magically transport us to the lifeblood of the Bhutanse culture-spiritualism with fun. The celebratory atmosphere is a religious celebration in honor of Guru Rinpoche, the Precious Teacher who made significant contributions to Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan region in 88 A.D. Masked dances are performed by laymen and monks and some believe that one can be liberated to Buddahood without mediation by doing these dances. The dances reenact legends, highlight religious victories and provide moral lessonsck hat dancers, clowns wearing scarlet-red masks and musicians playing Tibetan horns, cymbals and drums add to the festive atmosphere.

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