One day, on a group tour of Bhutan, Blonde was the victim of a gastrointestinal system rebellion and was told that she couldn’t go with the group that day. She added this to the list of reasons why she may never again go on a group tour. (And as a friend of hers correctly pointed out they let the cows poop in the road so why was Blonde being put in a lower class than a cow?)
However, it had a happy ending as the very nice man who owned the lodge where we were staying took me to the nearby Wangdichholing Dzong in Chamkhar and taught me all kinds of interesting things. The Second King of Bhutan, Jigme Wangchuck, ruled from 1926-1952. He kept Bhutan quite isolated from the outside world except for some contact with India.
During his reign he lived in this palace with was also a Dzong (temple) . Basically when the king lived there it was considered to be a palace and a Dzong and once he got reincarnated (or “expired” as they say here) it was then just a Dzong. Are you following so far?
Dzong’s were built to be both fortresses and the administrative centers of Buddhism for the region they were in. (Trying very hard here not to make dzong jokes..)
Outside the entrance to the dzong is the archery range the king used. Archery is the national sport in Bhutan. The king had rows of pear trees planted along the final section where the arrows would fly so they wouldn’t be affected by wind.
And now that we’re speaking of pear trees the king had one that was his very favorite and which supposedly produced superior pears compared to other pear trees. If a pear fell from his tree or was knocked off by a crow (apparently not an uncommon situation) the pear would be taken to the king and he would be told how it landed on the ground. He would then decide to eat it or tell the pear presenter to give it to someone else. If someone was caught stealing a pear the king would punish the person by making him stand for two hours in the ice cold river below the Dzong!
To this day the pears that are picked from this tree are transported to the capitol in Thimpu and given to the current king. (Can’t you picture his wife saying “Oh no, more of those damned pears. How many do they think we can eat?”)
Because of the importance of this pear tree it is guarded at all times to ensure that no one tries to damage it. That sounds like the ultimate government job – sit and watch a pear tree all day!
In the courtyard of the former palace all of the walls, windows and doors have intricate paintings. They were done by monks using ground stone to create the colors. All of the colors are natural and last a long time. (Smashing rocks to turn them into dye for paint sounds like a much more exhausting job than being the pear tree guard.)
At the Dzong (and apparently at Dzongs even now) the monks sat outside on a stone courtyard. They sat in rows and the Boss Hog Head Monk dude sat at the end of the first row. The kitchen staff would come out with baskets and pots of food. Each monk would pull a bowl out of his hemchu for his serving. When the head monk finished there would be a signal and all of the monks (who had been eating silently) would have to jump up and get out of there pronto. So they would put their unfinished food in the bowl and put a cloth over it (another standard hemchu item) and cover it up for surreptitious eating later.
Now, next door to the dzong, is a very swanky hotel, the Amankora, which costs, with taxes, about $1,000 a night. We did not stay there. It would kind of be fun to see if someone from there snitched a pear from the highly valued tree and was then forced to stand in the cold river for a couple hours but it probably won’t happen.