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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bhutanese Losar - A 3 Day New Year

After the celebration of the King’s birthday, it was time to get ready to celebrate the Losar (Bhutanese/Tibetan New Year on Feb. 22nd) for three whole days.  YES AMERICA, THEY HAVE A THREE DAY NEW YEAR (in some areas it’s longer than 3 days)!  This is a fabulous idea! I thought, I can’t believe that I get to celebrate new years again and why don’t we get three days off in America to celebrate new years?  Although there were some years that I managed to celebrate new years for longer than three days, I knew that this was going to be the best new years because I always manage to get myself into some kind of wacky adventure. 

Road Trip - Eating Grapes
So I was all ready to head off to the comfy Swiss Hotel for a few days of hot showers, wine sampling, feasting and lots of laughs with some respected folks in Bhutan when my dear friend, Madam Sonam Choden, said that I was to cancel my plans at once and repack my bags.  Sonam and Norbu, the monk, were taking me to their home village in Gangtey to experience some AUTHENTIC Bhutanese living.  As much as I wanted hot showers and some luxury at the popular Swiss Hotel, I had this feeling deep down inside that something magical was waiting for me in Gangtey.  So I apologetically canceled my previous plans and minutes later I found myself on a five-hour road trip that was leading me to the beginning of something truly special; a once in a lifetime experience for this Yankee.     

"Give me milk and cheese"
Jimmy hanging
out the window
As we drove up and down the side of sheer dropping cliffs, little Jimmy would hang his body out of the back seat window and yell at the cows and yaks on the side of the road to give him milk and cheese.  Occasionally, he would also reach up front from the back seat and Sonam would let him steer the steering wheel around the cliffs.  I would close my eyes and say, “Sonam, please don’t let the seven year old drive us off the cliff” and for some odd reason we all laughed including Norbu who sat in the back with Jimmy.  
Driving along the cliffs

Jimmy driving around cliffs
For hours, I listened to the three of them sing along to Bhutanese and Tibetan songs.  Sonam translated the poetic words for me and I must have said a hundred times, “That’s so beautiful.”  As night approached, the last stretch of the drive became dangerous because a thick cloud of fog angrily hovered around the mountain tops.  It seemed like Sonam was honking her horn every few seconds to warn oncoming cars that we were coming around the mountain, so to watch out for us.  We could only see a foot in front of us and I tried my best to console my fear, but a few times I let out a scream into my scarf as cars zoomed out of a hazy cloud nearly missing us.  This didn’t seem to faze anyone and Sonam would chuckle, “Are you scared?” 

As we got closer to their home village, Sonam told me that her mom’s house was different from our home in Chumey and she asked, “Will you be ok if it’s different from what you’re used to?”  I said, “Of course Sonam, I don’t care, I’m so excited that you invited me and happy to be here.”  It made me smile knowing that Sonam still had a lot to learn about me.  When we got to her house, I found it to be lovely, warm and comfy.  I loved it so much that by the end of the trip, I didn’t want to leave.  The only major difference from my home in Chumey, Bhutan and her mother’s home was that the bathrooms were outside and it didn’t have running water inside, so a hose was used to fill up a huge barrel of water in the kitchen for washing and cooking.  I learned that this is one aspect of “authentic” or “real” Bhutanese living.

Norbu and Jimmy 
Finally, when we arrived to her village, I met some of Sonam’s family, which is one of the warmest group of people I have ever met.  I instantly felt like I was part of their family and I just fell in love with Sonam’s mom who beamed the essence of caring.  Although everyone in Sonam’s family spoke Dzongkha, it was fun watching Sonam in her home environment and it reminded me of my own family; talking around food, drinking cups of tea, sharing funny stories and just being amongst each others company.  I didn’t have to speak Dzongkha to make heart connections with them and fit in. 

Before we went to bed that night, Sonam warned me that however our Losar turned out would indicate how our year would be.  “Oh great! Does that mean if it’s bad, then I’m going to have a bad year? Hmmm, but if it’s really fun, then I’m going to have an amazing year,” I said to her like I just discovered a revelation of wealth. 

She responded, “Yup, you got it so we have to be careful, but still have a good time.”  I was so determined to make the next three days wonderful that if you set my hair on fire, I probably would have said thank you, smiled and claimed that it was good luck.  Thus, by the end of the next three days I would come to learn first hand that life is all about how you view it.  Needless to say, my Losar experience predicts that I am going to have the most adventurous year of my life… (To be continued…filming rare black neck cranes, dancing at an archery match, and my huge misunderstanding taking my first stone bath).

Slide Show of our Road Trip to Gangtey Village


  1. What an update~
    You really had a great adventure travelling and meeting with various new people in your life.
    It's glad to know that your sacrifice for not going to refreshment was worth it.
    Good Luck Sabrina and I hope you have such wonderful discoveries by staying in Bhutan.
    You write lovely! It is nice seeing you here :D

    1. Thank you, I am having so much fun in Bhutan. I'm glad that I sacrificed the refreshments too lol because I had such a great experience. This is an amazing country and I love everyone I meet.

  2. OMG thats all I have to say for now *(- ,, -)*

  3. What? LOL Is this my mom talking? What has got into you? Haha

  4. I'm surprised you didnt have a heart attack when Jimmy was steering lol! I can't even change the station without you being scared haha. Sounds like a fun adventure!

  5. LOL Ok you would have had a heart attack too. Ya I got my slideshow uploaded...

  6. Its funny I had a good laugh.Jimmy so cute!

    1. Jimmy is cute and the pictures don't always show that with Jimmy's cuteness comes hyperness lol

  7. Pretty tight Brine! I'm jeolous I wish I could experience a place like that. It would be hella tight!