This was to be our first day of rest after all the travel in the last few days. P and self voted to hang around near the hotel and visit the nearby town/village. S and W were too geared up to do such soft stuff and left to visit Ura valley, a 4-hour trip. After a lazy breakfast, P and self started to explore the town. The first stop was naturally the ISD booth since both our mobile phones had refused to work after stepping into Bhutan. I started chatting with the shop girl who turned out to be a big fan of Ekta Kapoor’s serials. We quickly ran out of common topics to discuss. She did mention some interesting things. One heartening thing was that most children went to school in Bhutan and since the medium of instruction was English, most people could speak atleast a smattering of the language. The other thing was that pay scales in Bhutan were not as bad as I had thought they would be. A senior level teacher could earn about Rs. 15000 in a month.
P and self wandered about the place and managed to buy some souvenirs. It was becoming obvious by now that our limited resources of cash would be stretched. Most shops don’t accept credit cards and ATMs as a concept don’t exist. Still the temptation to shop was too high. So scrimping money by walking back on the return instead of using a cab, we ended up at the hotel hot and dusty. Bhumthang’s much promised cold weather was nowhere in sight. P, W and S had all brought thermal wear along and I could smugly congratulate myself for not investing money in a set.
In the afternoon, all of four us went to the Burning Lake in the Tang valley. The name sounded interesting and the story behind it even more interesting. What was not interesting was the actual place. To begin with the story – the lake got its name when one of the famous monks jumped into the lake with a lamp and swore that if he were indeed the miracle man the people supposed him to be, he would return with the lamp still burning. Sure enough after a while he appeared with the lamp burning. The actual lake was not a lake at all but a broad portion of the river. There was a rickety bridge built over this part. The water was an evil looking black. Worst of all was this swarm of insects that attacked us when we stepped into the area. They were the size of small black beads; recklessly hit us everywhere including our eyes, ears and nostrils. After a while the four of us were worried that we would slip into the lake inadvertently while trying to keep the locusts away. Which as per local mythology was not a bad thing since there was a temple in the depths of the lake. However, for the greater good of mankind, we made our way back.
The next stop was a more traditional one – the Jakar Lakhang. The monastery had some fantastic views again and we could see young monks scurrying around trying to complete their chores for the day. S and W came up with a completely new photography technique at this point to get perfect close ups. It involved holding the camera as close to the object as possible and clicking - my handiwork is the snap in this post
We had sent Rajesh away to get some rest and decided to wander down the main market and then shop for more souvenirs at the Handicrafts emporium located beyond our hotel. The quality of the products was clearly superior to any of the others we had seen till then. As usual P and self found stuff to buy and P even managed to use her VISA card.
Dinner was at a local spot were we had had lunch and tea. The Bhumthang hotel served generous portions of rice, the girl at the bar had the prettiest of eyes and sweetest of smiles
We drove back to the hotel and settled for yet another night of sound sleep with absolutely no noise of vehicles, people or civilization as such.