Read the first part of my Bhutan photo journal – Impressions of Bhutan: An Introduction
After I was picked up from Paro airport we drove to the town of Paro and arrived just as the Sunday market was getting into full swing. It was a great introduction to Bhutanese life, getting to see the whole town doing their weekly shopping.
I was blown away by the variety of foods for sale, but after examining the yak’s heads and foul smelling sausages I did get a bit worried about what I’d be eating for the next 8 days.
To say that the Bhutanese love their chilis is a massive understatement. They call them Ema and put them in nearly everything they eat; whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. They grow chilis on every spare patch of soil and dry them on the roofs of their houses.
Another popular Bhutanese food is Yak cheese, or Durukho. It comes in hard little dirty-brown slabs, and if my guide Yeshey hadn’t told me it was cheese I’d have sworn it was a roof tile.
I’d wondered how the Bhutanese people would react to me. My preconceptions of Bhutan as an isolated and untouched kingdom had me believing that I might be quite exotic to them. I know it sounds a bit self-important, but this was definitely the case when I travelled through Tibet in 2004, the Tibetans thought my hairy legs and arms were amazing. They don’t have any body hair of their own due to living at high altitudes, and at one Tibetan food stall I had a crowd of people trying to stroke my leg hair. I had to finish my noodles at lighting speed and make a break for it 🙂
The Bhutanese people didn’t bat an eyelid at me, the only looks I got were from annoyed market sellers who objected to my camera lens pointing at them. In fact there were at least 20 other tourists wandering around the market doing exactly the same thing as me.
It made me realise that tourism was pretty common in Bhutan, and the relatively low population means that foreign tourists are far from an unusual sight for the locals.
Next to Paro market was a well kept archery ground, and luckily for me there was a Sunday competition taking place.
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and they are extremely good at it, I was amazed to see someone hit the bullseye when I could only just see the target, not to mention the fact that they had the mid-day sun in their eyes.
There are archery grounds all over Bhutan, often in places you would never expect… like the side of a busy road. All I can say is, they must be pretty confident with their aim!
The harsh mid-day sunlight wasn’t great for my photography, but this was something I’d have to get used to. The clear blue skies and high altitudes mean that the Bhutanese sun is often a photographer’s worst nightmare. My polarizing filter came in particularly handy for bringing some colour into my shots and also for reducing the harsh glare. If you are going to Bhutan with the aim of taking some nice photos, make sure you pack a good polarizer. Just remember not to use it for wide-angle landscape shots, as you’ll end up with an unevenly coloured sky.
Stay tuned for the Part 3 of my Bhutan photo tour!