Bumthang in the central region of Bhutan is the sacred site and cultural heartland of Bhutan. It is consist of four beautiful valleys. After observing the colorful religious festival and visiting some of the many temples in Jakar Valley, we headed to another one of its spectacular valley, the Ura. Hiking in Ura Valley made us see for ourselves the spectacular landscape that the region is known for and we also had the opportunity to explore and learn the culture of its charming village.
Situated at 10,000 feet about sea level, the Ura Valley is the highest among the valleys in Bumthang. We started our hike in the high mountain pass of Serthangla and it was all downhill hike from there to reach the village of Ura.
Along the way, our guide Leki pointed to us the various vegetation the grows wildly in the valley. He was showing us here the rose hip plants. We only tried rose hip in form of a tea and it was nice see how it it looked and tasted like as a fresh fruit. It was red and small and tasted a bit tart and a bit sweet.
Wild flowers abound as the trail flattened out and we could see the village from the distance. (A white orb appeared in this shot. Keith said it was probably one of the spirits that resided in the valley. I think all the Bhutanese myths and legends were getting to much into his head
We were so fortunate again that there was some kind of religious celebration going on during our visit. As part of the celebration, we had to receive a blessing from this monk before we could enter the temple. Inside the temple, the monks were chanting all the day long as part of the ritual of the celebration.
What so special about the temple is that it is supported by the people of the village. Behind the temple is a community kitchen where the villagers take turn to cook for the monks and for pilgrims visiting the temple.
The village has a cluster of around 50 whitewashed houses that are typical in the countryside. As the villagers are dependent on livestock breeding and cultivation of crop, the houses are designed to accommodate them. The houses are normally consist of three levels.The first level is used to house the animals, the second level is the living quarter of the family, and the third level is a storage for their crops or a combination of storage and living quarter.
The lovely granddaughter of our hosts sitting near the stove while grandma was cooking. This household consists of 17 family members. Bhutanese families are tight knit and it is normal for several generations to live under one roof. As the family multiplies, the house expands.
As Buddhism pervades in every day life of Bhutanese, a shrine is an importance part of every home and where offerings are made before the family start their day. The brass bowls contain water and other kinds of offering. They are replaced each day.
Leki enjoying his tradtional Bhutanese lunch. Meals are normally eaten sitting on the floor. A traditional meal consists of red rice, vegetables and meat. A staple of every meal is vegetable dish called “ema datse” a dish of hot chili peppers and cheese (note that the hot pepper is not used as a spice but as a main ingredient.)After the meal, we enjoyed a sip of “ara,” a traditional Bhutanese alcoholic brew made of rice or wheat. Every family in the village make this beverage. It tasted like a less refined sake and with a heavier finish.
Chlli peppers to be use for “ema datse” were being dried on the floor of the attic. This is also a typical sight in each home. The chilis can also be seen drying on the window sill or on the rooftop of the house.
Keith fist pumping with the students. At first the students were hesitant as they were not familiar with the gesture. The principal explained to them that it meant “friendship” and they seemed to like it.
The principal encouraged us to interact with the students in the classroom. He brought us to visit some English classes to help the students practice their English and to help overcome their shyness. They were very shy at first but they quickly warmed up to us.
The view of the Ura Village as we made our way up. It was wonderful to learn about the everyday life in the village and to see the beautiful nature that surrounds it. It was a rewarding hike and visit.