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Bhutan Textile Tour

If you are in Bhutan,chances are you have taken in that fresh mountain air, noticed colorful houses with bold paintings, the small little bazaars we call “towns”, the fortresses called dzongs, plenty of fluttering prayer flags, an abundance of joviality, hair-raising hair-pin roads we call the “High-way”, figured out every shop is also a liquor store cum kiosk cum snack bar cum hardware cum clothing store….and last but not the least,you would be excused at first if it didn’t dawn upon you then from His Majesty the King to school children to bureaucrats, technocrats, businessmen, and farmers all wear the Traditional Dress.

The Gho for men, something like a cross between a Japanese kimono  and a Scottish Kilt…the Gho’s accessories include a woven belt called a Kera, tied at the waist and a white loose blouse called the Tego. Its completed with knee length socks and shiny leather shoes. Up to 1970’s, the poor went barefoot ,those who could wore woven knee length traditional shoes called the Tshoglhams.

Women wear the more sophisticated Kira. An ankle length dress that is intricately folded from the shoulders, tied at the waist with a Kera,and finished off with a blouse called the Wonju and a matching woven jacket called the Tego. It resembles the Kimono minus the heel sandles and the butterfly neck tie at the back.

Bhutanese handloom products and textiles provide an insight into an important aspect of Bhutan’s unique heritage. The Royal Government, recognizing the importance, has given a high priority to the development of the sector with a view to providing gainful employment and enhancing the income of the rural community while preserving an important aspect of Bhutanese Culture.

Handlooms in Bhutan have evolved over the centuries and reflect the country’s distinctive identity. The weaving traditions are spread across the country with the Eastern, North Central and Central regions enjoying particular praise for their skills. Bhutan’s most celebrated weavers are women from the East. However there are men who share the passion and dedicate themselves to the art of weaving. Although,wild silk,cotton,nettle,wool and yak hair are the fibers basic to the region,fine silk, polyster, rayon,acrylic and refined wool have now dominated the production.

Men, usually monks, embroidery and appliqué religious images and shrine furnishings. The intricate brocades and complex patterns are unmatched. The Thangkas  exemplify the textile artistry of men. They cut, stitch, embroider, and appliqué furnishings for the interiors of Dzongs and Lhakhangs and the living quarters of the lay and ecclesiastic bodies. The costumes  worn by the dancers during Tshechus and Dromches( annual festivals) are one of the finest examples of Bhutanese Textile Art.

Almost all homes in Bhutan are replete with textiles of all kinds made and woven by both men and women. Bhutan’s textiles,besides the impressive architecture of Dzongs and Lhakhangs, hold a high degree of intricacy and magnificence supplementing the country’s unique assets.

The Textile Tour takes you to places where the history of this unique art and craft has been passed down over generations.

Tour Itinerary

Duration: 13 Nights/14 Days

Places : Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa, Bumthang, Mongar and Trashigang

Day 1: Arrive at Paro. Check in at Hotel and over night halt in Paro.

Day 2: Paro

After breakfast, hike to the Taktsang Monastery(The Tiger’s Nest, about 4-5 hours walk round trip). Lunch at Taktsang Cafeteria. Over night stay at Paro.

Day 3: Paro to Thimphu:

After Breakfast visit the Drukgyel Dzong and Kyichu Lhakhang. Enjoy the towering view of Mount Jumolhari from the base of Drukgyel Dzong . Afternoon, visit the Taa-Dzong ( The National Museum has,among its rather small but eccentric collection,works of Art,representing the Textile weaving prowess and bamboo craft . An array of authentic looms from different parts of the country is displayed at the entrance level. There are also wood works, sculptures, and thangkas). From here you walk gingerly as you tread a narrow path leading to the main entrance of the Paro Dzong. The Dzong’s interiors are always depicted with Buddhism images  – a work of art that never bears the signature of the artist. The inner chambers are adorned with beautiful shrines(engraved with Buddhist symbols), ritual tables,instruments and normal to giant Thangkhas.

A nice little walk outside the Dzong with its spaciously sloping gardens with apple, peach and cherry trees makes the Dzong seem suddenly colossal.

Below a traditional bridge awaits you with the manis(hand spun prayer wheels) on either side. The wheel is spun clockwise. The bridge has humungous doors at both entrances(a sentinel bridge that was shut and locked every night). The bridge is laden with wall paintings and skill fully carved and engraved honoring the Gods and Local Deities.

The hour long trip to Thimphu starts here after crossing this bridge. On arrival at Thimphu,check in at hotel and over night halt in Thimphu.

Day 4: Thimphu:

Unlike the rest of the country,Thimphu is the exception rather than the norm. From the Royal family to the Prime Minister ,civil servants and businessmen, and lower down the social ladder the capital is a burgeoning city and being in fashion is fashionable. Although there are no MNCs or Brand Outlets, the youngsters stay chic clad in the latest trends. Any Gho worn by the King is instantly replicated. Politicians and Officials who are in the Public eye and are frequently aired on the national television dressed in their best.

Start with the first morning visit to the Textile Museum and then Handicrafts Emporium,the National Library, Institute Of Traditional Arts, Folk Heritage Museum and the National institute of Traditional Medicine.

In the afternoon, explore the many facades of Tashichhozong. The short walk leading to the Dzong’s entrance is a beautiful cobblestone pathway flanked by the lush gardens with the seasonal flowers and trees. The dzong houses His Majesty’s official chamber. It’s also the summer residence of the Je Khenpo, spiritual head of the monastic body and the monk body.

An evening walk around the Thimphu main street will show case a wide variety of local fashion.

Day 5: Thimphu to Trongsa:

Day 6: Trongsa

Visit the nettle weaving center in Beling, langthel. The Tarayana Foundation supports the center( Tarayana is an NGO geared towards improving the poor by developing and encouraging traditional skills).The plant stalks are soaked, sometimes boiled and then shredded,twisted into yarn with the aid of a drop spindle. Archers, particularly in villages use the nettle to string traditional wooden bows.

Day 7 : Trongsa to Bumthang:

Visit the yathra (cloth woven from Sheep and Yak hair) weaving center in Chumey.

Day 8: Bumthang to Lhuntse :

Day 9:  Lhuntse:  Besides the perpetual Royal anecdotes and the idiosyncratic ethnicity of the region, Lhuntse is famous for the hand-loom fabrics typically woven from fine silk known as Kishuthara, keeping intact one of the most distinctive art forms of the country. the weavers, especially from the Khoma and Kurtoe gewogs(villages) are famous for their skills and expertise in weaving the intricate designs.

Day 10: Lhuntse to Trashigang:

Day 11: Trashigang:  Visit either the Khaling Hand-loom Center OR the Radhi/Phongmey Weaving Center, OR both depending on the available time.

Khaling Handloom Center: 1. The local women are employed and trained in the center. The products are sold in the local markets OR brought to Thimphu to sell them. 2. Some women from the Radhi/Phongmey Weaving center still weave from the fiber extracted from the silk worms. This distinct fabric is known as BURA. 3. The semi-nomadic herders of Merek and Sakten are also weavers and have a unique dress of their own. They make hats, ropes, bags, and tents all out of Yak hair and weave garments, floor mats, and blankets of yarn spun from sheep wool.

Day 12: Trashigang to Bumthang:

Day 13: Bumthang to Thimphu:

Day 14: Thimphu to Paro and depart for your nest destination.