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PHOTO TRAVEL-The World’s Must-Do Places

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The World is an amazing place with many visually stunning destinations. But do you know where they are. This website highlights 58 must-do places (100 planned) and events to visit. It is a companion to my coffee table book proto-titled MOMENTS -a travel guide, about great places and events. The book provides the visual imagery and brief descriptions of how it feels to be there, while the website provides the factual background and illustrated travel information. The top photographs are reserved for the book and not reproduced here. A list of the ~100 places and events is provided on the page Must-Do Places, located on the menu bar. Not all pages have been written as this will take some time to complete. The pages that are finished have gold text with operational links.

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All images on this site can be copied and reproduced provided the watermark L.Sharp www.artphototravel.net, remains in place.

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<a href=”http://www.artphototravel.net/”>The Must-Do Places from Pole to Pole</a>
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ART PHOTO TRAVEL is really ART PHOTO and PHOTO TRAVEL

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I am going to divide this website into two parts. FINE ART PHOTOS, a gallery of my fine art photos, and PHOTO TRAVEL-The Must-Do Places.

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After 2 years we have been able to resume our travel to Bhutan to attend the Tsechu at Paro that was suddenly terminated when Dahlia fell and broke her pelvis on the way to the airport in Delhi in 2012.

Bhutan revisited Day 1

Last modified on 2014-04-26 06:31:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

From Dacca, it was a 45 minute flight to Bhutan. About 20 minute before landing at Paro airport Kanchenjunga, the World’s third highest peak (28,169 ft),

Kanchenjunga

Kanchenjunga on way to Bhutan with Everest in distance


came into view on the left hand side of the plane with Everest visible in the far distance. The plane made four sharp turns as it flew through the deep valley to land at the small airport at 7300ft elevation. The guide and driver were waiting to take us to our hotel.

The government of Bhutan charges tourists $250 per person per day ( high season) which includes full board and accommodation in a hotel of at least 3 star, daily activities (from a given list which includes hiking and cultural activities), and a private guide and car per group, although one can enter as a group of one. We were a group of two.

bhutan-fly-in-paro

high mountains on approach to Paro Bhutan

We chose to stay at the Uma Paro a resort hotel situated in a pine forest a 10 minute drive from the airport with sweeping views of downtown Paro.
For this, we had to pay the governmental charges, as well as the hotel surcharges. We choose this resort as Dahlia previously had altitude sickness in Nepal and this hotel was relatively low located at an elevation of 7500m. Even so I could feel the effects of the elevation for a couple of days, notwithstanding that I had previously trekked in Nepal over 19000ft without problems.

Sunrise over the Paro valley

Sunrise over the Paro valley

So the afternoon of the first day was spent walking around Paro. It is growing rapidly becoming a small-town with many more shops particularly local art and craft stores, with shop fronts kept in traditional architectural style so the town has a unified appeal, although there does not seem to be sufficient customers to keep them all busy. The locals still walk the street in their traditional costumes, infants asleep, half-falling out of the slings on their mothers back and here and there old men chant mantras while spinning their prayer wheels. It was a couple of days before the start of the Paro Tsechu, and there was a bustle of activity with many more visitors than I can previously recall.

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Bhutan Revisited Day 2

Last modified on 2014-04-27 08:52:13 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Dzongdrakha-temples-Bhutan

Dzongdrakha temples

The beginning of the Paro festival starts in Dzongdrakha a small village situated at elevation 8,300ft, over looking the terraced fields of Bondhey, some 30 minute drive from Paro on the road to the Ha valley. The Tsechu is held on a flat field, a short distance from its Dzong whose four 16 Century temples cling precariously to the side of the mountain. It is a smaller version of the Tiger Nest monastery (Taktsang), founded by Guru Rinpoche.

Although this Tsechu is much smaller than at Paro,

Dzongdrakha-Tsechu-grounds-Bhutan

Dzongdrakha Tsechu grounds

it is more informal and intimate and we were the only foreign visitors.
It was particularly interesting for me as I was able to photograph the dancers putting on their costumes inside the small official building.
We stayed for the morning session that started at 9:30 am for the masked dances that included The dance of the lord of death and his consort (Shinji Yab Yum). The Dance of the Lord of the cremation grounds (Durdag) and The dance of the Stags (Sha Zam), with each dance taking about 45 minutes. The local laypeople partook in traditional song and dances in between the religious masked dances interspersed. The Tsechu has a major religious significance for the locals, but it is also a great opportunity for family get to gather and dress in their best clothes with the women wearing stunning embroidered silk dresses and the men traditional costumes. As visitors, we were expected to dress accordingly. By one o’clock, it was hot and the sun fierce with high UV component requiring sunscreen to prevent sunburn. I noticed none wore hats although some put napkins over their heads for protection. We left soon after.

Dzongdrakha-Tsechu-putting-on the-mask-Bhutan

Dzongdrakha Tsechu putting on the mask

Dzongdrakha-Tsechu-Shinji-Yab-Yum-dance-Bhutan

Dzongdrakha Tsechu Shinji Yab Yum dance

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Bhutan Revisited Day 3

Last modified on 2014-04-28 06:45:41 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Thimphu-Chorten-Bhutan

Thimphu Chorten Bhutan

Once it was a bumpy 2-3 hour journey over a winding mountain road to Thimphu but now the trip takes just one hour from Paro on a standard two lane macadam road. Thimphu is growing very quickly becoming a small city with an overall population of 100,000 inhabitants. The local Bhutanese are quick to point out that their capital city does not have a single traffic light, and the buildings are clad in traditional architectural style. However, I felt the city is rapidly shedding its frontier image and taking on a modern international persona.
We had come to visit the giant prayer wheels at the national memorial which is opened throughout the day to all visitors and local folk, and I was suitably impressed.

The-Giant-Buddha-Thimphu

The Giant Buddha Thimphu

A new giant golden Buddha glistening in the sunlight is nearing completion on a high prominence overlooking the town. It sits atop a not yet completed temple which will house 100,000 small Buddha statues that can be privately endowed by locals and foreigners.

We visited the Dechen Phodrang monastry school located a short drive from the town. It had one of the oldest temple rooms dating from the 12th century with original wall tapestries an impressive altar and religious artefacts. Just outside stood a giant prayer wheel. Very fortunately a class of students was learning to play the flute on the temple parapet.

phodrang-monastary-prayer-wheel-Thimphu

Our guide at Phodrang monastery

Thimphu-phodrang-monastary

entrance Phodrang monastary Thimphu

students-learning-flute-phodrang-monastary-Thimphu

students learning flute Phodrang monastary Thimphu

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Bhutan Revisited Day 4

Last modified on 2014-05-21 04:06:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The Paro Tsechu Day 1 inside the Dzong

11th day of the second Bhutanese month

Paro-Dzong-Tsechu -location-map

Paro Dzong Tsechu location map; Google Earth

paro-Dzong-Tsechu-performance-panorama

paro Dzong Tsechu performance panorama

The Tsechu was held within an open air courtyard inside the Rinpung Dzong, a massive fortress that dominates the Paro valley. The buildings surrounding the courtyard were ornate in typical Bhutanese style, but the ceremonial area was small and became very crowded.
There were few good photographic positions available where one could stand, and these were occupied ( including me) by 7:30 am for a 9 am start. Note, only 3 sides of the courtyard were available for spectators, with the people in the front row required to sit crossed legs on the ground.

Paro-Dzong-Tsechu-day-1-opening

Paro Dzong Tsechu day 1 opening

From these sitting positions, only close up photographs were possible as the large number of dancers obstructed any overall view.
Early in the morning the whole courtyard is in shadow, but by mid morning the light varied across the courtyard from deep shadow to direct sunlight. In the early afternoon, the shadow-direct sun positions swapped sides. The program advertised a 10am start, but on most days the Tsechu started early between 9:am and-9:30 am. Overall, the schedule kept to the printed program, finishing around 3:15 pm.

Paro-Tsechu-day-1-atsara-clown

Paro Tsechu day 1 atsara clown

I was told that all the individual dances are different but to the casual observer they appeared to be variations on a number of distinctive dances.

The dances that impressed me were.
Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum)
Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag)
The Black Hat Dance (Shanag Cham)
Dance of the Drum (Dramitse Ngacham)
Dance of the Eight Kinds of Spirits (Degye)

paro-tsechu-day-1-blak-hat-dance

paro tsechu day 1-black hat dance

paro-tsechu-day-1-Shinje-Yab-Yum

Paro Tsechu day 1 Shinje Yab Yum

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Bhutan Revisited Day 5

Last modified on 2014-05-21 04:13:15 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Paro-Dzong-Tsechu-ceremonial-grounds-map

Fig 1 Paro Tsechu ceremonial grounds map; Google Earth

The Paro Tsechu Day 2 Outside the Rinpung Dzong

12th day of the Bhutanese month

The  arrangement of the festival grounds is shown in fig 1.  On the left were concrete steps which provided good positions for photographing the festival. These seats faced south and both the spectator seats near the building and the performance area were in shadow until noon (shielded from the sun by the official building) after which the grounds and seating became fully exposed to the sun.

Paro-Tsechu-Day-2-opening-ceremony

Paro Tsechu Day 2 opening ceremony

Paro-Tsechu-Day-2-horns

Paro Tsechu Day 2 horns

Paro-Tsechu-Day-2-opening-ceremony

Paro Tsechu Day 2 opening ceremony

The Tsechu started around 9:30 am. For the best positions, one should be seated  by 7:30 am. By 8:00 am, most lower seats were reserved or taken. The Tsechu lasted till 3:15 pm.
As the queen mother attended the morning festivities three victory dances performed by the military commemorating the 2003 search and apprehension inside Bhutan of Indian intruders, were added to the program on the suggestion of the queen mother.

The Highlights
Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum)
Dance of the Black Hats with drums (Shanag Nga Cham)
Dance of the Three Kinds of Ging with sticks (Gingsum)
Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag)

Paro-Tsechu-day-2-victory-dance

Paro Tsechu day 2 victory dance

Paro-Tsechu-day-2-black-hat-with-sticks

Paro Tsechu day2 black hat with sticks

Paro-Tsechu-Day-2-Shinje-Yab-Yum

Paro Tsechu Day 2 Shinje Yab Yum

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Bhutan Revisited Day 7

Last modified on 2014-05-21 06:28:07 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Paro-Dzong-Tsechu-ceremonial-grounds-map

Fig 1 Paro Tsechu ceremonial grounds map; Google Earth

Paro Tsechu day 4 outside the Dzong

14th day of the 2nd Bhutanese month

This is an important day, particularly with the parade of the Great Shinje, Lord of Death, around the ceremonial grounds and the Day of Judgement, where the souls of the dead are judged to be good or bad. Following this enactment, The line of local people queuing for a blessing from the monks stretches all the way to the entrance of the ceremony grounds. It will get very busy and seating will be very scarce. A good overall position for viewing the parade of the Great Shinje (a three metre high puppet of the lord of death held aloft by an entourage of monks), is on the left on the concrete stairs (see Fig1) and part way up facing the concrete steps.

Paro-Tsechu-day-4-blessing-from-the-monks

Paro Tsechu day 4 blessing from the monks

Paro-Tsechu-day-4-dance-of-the-4-stags

Paro Tsechu day 4 dance of the 4 stags

Paro-Tsechu-day-4-Dance-of-the-judgement-of-the-dead

Paro Tsechu day 4 Dance of the judgement of the dead

One must be in position by 7:15 am. By 7:45 most seats are occupied or reserved. Start time is around 9:30 am, finishing by 15:30 with the most impressive dances in the morning.

Highlights.
Dance of the Lord of Death and his Consort (Shinje Yab Yum)
Dance of the Four Stags (Sha Tsam)
Dance of the Judgement of the Dead (Raksha Mangcham) This a Tsechu highlight.
Dance of the Drums from Dramitse (Dramitse Nga Cham)

Paro-Tsechu-day-4-judgement-of-the-dead

Paro Tsechu day 4 judgement of the dead

Paro-Tsechu-day-4-The-Grea- Shinje

Paro Tsechu day 4 The Great Shinje

Paro-Tsechu-day-4-The-Great- Shinje-Emerges

Paro Tsechu day 4 The Great Shinje Emerges

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Bhutan Revisited Day 8

Last modified on 2014-05-22 06:16:53 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Day 8: Paro Festival day 5. Outside the Dzong

15th day of the 2nd Bhutanese month

Bhutan-Paro-Tsechu-day-5-unfurling-the-great-thogdrel

Bhutan Paro Tsechu day 5 unfurling the great thogdrel

Bhutan-Paro-Tsechu-day-5-ceremonial-ground-at-1:30am

Bhutan Paro Tsechu day 5 ceremonial ground at 1:30am

The final day of the festival, involves the unfurling a giant tapestry (thongdrel) over the side of the official building, religious incantations and the blessing of the monk cadre. The festival starts at 4:0 am and lasts until mid afternoon, but in my opinion the highlights occur in the very early morning before the thongdrel is carried away following sunrise.
To get a good photographic position one should be in-position by 1:30 am (on the concrete steps on extreme left hand side (the last seat) facing the steps, where one can stand and set up a tripod without blocking spectators. Another place where one can stand (using a monopod) is in the front row to the side of where the head monk dressed in gold sits on a dais facing the ceremonial grounds and the thongral. By 2:00am all the best positions are taken. It will become extremely crowded by dawn with barely any room to stand or sit.

Highlights.
Showing of great thangkha (thongdrel)
Performance of the Shugdrel ceremony
The king and queen of Bhutan came to be blessed at the conclusion of the Shugdrel ceremony.
Dance of the Heroes (Pacham)
Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Tshen Gye)
The tapestry is usually rolled up soon after sunrise, but on this occasion this was delayed until after the departure of the king.

Bhutan-Paro-Tsechu-day-5-monks

Bhutan Paro Tsechu day 5 monks

Bhutan-Paro-Tsechu-day-5-first-light

Bhutan Paro Tsechu day 5 first light

Bhutan-Paro-Tsechu-day-5-night-ceremonies

Bhutan Paro Tsechu day 5 night ceremonies

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The World's Must-Do Places
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The World is amazing with many visually stunning destinations. But do you know where they are. This website highlights 50 must-do places and events to visit.

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