In Bhutan, temples and houses alike are often painted with intricate designs. Windows are small because it is cold in the Himalayas. These windows are in the Buddhist temple in Paro, which is named the Rinpung Dzong. Dzong means temple. Rinpung means "heaps of jewels." Bhutan is about the size of Switzerland or West Virginia, located between India and China.
This is a view of the Paro Dzong from across the river in the valley floor. This temple dates to the 10th Century, but the present structure was built in 1646, It is made of stones and served as defense against invasion attempts by Tibetan. Sadly, all of its treasures except for one thangka were destroyed by fire in 1907. The prayer flags in the foreground are a common sight in Bhutan.
This photo shows part of the roof tops of the 108 Drug Wangyal Khangzang Chortens at Dochula Pass. The Chortens are monuments in celebration of the King. This is a popular location for prayer flags. The smoke from the fires was part of a ceremony by monks to bless animals. The pass is at 10,300 ft (3,150 m) elevation. The number 108 is significant to Buddhists.
These children posed for me on a covered bridge in front of Punakaha Dzong. Our National Geographic photographer tour leader, Ira Block, suggested that to take people pictures, rather than trying to snap candid photos, it is better to set up your camera and tripod, and wait for people to walk into your scene. This technique worked well.
Our trip to Bhutan last month was timed to coincide with the first Buddhist festival of the season, which was at the Punakaha Dzong, which was also the site of the wedding of Bhutan's King and Queen last fall. The festival was captivating. Dancers in flowing robes and elaborate masks twirled around the temple courtyard. We brought back 6 masks to hang in our home, including one that looks very much like this one.