On A Line, Bhutan

I’m intrigued by suspended clotheslines found on my Journeys, it’s unexpected to see laundry hovering across balconies in chic cites like Lisbon and Porto, my eye is instantly drawn to clotheslines. Havana is another captivating city for photographing clotheslines. Like Christo and his banners of undulating color, clotheslines speak to me in a language not understood by most. I’m enchanted by the color, the movement, the nonchalance of one sharing their personal garments for all to see.

Clothesline Paro, Bhutan

Hanging laundry on a clothesline at one time, was considered a woman’s domestic duty, an intrinsic part of caring for a family.

Intimate articles are hung to dry on wooden fences and ropes – a humdrum daily task in some parts, one is sharing for all to see. Some lines are hastily hung, sloppy style or someone didn’t anticipate how useful the line would become and under estimated the need for a taunt line. A gentle gust is all it takes to bring trousers to life.

On a frigid snowy day, a toddlers pink jacket is frozen solid to the clothesline. Some lines are strictly a matter of convenience, a banister here or a barbed wire fence near your grazing ponies.

Frozen Clothesline Paro, Bhutan.

Maybe it’s the linear and diagonal patterns that speak to me, abstract figures of dancing clothes.

What do the clotheslines of Havana, Lisbon and Bhutan have in common? They all tell a story. From great painters, who painted clotheslines, laundry in the sun Monet and Gauguin.

There is something intriguing to me. Maybe it’s the nature of a primitive method of drying one’s clothes, although I hang my linen sheets on a suspended line in the summer sun. Temporary art installations, in the Bhutanese snow, they remained frozen on the line – the snow melted the next day, the locals knew the clothes would dry again as the sun shone, why go out in the snow to remove them?

Nomad clothesline on a barbed wire fence in Paro with their ponies grazing in field.

When my fellow Amankora traveler joined me, we practically squealed when we shared our list of ‘must have’ photos while we traversed Bhutan with the Amankora travelers – we both love photos of clotheslines, who knew I would meet a stranger in Bhutan and bond over clotheslines?

The Bhutanese photos on the barbed wire fences are the clothes of the nomads who travel to enjoy the warmth of the flatlands from the highest Himalayan peaks. Trekking with their yaks, ponies and mules, beads, and woven yak wool pashminas – the last photo was sent to me by our dear guide, Sangay, who most likely thought we were both a bit camera crazy – but he has now focused on clotheslines!

Clothesline in Gangtey Village. Amankaro Gangtey

A double bonus is a photo of drying clothes and drying chilies!

Punakha Clothesline with symbolic phallic symbol painted on home.
Nomad Clothesline outside Paro. Photo credit my guide, Sangay Dorji, sent after my visit.

Arrows & Alcohol in Bhutan

When passing through a Bhutanese village, say on a Saturday morning, do keep a look out for local villagers competing in field archery matches. Archers gather under a colorful flag draped canopy; half of each team shoots, while those not shooting, mingle and praise their teammates and boisterously jeer the opposing team. It’s an animated competition, players dressed in their traditional robes or Gho and knee-high black socks. The handsome archers bedecked in brilliantly tinted scarves attract admiration as the vibrant scarves denote their prowess and proficiency.

Archery is a traditional Saturday Bhutanese activity, enjoyed mostly by men at local archery clubs, situated in open fields flanked by tall trees. Dogs doze warmed by the sun and wait for delicacies. Conventional bamboo bows and arrows have been updated with carbon fiberglass bows. The brightly painted target is set low at a massive distance, close to one and a half football fields, I couldn’t even see the small target from the shooters line. Almost every village in Bhutan has a field dedicated to archery.

Archery or Dha, is the national sport of Bhutan and if you visit and stay at the highly regarded Amankora Lodges, you can definitely count on a few spirited matches with your guides and hotel staff.  We played with traditional bamboo bow and arrows and a much shorter target range. Archery is a calming sport, particularly improved by sipping small wooden cups of Ara, a potent distilled rice liquor.

Boisterous competitions are an age-old custom, with cheering and group dances performed every time an archer hits the wooden target. Archery is woven into the fabric of the tiny Himalayan Kingdom. Men gather at their small clubs to enjoy a Saturday of drinking and arrows and camaraderie. Competition is ferocious, and a very brilliantly festooned archer told me whiskey actually improves his aim. I asked if their wives care if they hang out at the filed all day, they responded with a cheer and a toast!

Decorated Bumthang Archer
Why yes, I would love to practice the ancient art – where is the target?
Gracious archers offered me a cup of Ara and a biscuit.
The archery field is within walking distance of Amankora Bumthang Lodge

I was offered a traditional drink, but not a bow, however, I was invited by the most decorated archer to photograph him during his turn. A gift in itself.

Target Size 476 feet away!
A lazy Bumthang Saturday at the Archery Field
Song and chant encouragement.