Here in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, the sporting obsession is archery. Teams face each other over 100m apart and aim at a target no more than 35cm across. They are surrounded by the opposition archers who heckle and dance, shouting insults as the steel tipped arrows fly in, and leap out of the way as the arrows thud into target or ground.
A series of near misses is celebrated with a dance, and the chance to shoot back at the opposition target, again shrouded in archers. As a spectator it takes time before you can even see the arrows approach, let alone have the eagle eye and agility to leap to safety.
Elsewhere, in isolated monasteries in the hills, young monks improvise the same game with hefty steel tipped wooden darts, likewise defending the target with dancing and heckling.
In Thimpu the archery ground is below the town by the river, and competitions are on most days.
Forested Himalayan foothills, rushing rivers, Tibetan hamlets of timber houses with prayer flag-bedecked cantilevered wooden bridges, and a steep climb to C17th Cheri Gompa monastery with its temples and houses founded by Bhutan's first ruler. Sip butter tea, and picnic with the locals and lots of dogs.
15km north of Thimpu along the Wang Chu River, beyond Dechencholing, the Queen Mother's Palace.
Down by the river and the life-and-death archery ground, the market is alive with the aroma of dried or fresh produce, animals, abundant chillies and every sort of herb, fruit and vegetable. Colourful locals and stallholders pass the day chatting and choosing the ingredients to go with the obligatory chillies. Monks try out bones fashioned into wind instruments and traditional masks conjure up holy spirits.
Central Thimphu down the hill to the riverside.
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