Big ideas

House No. 7

I stayed at Yangtsena yesterday. It’s a small village on the southern slopes of the Pu-la overlooking the Amochhu river.

Yangtsena has only seven houses. But all of them are handsome, traditional farmhouses. It wasn’t always like that – just 14 years ago, they lived in basic bamboo huts.

That’s about when, when Yangtsena’s residents got together and decided that they, all seven households, must have better houses. Individually, no family had the resources to build a farmhouse. So they decided to pool their resources, especially labour, and collectively build all of their houses, one farmhouse at a time.

Contributing labour to build houses is not uncommon in our villages. Almost every house in rural Bhutan has been built using at least some form of free labour from their neighours.

But what sets Yangtsena apart is their resolve to build the entire village collectively, an idea that engaged every man, woman and child, almost every winter, in construction. Last winter, they completed their seventh, and final, farmhouse. And with that they completed an idea that began 14 years ago.

Yangtsena is a small village. But they have big ideas. Their next project is to improve their irrigation channels and then, again collectively, build more paddy fields. The idea – a big idea, and one that they will surely achieve – is to become self sufficient in rice.

Farmhouse lunch

Sonam'sWe had lunch today at Aum Sonam’s house. Aum Sonam, who was a member of the last National Assembly before the introduction of parliamentary democracy, served us a sumptuous meal of kharang, sikam, aima datsi, mushrooms, farm eggs, cottage cheese and papaya.

I enjoyed Aum Sonam’s cooking thoroughly. It was clean, wholesome and traditional. So I asked her if she would be willing to make lunch for other travelers between Bumthang and Mongar or Trashigang. Her answer was “yes!” quickly qualified by “but they should call me first”.

Her farmhouse is located among Thidanbi’s bucolic paddy fields about five kilometres uphill from Lingmithang. It’s a natural lunch stop when traveling from Bumthang to Mongar, or from Trashigang to Bumthang. If you want to try Aum Sonam’s food, telephone her at 1770-1287 or her husband, Thinley Namgay, at 1764-4057.

I’m quite certain that tourists would also enjoy a visit to Aum Sonam’s. Besides cooking lunch and brewing tea, she could be easily be distilling ara, frying zao, or pounding tsip, all traditional activities that more of our tourists would want to see.

I already know where we’ll have lunch on our way back.