– Joaquim Magalhães de Castro
The previously mentioned “gardens of Rangamati” extend to the foot of the Bhutanese mountain from which flow the waters of the Kaljani, tributary of the Torsha, the great river that is born in Bhutan and irrigates its plains before draining into the Brahmaputra. On its right bank Jayagon was built up and along the years much expanded.
When we arrived there the streets of the city were full with groups of revelers with their faces covered with a colored powder in a kind of early celebration of the holi, a Hindu festival now much in vogue in the Western world after being forcibly integrated – for obvious mercantilist reasons – in the calendar of Europe summer festivals. An old and decayed Europe in search of new sensations. Ridiculous is this adoption, as it is Thanksgiving or the Halloween, each by itself and all together, manifestations unrelated to the European vernacular tradition. The presence of innumerable Bhutanese among the native Bengalese is obvious and differentiates this city from all others we hitherto traveled.
Sangay Dorji, the guide that the travel agency Crown Bhutan had reserved to accompany us for the next six days, came to meet us at the hotel lobby in order to arrange entry into the country next morning. If he had not presented himself, it would have been impossible for us to differentiate him among the numerous Bhutan merchants present in town at that moment. Such is the cross-border promiscuity that the Indian consortium Dantak, responsible for the construction of access roads and within the rugged kingdom itself, welcomes the foreign tourists on behalf of the Bhutanese authorities with a board strategically placed in the center of Jayagon.
Despite the subtleties, Indian legal procedures were made the next morning at a Government branch off the main street. Only after, with the passports properly stamped, we pass under the colored arch that marks the threshold of the Lamaist kingdom and houses the Bhutanese immigration services. Sangay was waiting for us there. This time he wore a striped “gho”, a male tunic that is compulsory for public officials and students. Voluntarily, immediately he began giving us “information guide,” relevant or not. But, to be honest, suppressed by the breathless heat, our attention was elsewhere. We craved above all for some freshness and a more relaxed atmosphere. We departed in a van and while travelling I was able to have a glimpse of one of the various messages of the current monarch, Jigme Wangchuk, displayed in panels or strips of cloth along the way. After a gradual climb up the hill, with curves and countercurves, very dimly some of the thick fog was dissipated and the temperature dropped a few degrees, though the humidity was still the same. Where is the longed for blue sky?