In a sign of the growing numbers and impact of regional tourism, ‘Anim Dratshang’ in Thimphu located at Zilukha has become a popular tourist destination with busloads of tourists going there.
While a few nuns at the Zilukha nunnery in Thimphu don’t agree that the nunnery should serve as a tourist attraction, a majority of them are open to tourists visiting, provided that they are not disturbed during their prayers or photographed like tourist attractions.
Senior nun Tashi Wangmo said, “We have around 50 nuns and our nunnery welcomes people of all cultures and faith who are interested in learning and exploring the meditation and ageless wisdom of Buddha’s teaching. We also welcome international and regional tourists but we receive more regional tourist and sometimes we can see around five buses of regional tourist visiting our dratshang like today”.
The nuns who were open to tourists visiting said that the visitors may not have nuns and nunneries and therefore could be interested to know more about them.
A few stated that they don’t mind when tourists take their picture but many said they felt annoyed.
Nun Karma Choden, 21, from Trashiyangtse said, “A group of man ran toward me as they wanted to take a picture with me, which is inappropriate with the moral code of Buddhism”.
However, many of them said they want to see more of them.
When asked about their responses of the effect brought by the tourists, some stated that there is not much effect while few said tourists makes their life in temple interesting and fascinating.
However, many pointed out that when they come during prayers and ceremonies, they feel disturbed.
Sacha Wangmo from Mongar expressed a different opinion. “While we acknowledge that tourists visiting our dratshang are admirable, we do understand that a large number is not safe for us and our country too. I believe our government has started entry fees to monitor unregulated flow of tourist to sites of interest. I think, government should also implement a similar scheme for temples and dratshang because sometimes in a day, we get around five buses of regional tourist which I believe is not safe for us”.
Tashi Wangmo said that when Bhutanese go to their places of worship such as the Golden temple they do not charge Bhutanese any money.
One tourist visiting the Anim dratshang questioned why the nunnery had male gods instead of female gods though it was a nunnery. The nuns had a quizzical look among themselves.