Suitcase and World: Gho, baby, gho!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gho, baby, gho!

I live in a country that is truly a cultural melting pot.  We have people from all over the world living in the US.  I even work for a multinational, multicultural instititution.  But, when in the US, do as the Americans do so even though we're all from different heritage backgrounds, everyone pretty much dresses "American" and that would be jeans, t-shirts, sweat pants, shorts, etc.  A common uniform that can now be found in other parts of the world - part of the spread of the Western world.

But the Bhutanese are steadfastly determined to maintain their cultural identity and that includes wearing their national dress on daily basis.

In all my travels, I've found that it's women who are the ones to retain their national dress.  For example the sari is still worn in India and the kimono in Japan.  The Mayan women in Guatemala also wear their native costume.

But in Bhutan, both men and women wear their traditional costume and it was the men's traditional costume, the gho, that really caught my eye. 

The gho is basically a knee length robe type outfit that is tied at the side and held in place by a belt known as a kera.  Ghos came in all colors and if patterned, were either pinstriped or checked....something "manly".

A specially tailored white undershirt, usually of white cotton, is turned over at the cuff to form a 13-centimeter band of white.

Inside the gho, at the waistband, is large pocket for holding wallet, keys, phone, etc.

The gho is worn with knee high socks and dress shoes.

Bhutanese law dictates that the gho must be worn by all government officials and for formal occasions.  To my untrained eye, it seemed like pretty much everyone except for anyone doing physical labor was properly outfitted in a gho.

Even the archers we saw in Thimphu were wearing ghos for target practice.

And the gho is the compulsory uniform for anyone going to school.  Don't these school boys look cute?

Perhaps I am biased, but there truly was no better gho model than our guide, Tenzing.

On the first day of our tour, Tenzing showed up in gray colored gho tailor made from men's suiting material.  It was a lightly checked pattern and he looked nice in his outfit.

But, when he showed up in the dark, charcoal gray pinstripe gho two days later, he truly looked dapper.  Handsome, in a very Bhutanese way.  So much so that when he took us to a viewpoint so we could take pictures of the Punakha Dzong, I asked him to pose for me :-)

Whenever we visited a dzong, Tenzing would adorn a white scarf, woven from raw silk, known as a kabney. It's worn from the left shoulder to the right hip.

In the mornings, when it was usually pretty cool, Tenzing would have the full gho on.  By afternoon, when it often had gotten much warmer, he often only had only shoulder and sleeve of the gho on, exposing a cotton t-shirt that he wore underneath.

If it was unbearably warm to even have one sleeve on, then the entire top of gho would be pulled down and tied around the waist.  Here's our driver with the top half of his gho pulled down and tied around his waist.


Yes, the gho. Truly a unique national costume and somehow, I can't imagine a Bhutanese man without one on.