I’ve said it often: I am very lucky! I was invited to join a good friend at an event on Sunday, one about which I’d heard great things, at a place known to be unique. It was the annual Bhutanese Archery Tournament, held at the beautiful Tashiding Estate just north of Baltimore. The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small country located in the Himalayan Mountains, and is a very secluded and infrequently-visited place.
Each year on the Labor Day weekend, Douglas and Tsognie Hamilton invite the Bhutanese and Sikkimese communities to their home for an archery tournament. Members of these two communities come from across the country to participate. Lest you think that this is some simple bow-and-arrow affair, it’s not!The archers use carbon-fiber bows with a 60-lb pull, and they shoot at a very small target over 145 meters (or 475 feet) away. The arrows were so fast that we couldn’t even see them flying. We would see the archer shoot, follow the arrow for a split second, whip our heads to the other end of the field, and maybe see it hit the target. As each archer hit the mark, he received a sash indicating where he’d hit – blue, white, red or gold. All of the archers wore their national dress, which made me admire them tremendously, since it was in the low 90’s with an equal percentage of humidity. Sweltering would not put too fine a point on it!
As you can tell, everyone, from the spectators to the participants, was having a lot of fun!The archery tournament isn’t the only draw of the day – it’s also the incredible 35-acre gardens, which have been built from nearly nothing in 15 years. There is a gorgeous pond with a tea-house, a small island and dozens of huge goldfish and several turtles.
The hen-house is modeled on an English solarium or garden room, and the small Asian-inspired building to the right of it is where the birds actually live. I think that the peacocks are a bit camera-shy.
All around the property, you see pieces of Asian art, reflecting Mrs. Hamilton’s heritage as a Princess in the royal family of Sikkim. Sorry for the bad shot on this one, but it’s a court-yard from the inside looking out.
At the end of the evening, as the skies in this secluded valley grew dark, the Bhutanese rose as one, and started singing their national anthem. It was one of those moments that just gave me chills. It’s also one which I will never forget.
For more information on the gardens and to see some gorgeous pictures, please see “Private Edens” by Jack Staub.