A more interesting cultural experience came a few days later. We were visiting an old palace up on a mountainside overlooking the village of Shey. From the village below, a cacophony of music rose up to meet our ears. We descended and followed the sound to its source.
A large tent had been erectedwe'd come across a wedding. As soon as we were spotted we were invited in for tea. First the traditional Tibetan tea with lots of butter and then, special for us, standard Indian 'chai' (sweet milk tea). Our collection of drinking cups continued to grow as 'chang' (Tibetan barley beer) was also served. Each of these cups was refilled to the brim well before we could get to its bottom.
Around us, the colorful traditions swirled to the accompaniment of relentless drumming and blaring reed horns. Dancers moved slowlytheir steps determined more by tradition than any detectable emotions. The bride too appeared to be trapped in protocol. Along with her mother and an attendant, she was obliged to greet each and every guest, bowing slightly and clicking her bracelets together as she uttered some sort of "thanks for coming".
There were some 300 guests, mostly seated in rows on cushions on the ground. As the bride proceeded down each row she maintained a smile. But at the end of each, we watched her as she grimacedthe weight of her turquoise laden hat was digging into her neck. The groom was nowhere to be seen.
Despite the rigidity of tradition, there was a joyous buzz in the tent. Many had donned their finest clothingcolorful and elaborate weaves, top hats and pointy shoes. Clearly, such a large wedding was not an every day event.