Brokpa Tshogchhang Ceremony
Alcohol is an essential part of eastern hospitality. But my oh my the Brokpas sure know how to take it up a notch.

When you visit Merak in the highlands of northeastern Bhutan, you’ll be welcomed by a group of locals (mostly women). These hosts will prepare a Tshogchhang ceremony.

Alcohol in Merak

What is it? It is a welcome ceremony where you’re offered alcohol in a gathering. You’ll see this tradition in different parts of Bhutan but what makes the Tshogchhang here in Merak different? It’s the way they serve the alcohol…trust me it’s different.

The ladies make you take 3 sips first which actually represent Gizhab (respect) Thuenlam (Harmony) Tsedung (Trust). Saying no to that is basically disrespecting these three I’m told. Followed by songs and dances the ladies keep pouring more alcohol to your cup. If you refuse they come and pinch your thigh and run away giggling. In some cases the women here also kicked visiting tourists and sat on them (to the male guests utmost delight I’m told)

Gathering of Merak Brokpa women at the alcohol ceremony

Despite the initial shock when the ladies held my cup and literally force-fed the alcohol to me, I found their behavior so apalling and refreshing. It reminded me of how Bhutanese women truly are – uninhibited, funny and comfortable in who they are.

As the night went on and I became as red as a tomato, I think they had quite the laugh seeing city folks like us unable to handle the alcohol. “Madam zhey le reb mala mai” (madam can’t drink no?) teased ama Ngaden. She told me this is only a tame version of the ceremony we’re subject to and that they’ve actually done worse to other guests. “We don’t care whether you’re a Dasho or King! We’ll come and sit on you” they said laughing.

P.s as a gesture of gratitude, after the ceremony, you can gift the women with some money for their hospitality. Make sure you have cash!

Read my other blogs on Merak and Sakteng.