Citizens of the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan relish a challenge, especially when it comes to archery, the country's beloved national sport. The Bhutanese variant makes Olympic archery look as easy as a ring toss at a carnival. In Olympic competition, the distance between archer and target is 70 m and the target is 1.22 m in diameter; Bhutanese archers stand twice as far away and their arrows must strike a disk that is just 30 cm across. Plus, at the Olympics you don't have crowds of excitable Bhutanese trying to distract you by yelling insults about your wife and mother. Even the object of your concentration is bawdy and off-putting: look through binoculars and you'll notice that Bhutanese targets are often festooned with drawings of erect penises to ward off evil spirits.
The best place to catch a Bhutanese archery match is at Changlimithang Stadium, located in the capital Thimphu in the foothills of the Himalayas. Tournaments usually take place on weekends, and locals are happy to let foreigners try their hand after the formal competition is over because we're funny to watch. Most of us can't shoot an arrow even halfway to the target. If you do hit homea local astrologer can help you pinpoint the ideal moment to release the arrowremember that you will be required to perform a victory dance so elaborate it would put a showboating soccer player to shame. But don't bother practicing your finest jig. One archery fan at Changlimithang says he has never seen a foreigner come close to the bull's-eye.
by Hannah Beech