Bhutan Diaries: Punakha Dzong ~’The Palace of Great Bliss’

After two days of wonderful cultural experience, we’ve left the Capital city of Thimphu and headed to the scenic Punakha Valley. On the way to Punakha, we passed by Dochu La Pass about forty-five minutes outside of Thimpu which is at 3000 meters above sea level is overlooking the mighty Himalayas.At one of the viewing points, 108 stupas (chortens) were constructed as a memorial built by the queen, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, to honor the victory of the Bhutanese army in the 2003 war of Southern Bhutan.

From the high pass of Dochu La, the mountain road descended into the serene countryside of Punakha Valley which is beautifully landscaped with the dense forests. The highlight of our journey to Punakha is a visit to its majestic Dzong (means fortress and is the administrative and monastic center of this town). It is also called as ‘Punthang Dechen Phodrang’ (The Palace of Great Bliss), Punakha Dzong is beautifully situated between the convergence of Phochu and Mochu Rivers ( ‘male’ and ‘female’ rivers),  It is said to be the most magnificent of all the fortresses in Bhutan.

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The Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong.

Built by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637 and completed in one year. Punakha Dzong served as the capital and seat of government of Bhutan before it was moved to Thimphu in 1955. It was expanded in 1639 to celebrate victory over invading Tibetan army. Frequent fires, glacial burst and an earthquake damaged the dzong and it has since been repaired and restored. Today, it houses the administrative and judicial offices of Punakha District.

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People were feeding the fishes in the river with biscuits & some grains.

The dzong has three courtyards. The first courtyard is for administrative functions and houses a huge chorten with a Bodhi tree. The second courtyard houses the monastic quarters. The third courtyard has the main temple. Entering into this temple was like entering into another world. The door was opened for us, and as we stepped in, the grand interiors of the temple seemed mesmerizing with exquisite wall murals depicting the life of Sakyamuni Buddha. Sacred remains and relics are placed in a closed room inside the temple and only the two guardian Lamas, the King and the chief Abbot or Je Khenpo may enter the room it seems.

Unfortunately, photography in the interior of the temple is prohibited. This Dzong is a perfect example of the traditional Bhutanese architecture. Then we got out at 5pm by spinning the last prayer wheel at the Punakha monastery and left the place by wishing to visit again.

Info-tips from my perspective:

  1. A special permit is required for all the foreign nationals in order to visit Punakha or any place other than Thimphu & Paro.
  2. There are some road restrictions due to the new construction of roads they’ll only open the gates for every 2 hours and not more than 15mins. And is entry of Punakha is prohibited after 6pm until the construction is finished.
  3. The Royal wedding of the Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and his fiancée, Jetsun Pema, was held at the Punakha Dzong on 13 October 2011.

Bhutan Diaries: Tashi Delek Thimphu

It all started from having an intense plan and huge back packing of 20-25 days which included a good part of North India , a long sojourn in the Northeast India but for all of us the most exciting part was to explore “Bhutan: The Land of thunder Dragons” as it is fondly called and the dice were rolled out. Highly planned and most exciting part of our journey started on the third week of March 2015.

We took a flight from Delhi to Bagdogra in West Bengal as it is the most preferred way to reach Bhutan for Indians. Our first stopover was at the queen of hill stations called Darjeeling which was roughly 80 KM and a 3 hour drive from Bagdogra Airport. Then After reaching Darjeeling(Click here to read my posts on Darjeeling & Street foods of Darjeeling) we visited some of the must see places there and the next morning we planned to leave for Jaigaon/ Phuentsholing ,which is the gateway town to enter Bhutan.

Day 02: Darjeeling to jaigaon is a 5 hour drive about 200KM going through NH31 and overlooking the beautiful Teesta River for a part of the drive. A permit is mandatory to enter into Bhutan for Indian/Chinese citizens for others it is the routine visa procedure and they have to pay some royalty fee to the government. We had to make sure that we reach Jaigaon before 10AM as the permit office in Phuentsholing closes at 11AM and the driver was just the right guy for the task taken straight out of a fast and furious movie. We reached the Jaigaon border town around 9:40 AM then we crossed the border by foot and entered into Bhutan(Phuentsholing) then at the customs office we applied for our Bhutan permits.

We got the permit in an hour, had breakfast in a local restaurant and exchanged our Indian rupee and got some Bhutanese currency NU (Indian Rupees also works in Bhutan) and a local Tashi cell SIM card as Indian networks will not be working here and we were set for the capital city Thimphu while one of my friend GK still struggling to find the difference between Bhutan and Taiwan.:P We reserved a 6 seater taxi for Thimphu from the local taxi stand for 3500INR.Thimphu is 174 KM from Phuentsholing, a 5 hour drive from a risky yet beautiful road carved out of Mountains. As we enter the serene environment of Bhutan we are greeted with a cold breeze and a peaceful noise of the surroundings. We felt like we are in for something soothing and also exhilarating.

The highway to heaven as it is called was a masterpiece by the creator and also by the Bhutanese government as the road is neatly carved out between mountains and makes for a decent yet risky ride, surrounding the nature. The weather was pleasant and the air was so soothing, That is one of the reasons why Bhutan is called as the most peaceful & Happiest country in South Asia. As we were having this discussion the driver proved it right by revealing that he has been happily married for almost 15 years with two wives, living with both of them under one roof for these many years which was something astonishing for all of us. It is more of a tradition in Bhutan and there are many such examples.

Tashi Delek-Thimphu:

We entered Thimphu city after a 5 hour drive and what we saw was large houses with similar Bhutanese/Tibetan Architecture , clean roads, probably the cleanest we have seen.

The city had a very calm yet happening vibe. We had to complete a tough task of finding cheap and best hotels in the vicinity called as the clock tower. We found one called as tashi delek which was 950 INR per room. Please note that there are hardly any hotels offering rooms at ground/first floor and you will have to to shell out a lot more to get a room on lower floors.However we got one on the third floor and it was a never ending climb to the third floor after an almost 400 KMs long cross country drive.

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The capital with no Traffic lights..

Next Day of the plan was to explore the every nook and corner of Thimphu. Basically to know about the traditions and culture that represents this beautiful country. Thimphu, as I mentioned is the most populous city in Bhutan which also means that there were enough people to interact. The men were extremely welcoming, the women equally beautiful. Karthik already began to work his charm, while lalla was still finding ways to start a conversation 😛 We took two local taxi’s as all taxi’s in Thimphu city are only small 4 seaters and we were 5 and we first went to the national library of Bhutan.

We’ve no idea that it is closed on weekends. So we just clicked pictures from the outside and moved to Zorig chusum, a government backed institute in providing education in embroidery, sculpture, painting, weaving, carving, etc to aspiring students to provide them with skills to boost their employment opportunities in the future.The school had an annual orientation going on as it was good to see an assembly of school kids after we were last part of it a decade back. Wow!!A decade!! i just realized. Time flies.

Closer to the school was National folk heritage museum which was an exhibition of the heritage of Bhutan, Also depicting how ancient Bhutanese used to live. We were out after a short visit to the place, which was an education of Bhutanese history, culture and traditions and took a taxi to the most famous tourist place of Thimphu called National memorial chorten. Believed to be built in memory of the former Queen’s brother the place is right in the center of the city and is mostly visited by old monks for their prayers and to relax.

Little did we knew, that the next place we were going to was this spectacular. It was the giant buddha dordenma golden statue, which is not yet completed from the inside. Upon completion this will be one of the largest buddha statues in the world.

Geographically it is perfectly located. The statue will be visible from a very long distance as we can see the Buddha shining in gold and also overlooking the whole city of thimphu from the top of the cliff. The place is hugely spacious and also windy and we moved on to spend some quality time at the place.

Thimphu city overview (4)

Thimphu City view..

If you go to a different country make sure you see its animal species.That is what we did next.The takin preserve was the place which houses the national animal of Bhutan, Takin. You can see a lot of them here and you can cover this place in quick time as it is only a conservatory for Takins.

Then we paid our visit to a small Buddhist monastery called Zilukha nunnery.The nunnery is located in Zilukha, Thimphu overlooking Tashichodzong and is a few minutes drive from Zoo.t was built in 1976 by the 16th emanation of Thangtong Gyalpo, Drubthob Rikey Jadrel. Currently, the nunnery is home to about 60 nuns.

 

After the whirlwind tour of these places without a break , we had to do the most important part of the day, FOOD!!!! And what better than some local Bhutanese food. We went to a restaurant called as “Ama” on the same street of our hotel as ordered Thupka, kewa datshi, Ema datshi, Thai rice, Chicken chilly, Veg crispy, Veg fried rice. (To know more about food click here..) All this for an astonishing N.U 900. That was the best part of Bhutan, It doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket when it comes to food. We spent the rest of the evening wandering on the streets of thimphu.

Thimphu city (3)

Tashichoedzong_fortress of the auspicious religion. This Dzong is the seat of government.

While GK and lalla were at their usual “loving” antics and a couple of us decided to hit a local hangout spot called vivacity and then back to the hotel as we had to be early for a long yet exciting, exhilarating, extravagant day of exploring waiting for us tomorrow.

Next day morning we had a walking tour of the city and had fun meeting new people there. Then I went to watch a competition on the archery field. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport and is played all year round. 2 painted targets 30cm large and 120cm high are placed at each end. The bows and arrows are made of special kind of bamboo, the target is 120 metre away. Team members encourage their archer on the other side of the field. They stand really close from the target. Each team usually consist of 11 members. The first team to reach 33 points wins the match. The method of scoring is complicated as if an arrow lands within an arrow’s length of the target even without hitting it, it also counts. Every time an archer hits the target his team members will perform a kind of victory dance on the field. It was very entertaining as all players were wearing the Gho, the national costume.

We almost killed the day just by exploring the city by walk and getting familiar with the buses, culture and meeting new people and also paid our visit to Postoffice at last we went to the weekend market. We were in Thimphu for 5 days and every day we used to discover new things about this lovely city.

TIPS from my perspective:

  • Please make sure you carry your passport/original voter Id, driving license, two passport size photographs along with you to apply for a permit.
  • I would suggest to take a hotel near Clock tower square.
  • National Folk Heritage Museum is open from Mon to Friday 10:30am to 4:30 pm Saturday: 10:30am to 1pm and on Sunday 11:30am to 3:30pm. Entrance fee is 150N.u
  • Don’t miss Buddha dordenma, Zoo & National Memorial Chorten.
  • If you want to experience nightlife of Thimphu, I would suggest you to go Vivo city.

Bhutan Diaries: A day in Paro

After bagging some unforgettable memories & pictures in Chelela Pass.  We made our way to Paro which was a one hour ride from Chelela pass. We were waiting for this day from a long time because of the most exciting place called Tiger’s nest monastery a.k.a Paro Taktsang. Paro is a place of peace and serenity with colorful buildings. This charming town Paro is very small compared to Thimphu. It lies on the banks of the Paro Chhu(river). It seems that the main street was built only 30 years ago, is lined with colourfully Concrete buildings, painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants. A walking tour in Paro will be your best experience to explore Bhutanese Culture. It hardly takes an hour for you to complete the whole walking tour..

Windows and doors (7)

The main street of Paro, is lined with colourfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants, decorated with the beautiful flowers and few multistorey buildings.

National Museum of Bhutan: Ta Dzong

Our First stop, Since we visited Paro on Saturday we had to hurry, in order  to visit the famous Paro museum because it gets closed at 11AM on Saturdays. The museum is located beautifully but is also prone to thunders as the original museum was damaged after being hit by a thunder in the year 2013.

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The original museum was damaged after being hit by a thunder in the year 2013.

The museum is now shifted in the newly constructed building adjacent to the old one.  The Paro museum shows you the history and present of Bhutan like any other national museum in the world.

Paro_city_Overview

Paro city overview from a viewpoint in Ta dzong comple

The most interesting part of it was the display of various birds of Bhutan and the history was also captivating enough. After a knowledgeable visit to the national museum.We explored the town as our driver was a locale of Paro so he was introducing us the culture of Paro and was explaining us differences between Paro & Thimphu. We stopped our vehicle at a viewpoint where Paro airport is visible.

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Paro Airport has been described as “the most difficult commercial airport in the world”.

Paro Airport: World’s most challenging airports

It is the sole international airport in Bhutan. The airport is 6 km from Paro in a deep valley on the bank of the river Paro Chhu. With surrounding peaks as high as 5,500 m (18,000 ft), Airplanes on approach pass by 5,500m Himalayan mountain peaks, and the 1,980m runway length presents a double challenge, due to the extremely high density altitude at the site.it is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports.

We had a small stopover at a home cum restaurant for having Brunch.  We had some authentic Bhutanese food which was yummy too.

Windows and doors (8)

Inside of a Bhutanese House cum hotel.We had a Colorful Local lunch.

Kyichu lhakhang: Oldest temple in Bhutan

Then our next stop was in Kyichu lhakhang which is believed to be the oldest temple in Bhutan.This temple is popularly believed to have been built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet, to pin down the left foot of a giant ogress who was thwarting the establishment of Buddhism into Tibet. Only the history enthusiasts Me, Karthik and Lalla had paid our visit to this temple. And of course we wrapped up our visit in 30mins. The temple is extremely sacred for the Buddhist and it does tell you a story of Bhutan history and old architecture as we see lots of prayer wheels encrypted on the walls of the temple.

After paying our visit to this historical temple we started to the most exciting part of our trip ‘Tiger’s nest Monastery’ a.k.a Taktsang Lhakhang. Stay tuned to read more about our trek to the Tiger’s next monastery…

Bhutan Diaries: People

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Selfie maniacs..

Karma

The best part of travelling is meeting new people and making new friends. We may never cross paths with these people again, but they may just change your life forever.

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This cute little girl is holding my Finger. I still wonder how could such a tiny hand created so many emotions within me.. The feelings are just overwhelming, Her cuteness has added joy in me..

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Students attending their Freshers party in Art school

Bhutan Faces 8 (3)

I know this pic isn’t that good but I loved watching this Little kid drumming on the dustbin..

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Made some amazing Chinese friends. We really had fun while exploring Dordenma Budha statue..

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This little guy was the most energetic and active boy..we came across through in Thimphu.

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Piligrims while circumambulating in National memorial chorten.

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Shot this from the taxi while returning from Buddha statue..

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Little girls praying at Thimphu memorial, Thimphu

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Piligrims at National Memorial Chorten

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Cute little kid was coming towards us while his elder brother is pulling him towards him..

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These guys explained about their art the customs of their school..

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Little angels with a backdrop of Mighty himalayas..captured them enroute Phuentsholling-Thimphu.

Guest post: Two Little Girls

Two Little girls, sitting on a mountain
With big dreams, flowing like a fountain
Children, God’s one creation
Looking at His another creation
Taking in the calmness of high mountains
And the depth of deep valleys
Wilderness of the breeze
Making their hands freeze
Little eyes, wishing to touch the sky
Like a bird, willing to fly
Two Little girls, sitting on a mountain
With big dreams, flowing like a fountain

Two little girls (2)

Two little girls.. Spotted somewhere in between Phuentsholing to Thimphu,Bhutan

Poem by Gurpreet kaur a creative soul with a poetic mind had brought some lively emotions to this picture by her words. She sees the world differently and her words help us to see the world in her perspective. The way she expresses her thoughts in her poems is quite impressive. I have never seen the beauty of this picture until I read these lines from her..
..I hope you’ll like it too..

Fantastic Friday: Windows and doors

A Window is more entertaining than a TV.. clicked @ENchey monastery, Gangtok Sikkim.

A Window is more entertaining than a TV.. clicked @ENchey monastery, Gangtok Sikkim.

Doors and Windows represent the culture and architecture..

Doors and Windows represent the culture and architecture..

Paro is a place of peace and serenity with colorful buildings..

Paro is a place of peace and serenity with colorful buildings..

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” - William Butler Yeats

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” – William Butler Yeats

Entrance of Punakha Dzong

Entrance of Punakha Dzong

Skull & Penis (Phallus-A symbol of fertility in Bhutan) at the entrance of Folk & Heritage museum of Bhutan.

Skull & Penis (Phallus-A symbol of fertility in Bhutan) at the entrance of Folk & Heritage museum of Bhutan.

Clicked at Zorig Chusum

Clicked at Zorig Chusum

Meridian Hotel, Clock tower road, Thimphu

Meridian Hotel, Thimphu

Colorful Zorig Chusum

Colorful Zorig Chusum

In the olden days people used to hang Skulls at the entrance..

In the olden days people used to hang Skulls at the entrance..

In Most of the Bhutanese Constructions, Smaller windows are built into lower floors, with larger windows on upper levels to add to structural soundness. Clicked at Punakha

In Most of the Bhutanese Constructions, Smaller windows are built into lower floors, with larger windows on upper levels to add to structural soundness. Clicked at Punakha

Inside of a Bhutanese House/hotel. Colorful Local lunch :P

Inside of a Bhutanese House/hotel. Colorful Local lunch 😛

Clicked at Lachung,Sikkim.  What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.” -Julia Cameron.

Clicked at Lachung,Sikkim.
What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.” -Julia Cameron.

Adventure begins: RoRboyz On the Road again..

‘RoRBoyz’ is a name which represents a symbol of friendship for over 11 years. When we are together, we always try to look beyond the horizon and think of different yet exciting endeavors. There is no dearth of fun in Rorboyz, you are always welcome with open arms to follow the fun. In short, Rorboyz epitomizes the word ‘Friendship’.

We have made toys  with our logo on it’s Tee’s. In our coming trips, we’ll try to click their pictures in such a way that it summarizes our whole trip.

With the backdrop of Paro Airport, Bhutan

With the backdrop of Paro Airport, Bhutan

With Thimphu City as a backdrop..

With Thimphu City as a backdrop..

RoRBoyz @ 169 feet Buddha Statue & is one of the largest Buddha rupas in the world.

RoRBoyz @ 169 feet Buddha Statue & is one of the largest Buddha rupas in the world.

Born for Adventures...

Born for Adventures…

On the Road again..

On the Road again..

Adrenaline filled trips..

Adrenaline filled trips..

Mountains are calling..:P

Himalayas…

 

Bhutan Diaries: Faces

Little children, sweet and lovely Buds from Heaven sent to earth! Let us love them, teach them, guide them, Fill their lives with joy and mirth... Looking up with eyes of laughter, Holding out their tiny hands; Bless these little ones, oh, Master! ~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham

Little children, sweet and lovely Buds from Heaven sent to earth! Let us love them, teach them, guide them, Fill their lives with joy and mirth…
Looking up with eyes of laughter, Holding out their tiny hands; Bless these little ones, oh, Master!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham

Senior Students welcoming junior students by serving traditional pans..(Fresher's day)

Senior Students welcoming junior students by serving traditional pans..(Fresher’s day)

"The soul is healed by being with children." -English Proverb Spotted this child at Thimphu Memorial.

“The soul is healed by being with children.” -English Proverb
Spotted this child at Thimphu Memorial.

One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera.

One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress, unique garments that have evolved over thousands of years. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera.

Pretty ladies capturing precious memories..

Pretty ladies capturing precious memories..

A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. -Colin Powell

A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
-Colin Powell

Fantastic Friday: With Travel Quotes

A traveller without observation is a bird without wings.- Moslih Eddin Saadi.

A traveller without observation is a bird without wings.- Moslih Eddin Saadi.

 If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet. – Rachel Wolchin

If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet. – Rachel Wolchin

Travel is all about the Journey...Not the Destination

Travel is all about the Journey…Not the Destination

Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place. - Gentlemen's wisdom

Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place. – Gentlemen’s wisdom

We travel, not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

We travel, not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Miriam Beard

Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Miriam Beard


The untold story of Blue woad truck: My name is blue woad.. I carry a load, On the road, I eat at a truck stop, I Sleep in a parking lot, Sometimes I get struck in the traffic, Sometimes I get stuck in the snow But still I carry heavy loads, On the dirty roads,  If no load, I will fold, I'll serve you until I'm old.

he untold story of Blue woad truck:
My name is blue woad..
I carry a load,
On the road,
I eat at a truck stop,
I Sleep in a parking lot,
Sometimes I get struck in the traffic,
Sometimes I get stuck in the snow
But still I carry heavy loads,
On the dirty roads,
If no load, I will fold,
I’ll serve you until I’m old. -Dr.Rohith Reddy Pathuri