Sunday, 16 July 2017

Punakha, Bhutan Diaries - 7


While planning the trip to Punakha , I was constantly in confrontation with a doubt...whether to allot a night stay at Punakha or make it a day trip from Thimpu. After doing a lot of reading and analysis on the distance and weather I finally decided that we will keep Punakha as a day trip from Thimpu. Also the temperature in Punakha is much more than that of Thimpu or Paro, so in June it does not make much sense to spend a day. Maybe during the winter months the scenario would have been different.

Distance from Thimpu to Punakha is not much, around 90 km. We started early as usual to avoid the touristy crowd. The road goes via Dochulla Pass. 'La' means a mountain pass and Dochula is situated at an elevation of 3100 metres above sea level on the Thimpu Punakha Road. The pass is also famous for the Druk Wangyal Chortens or the 108 stupas arranged in 3 layers on a hillock at the pass. On a clear morning, the entire Bhutan Himalayan range can be seen from here but most of the time the weather remains foggy and cold.We also could not see the Bhutan Himalayan range at the time of going or coming back because of the fog.

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Dochulla Pass

Opposite to the Druk Wangyal Chortens is the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang which is a temple built as a memorial to commemorate the Bhutanese causalities in the Assamese militant conflict. The interior of the temple has modern paintings related to modern Bhutanese culture such as airplanes, monk with laptop etc.

Druk Wangyal Lhakhang


From the road we saw the small Chimi Lhakhang village famous for the Chimi Lhakhang monastery and also for the houses which have elaborate and decorative paintings of phallus on the walls. Our driver Ugyen told us that we will come to the Monastery later on our way back.

We reached Punakha Dzong, the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. It is situated at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley.  The source of the Mo chu river is in the northern hills of Lighsi and Laya in Bhutan and the Po Chu River is glacier fed. After both the rivers join at Punakha, they form the main river  known as Puna TsangChu and flows  through Wangdue Phodrang, crosses the Bhutan–India border at Kalikhola and eventually meets the Brahmaputra River in India.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

The Punakha Dzong is one of the most photographed dzong in the world for its beauty. We saw beautiful and vibrant jacaranda and bougainvillea blooms all around the dzong. We had to cross a small wooden bridge over the Mo Chu river to enter the dzong. From the bridge,we saw a group of tourists doing water rafting in the Mo Chu river.. They waved at us and we waved them back.

The dzong was the administrative capital of Bhutan till 1955 after which the capital was shifted to Thimpu. However the dzong still holds its glory. Now it is the administrative capital of Punakha district and the second largest dzong in Bhutan.

We had to climb a small wooden staircase to enter the dzong. The security personnel did a customary bag check and allowed us to get in. The architecture inside is very very beautiful with wooden staircases, railings, floors and wall paintings. There are two levels of courtyards. Administrative offices are in the first courtyard while monks hostels are on the second courtyard. There is also a very old Bodhi tree in the centre. The dzong also houses a big temple.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

Inside Punakha Dzong

The next place of interest was the suspension bridge that is very near to the Punakha Dzong.It is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and is built on the Pho Chu river. It swings pretty well when the winds are strong and that can give a panic attack to any tourist.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

We had our lunch at Lingar Hotel. They took a lot of time to serve us but the food was amazing. Their food items had a good mix of Bhutanese and Indian (strictly speaking Bengali) spread.

Next we headed towards the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery. This monastery is famous because of a Bhutanese divine madman who used unconventional teaching methods to create awareness on Buddhist teachings . As per legend, women used to seek blessings from the divine madman named Drupka Kunley in form of sex. He wanted to spread the message that a pure monks life can be lead even by not following celibacy. He is also referred to as the 'fertility saint' and he was the one who introduced the phallus painting as a religious symbol to ward of evil.Our car went through the small Chimi Lhakhang village. There are not too many houses in the village but all have paintings of phallus on their walls. There are shops selling wooden phallus souvenirs.

To reach the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery we had to trek a little. The monastery is pretty simple and has a big prayer wheel at the entrance. There is also a small ground where there are benches for visitors to sit and relax. The place is also very windy. Far away we could see the vast green fields and the hills.
Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang village

Chimi Lhakhang

Short trek to Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang


Layers in agriculture at Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang village

Wooden handicrafts shops

Paintings of holy phallus on walls of houses


Paintings of holy phallus on walls of houses
Chimi Lakhang

On the way back we crossed the Dochulla Pass once more but did not stop since we took the same road in the morning. Just before entering Thimpu we saw the Simtokha Dzong but we did not enter. It is a small dzong and currently it is the Dzongkha ( the national language of Bhutan )language learning institute.

Simtokha Dzong

On the way we stopped at a good vantage point from where the city of Thimpu looked magical in the evening sun light. We reached hotel and called it a day.

Thimpu while returning back

Thimpu city from a view point

We kept aside the next day in Thimpu for relaxing and shopping. We wanted to absorb the vibes of Thimpu by just being in Thimpu and doing nothing. Sometimes that is so energizing.

Do watch our vlog on Punakha. Do LIKE, SUBSCRIBE and SHARE to show us that you love.



Important Information:
Places we covered in the same day tour to Punakha and back
1)Dochulla Pass
2)Druk Wangyal Lhakhang
3) Punakha Dzong
4) Chimi Lhakhang
5) Lobesa Village
6) Simtokha Monastery

Car charges for the entire trip: 3500 Ngultrum

3 comments:

  1. photos are amazing! Would love if you read my article on Bhutan as well. www.ourvagabondstories.com

    ReplyDelete

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