Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bhutan: Paro

7th to 9th April 2013

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Paro was the town where we started our trip. And the trip was supposed to end at Paro.  We were staying for three nights in Paro as we planned to cover many places nearby. Olathang resort was the place we stayed in Paro; it is the established in 1974 to accommodate the guests invited for the coronation of the King.

Paro Dzong
Like in any town of Bhutan, Paro has a Dzong that dominates the town.

I was denied entry into the Dzong. I was wearing T shirt which was against the dress code of Dzongs. It was a hot day and I was bit casual with my dressing. I rushed back to car, wore my jacket and returned back to Dzong. The guard nodded his head affirmatively.

The view of Paro valley is spectacular from the Dzong.

The watch tower overlooks the Dzong and Paro valley. Now converted into museum, it houses several artefacts related to Buddhism and Bhutan culture. But the earthquake in 2011 (that hit Sikkim badly) had made the watch tower unstable thus forcing the authorities to close down. Some of the artefacts have moved to a building nearby.

The new museum itself was very interesting but our guide lamented that what we saw was just 5% of the old museum in watch tower.

Drukgyal Dzong
On one evening, we visited Drukgyal Dzong, a ruined monastery about 16 km from Paro. It was destroyed by fire in 1950s and is abandoned since then.

Nothing much is left in the Dzong. But somehow I like such places!! Even my daughter seemed to like this place.

This is the place where the famous “Snow man trek” starts. Known was the toughest trek; it lasts for 25 days covering 11 high altitude passes!! I hope one day I will make it.

Kyichu Lakhang
One of the oldest Temple in Bhutan.

Flowers in an apple tree at the Temple.

Farmhouse visit
We took some time out to visit a farmhouse near Paro. We happen to practically see the snow bath here. In simplistic terms, it is a procedure where stones are heated until they become glowing red and then placed in water. Few medicine plants are then added for bathing!!

Field to practice archery.

In Bhutan, cameras were not allowed inside the Temple. Here in farmhouse they had a huge prayer hall which resembled typical interiors of Temple in Bhutan.

But the visit to Paro is not yet over. Big ones are yet to come!!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bhutan: Bumthang to Punakha

6th April 2013

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Sitting in the balcony of the hotel in Bumthang, I was thinking about my itinerary. When I planned a trip to Bhutan for 10 days, several people asked me what is there to see in Bhutan for 10 days. And I was struggling to fit all the places I wanted to see in these 10 days!!

One way to exit Bhutan from Bumthang is to travel further east to the town of Samdrup Jhonkar bordering Assam. From there head towards Guwahati. But that needs three days of travel thourgh the hilly regions of Bhutan. The travel would be long and tedious, which would be too demanding for my daughter. And there is no fun just to rush than spending time to see places. I need a week to just see few places I had in mind.

So, we will be heading back from Bumthang. During onward journey, we had only few stops on the way as I was not sure about the time it takes to reach Bumthang. Now that I know the travel time, we could stop at places I had mentally mapped two days ago.

April is the time of Rhododendrons, which we saw throughout the journey.

In Trongsa, we stopped at the watch tower overlooking Trongsa Dzong. This was built to find out any enemy attack. That was during the days when various small kingdoms were fighting amongst themselves. The significance of watch tower is lost during peaceful times and hence it is now converted into National Museum.  It contains belongings of royal family, describes deities, costumes and religious artefacts.

Trongsa Dzong from watch tower. This is how they could find the enemies nearing in.

There were many waterfalls near Trongsa. Few of them were on the road side.

 Another one.

This must be somewhere near black mountains. I remembered seeing a two stage falls while coming but could not see it now. It cannot go dry in two days, so I missed it!!

Skies cleared a little when we were climbing down Pele La. This is what I could get.

Again we were struck at a traffic jam near Nubding town.

A typical farm in remote Bhutan.

Some hills are covered with flowers.

We were back in Punakha at the same resort in the evening. This time we went to river side which resembled a white sand beach. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Bhutan: Bumthang

5th April 2013

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It started raining the moment we reached Jakar town in Bumthang.  As the temperature headed southwards, jackets were pulled out from rucksacks to keep us warm. There was nothing much to do other than savoring hot tea at the balcony of the resort and take a look at the valley and its surroundings. What a peaceful place it was!! Wi-Fi was available that helped us to get updates from outside world.

Next day morning opened with clear skies. Compared to the long journey of previous day, we will be spending a relaxed day in Bumthang. We first visited Jampey Lhakhang on the other side of Jakar. Jampey Lhakhang is an old Temple built during 7th century. On the way we cross Jakar Airport which is nothing but a strip of runway for an aircraft to land.

Our next place of visit was Kurjey Lhakhang on the other side of the River. It looked very near and we decided to cover this distance on foot. But it took us more than 30 minutes as the suspension bridge across the River was far away. The weather was pleasant and the scenery was beautiful and walking on such conditions was always a nice experience.

We stopped at many place to take photographs of the River, the trees and the flowers.

My daughter became cranky towards the end and we had to call the vehicle to pick her up. She had an overdose of Dzongs, monasteries and Lhakhangs. She started hating them. We had promised to take her to the River. But we could not find a good spot to get into and she was not happy with it.

We made a brief stop at Tamshing Goemba which had some good paintings.

And not to forget the prayer bells.

And finally the Jakar Dzong. Situated on a ridge, it provides nice view of the valley.

The weather by then had turned cloudy and the views were subdued.

We made a short visit to the town center by buy recharge cards. The Jakar town wore a deserted look even during mid day. The main bazaar was burned down in major fire in 2010. A large number of buildings were still temporary structures.

After lunch, we headed to the River side. My daughter’s spirits were suddenly raised and we see her enjoying the water!!

A long time was spent at the River side. We had to reluctantly depart when the dark skies indicated for to rains to pour.