Trip Photo Album

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Bumthang to Wangdue

Another long car day.  We left Bumthang about 8 am and arrived in Wangdue at 6 pm.  

Just for local color here are two pictures of the house across the street from the hotel.

Our next stop was the weaving factory… the factory was open but the shop wasn’t.

We noticed the snow as we began to rise towards Yutong La (3400 meters).  At the top we put up our own (blessed) prayer flags for long life, good health and all general good things for all sentient beings  ( especially friends and family).

Today not being a Sunday we had to deal with two construction zones .  We waited about 45 minutes at the first one and about an hour at the second one.  Between the landslides and the large trucks traffic on these roads, we were surprised there weren’t more of these zones.

We took a slight detour after Pele La to see the one remaining black necked crane near Gangtey.  And then on to Wangdue.  Here is the Wandgdue Dzong, which we only plan to view from the outside.  Tomorrow Fertility Temple and back to Paro via Thimphu.

Bumthang

 Today was primarily a temple day. We visited 4 temples/monasteries – 2 private and 2 state funded. Most of the temples have their paintings refurbished fairly frequently. The first place we visted (one of the private ones)  is an exception to that rule and has preserved the 15th century originals. They were really fascinating and we spend quite a bit of time examining them with Julie’s flashlight.  We also visited one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan and another one of Guru Rimpoche’s commemorative temples (Tigers Nest being the other one) – at this one he defeated a demon, restored a kings “vital force” and left his body imprint on a stone ( which we saw).

Below is just an assortment from temple exteriors and courtyards, including a close up of a stone from a Mani Wall ( each stone spelling out Om Mani Padme Om in Sanskrit).

After lunch we visited the Bunthang Dzong for Bumthang.. called the Jakar (White Bird) and climbed to the top of the tower ( the tallest Dzong tower).    At the top we looked down on the roofs of the buildings and there was an entrance to a male only temple with demon skins hung above the doorway.

Back at the hotel…..

..we enjoyed a traditional hot stone bath.  Outside this pool room are people heating rocks in a fire and then using the rocks to heat water which they let into the tub on demand.  They also float herbs in the tub.  We had a great soak for about an hour before we cleaned up for dinner.  It was great.

Punakha

Down, down, down, down (and passed on the way by the elder queen mother and her motorcade ( there are 4 queen mothers as the former king has 4 wives)).  We arrive in Punakha at about 4,400 feet with a beautiful river  and very warm and tropical feeling.  It is Saturday, so the Saturday vegetable market is going on as we pull into town.

We quickly head for the Punakha Dzong, known as the most beautiful Dzong and rightly so.  These two shots show, but hardly do justice to the exterior.  It sits at the confluence of two beautiful rivers.

Here is a couple of interior shots, the entrance to the temple – definitely the nicest we have seen with 3 story ceiling, golden columns and a wonderful set of paintings of the life of Buddha.  We found out our driver, Kado, was a boy monk at this temple at the age of 9.

The second shot just shows a courtyard with some of the mountains in the background.  We spent quite awhile here.  It was beautiful everywhere you looked and we really enjoyed it.

After lunch in town we attempted to find a pharmacy for some allergy drugs for me.  The pharmacy had pretty empty shelves.  Our guide convinced us to try the hospital, where I was seen very quickly.  The doctor told me how much he admired the Canadian medical system and let me know about Stephen Harper’s demise ( political demise, for you non-Canadians). He then gave me what what drugs he had in stock .. enough until I left the country.. so I wouldn’t have a sinus issue with the airplane travel.  This is a picture of the hospital grounds.  All medical care ( even for tourists, apparently) is free here.

We went on a drive to see some sites and we played on the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan for awhile.  As we drove back through town the Saturday market was breaking up and people were heading home

We returned to our hotel, which  has a lovely view, as seen below.   As dusk approached two tourist buses full of guests arrived, and some people for a Unicef conference, so it will be busy here for dinner tonight.   Tomorrow on to Bumthang.

Thimphu 2

Another beautiful day in Thimphu.  We drove up to near the telecom towers above Thimphu and then took a lovely walk of about an hour to a temple high on a crest of another hill.  Near the start of our walk we went through a forest of prayer flags.  Here is Julie among them.

We then continued to the temple. Here is a view of the door to the courtyard.

And here are some “sanctuary roosters” that live there. They have been saved from the slaughter house and brought here to enjoy their days.  Their crowing punctuated our meditation.

We spent some time in the temple and then started our way back.  Here is a large prayer wheel just outside the temple and a lovely view of the Thimphu Dzong from this spot.


After our walk back through forests, we had lunch in the city and then visited a Buddhist Nunnery. This is their courtyard.  We were able to help a small nun with a headache.

And just outside their compound is this view of the Thimphu Dzong.

We ended our tour day with a walk through the Thimphu Zoo.  We saw the Takin – the National Animal,  sort of goats head on a 750 lb. cows body.  Too far away to see with this camera, but pretty impressive.  There were young ones as well.

To Bhutan!!

One last madcap ride through the streets of Kathmandu to the airport. Tickets, debarkation, security xray and bodysearch (separate lines for men and women), a hand search of the same carry on bags and a check that we had separate stamps on our tickets for each of those stations. Then we were free to wait at the gate. There is a new distance between planes for Kathmandu (good idea given the level of visibility) so our plane had to do some circling. We watched some of the sad news from Japan while we were waiting.
A quick ride to Paro. We were able to see Everest again, from a slightly different angle. Good thing we already had our pictures – many different heads would have been in any photo.
The pilot announced “On our way into Paro we may come closer to the mountains than you have ever been before in a plane. Please do not be disturbed, this is quite normal for our approach here.” Glad he warned us!

Wow and here we are. What a beautiful place. It just feels happy. Even the airport is beautiful.


We ate lunch at our hotel, did a little unpacking, and then headed for the National Museum which opens at 2. It used to be the watch tower for the Paro Dzong. It is now six levels of history, including thangkas, statues, metallurgy, armor, and an amazing Tree of Refuge with the 4 lineages of Tibetan/Bhutanese Buddhism. No photos allowed inside, but here we are right before we went in.


On the way out we looked down at the festival we will be at tomorrow and the Paro Dzong next to it.


We then headed out for the ruin of a Dzong up the valley. On the way we caught an archery contest – amazing 150 yards and a small target – and we looked up the mountain to Tigers Nest where we will go day after tomorrow.


The walk around the old Dzong was enough to tire us out at almost 8000 feet. Early dinner and to bed.