Welcome back to my Blog .. this time its Bhutan on the platter …
If you are a ‘nature lover’, and looking for an off-beat break from your mundane, hum bugging life, well go spend some time in most preserved nation in the World – the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan or the Last Shangri-La. Also known to be a kingdom of Happiness, or that of Thunder Dragon, they really focus on GNH – Gross National Happiness index rather than GDP. It is an awesome place to go and spend a laid back family vacation.
A lot depends on how much time you could take out for yourself. A one week tour of West Bhutan (most popular) OR a two week tour of whole Bhutan ( my recommendation) would be a HAPPY thing to do. Its nature abound – and can literally be done the whole year around except monsoon months from June to September.
Having done lots and lots of Bhutan, i have some recommendations to make. If you are in Bhutan, I would recommend that you must not miss the 12 things that i am now going to list for you.
1. Taktsang Monastery, Paro – Going to Tigers’ Nest in Bhutan is like going to Taj Mahal in India. It is an amazing wonder how this Monastery got made in the first place – atop a vertical cliff overhang …the complex was first built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup caves where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century.
Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the prime deity of the country. Paro Taktsang is best known for the thirteen Taktsang or “tiger lair” caves in which he meditated. Trekking to Tiger’s Nest is a nice half day spent – and a big tick on any travelers’ bucket list.
2. Great Buddha Dordenma, Thimpu – While at Thimpu, the is a must go and spend some time. It is a gigantic 169 feet, Shakyamuni Buddha statue. The construction was completed on September 25th 2015 in the Thimpu, celebrating their 60th anniversary of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The complex is still being finished with the help of engineers from Japan. It claims to be the 8th wonder of the world – when completed. You also get some very good panoramic views of Himalayas and Thimpu valley from here.
3. Motithang Takin Preserve, Thimpu – Here is another unique thing – this time a no-where to be found animal – the TAKIN. Its an animal with head of a goat and body of a cow – and is found only in Bhutan. The myth about its creation goes like this – A Tibetan saint also called Mad Lama – Drukpa Kunley, after eating a goat and a cow for a meal – took the head of the goat and fixed it to the bone skeleton of the cow and uttered abracadabra magic words – and this animal came to life – which had the head of a goat and the body of a cow. Well thats what you see only in Bhutan. It sure is the National animal of Bhutan.
4. Thimphu Chorten. It is a stupa, built in 1974 to honor the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–1972). Next to Tigers Nest, it probably is the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan. This stupa is unique as it does not enshrine human remains. Only the Druk Gyalpo’s photo in a ceremonial dress adorns a hall in the ground floor. When he was alive, Jigme Dorji wanted to build a chorten to represent the mind of the Buddha.
5. Dochula Pass & 108 Chortens – As we begin to go East we reach Dochula pass that connects Thimphu and Punaka valleys. At the pass, the Druk Wangyal Khang Zhang Chortens are red-band , 108 in numbers, built under the patronage of the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. These are called chortens of victory, built as a memorial in honour of the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in the December 2003 – a battle against Assamese insurgents – ULFA. It marks the victory of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who dislodged the rebels from their 30 camps in Bhutanese territory.
6. Temple of Chimi Lakhang, Punaka – Here is an interesting thing coming up as we enter Punaka valley. This temple is located on a round hillock and was built in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyel, after the site was blessed by the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley – the “Divine Madman”. In founding the site it is said that Lama Kunley subdued a demon of Dochu La and trapped it in a rock at the location close to where the chorten now stands.
7. Legacy of the Divine Madman & Phalluses. Drukpa Kunley – the “Divine Madman” had unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by singing, humour and outrageous behaviour, which amounted to being bizarre, shocking and with sexual overtones. He advocated phallus symbols as paintings on walls and flying carved wooden phalluses on house tops at four corners of the eves. You would see them everywhere ..
Traditionally symbols of an erect penis in Bhutan have been intended to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.
The Chimi Lakhang monastery has the original wooden Phallus that Kunley brought from Tibet. A 10 inch wooden phallus ornate with a silver handle and used to bless people who visit the monastery on pilgrimage, particularly women seeking blessings to beget children.
8. Punakha Dzong. This is the most beautiful of all Dzongs in Bhutan, and is located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley. The fortress is also called Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong – meaning very awesome dzong – “the palace of great happiness or bliss”.
The dzong houses the sacred relics of Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal. Punakha Dzong was the administrative centre and the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu.
9. Phobjikha Valley & Gangtey Monastery. The Phobjikha or Gangteng Valley is a large U-shaped glacial valley, named after the impressive Gangtey Monastery of Nyingma Sect in Central Bhutan. This is one of the very few places in the World where the graceful black necked cranes arrive from from Tibet and visit the valley during the winter season to roost. On arrival in the Phobjikha Valley in the last week of October, the black-necked cranes circle the Gangtey Monastery three times and also repeat the process while returning back to Tibet.
10. Bumthang Valley and Red Panda Beer Factory. As we move east we get into a land full of nature and forests. Bumthang valley is a typical deeper Bhutan place where agriculture has been a mainstay since ages – buckwheat, honey, cheese is what they grow. Bumthang has an air strip and there are smaller planes that land here thrice a week from Paro. Bumthang literally means a beautiful field or land of beautiful women.
Another interesting place to visit is Red Panda micro brewery – owned by a swiss national Mr. Maurer, and they make excellent unfiltered, weiss beer. You would get a good round of the plant and a bottle of beer to sample.
11. Amazing Waterfall at Namling, Mongar. As we explore the deeper and Eastern Bhutan – we find ourselves in the midst of nature – far far away from civilisation. The forest, mist and mountains create a silent journey with nature as you take the road from Bumthang to Mongar. One place to stop and see is an amazing waterfall may be more than 300 ft high that vaporises before it hits the ground. It is mesmerising to see this waterfall falling from a cliff and turing into fine micro droplets vanishing in thin air – and never hitting the ground.
12. Witness One Tsechu Festival. Finally, if you are fortunate to be on a Bhutan holiday in the times when one of the monastery annual Tsechu is on, Don’t miss it.
Tshechus are large social gatherings, which perform the function of social bonding among people of Dzonkhongs (regions). The Thimpu, Paro and Bumthang tshechus are popular in terms of participation and audience.
The focal point of the tshechus are Cham Dances. These costumed, masked dances typically are depiction of moral fables based on incidents from the life of the 9th century Saint Padmasambhava and other saints.
Padmasambhava organized the first tshechu in Jakhar, Bumthang where the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava were presented through eight forms of dances. These became the traditional Cham dances depicting the glory of Padmasambhava.
These 12 things would normally be good enough to complete the Bhutan for you. Some more very different thing to do in Bhutan are – pristine trekking, bird watching and monastery tours.
Here is another of my Blog if you want to know why Bhutan is Unique- click the link to read more – Bhutan , The Last Shangri-La
Please feel free to ping if you need any advice … I am just a click or a call away …Until then, signing off .. Cheers!
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