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Bhutan – Land of Thunder Dragon

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Bhutan – Land of Thunder Dragon

Up above in the sky, we embarked parallel to Mt Everest and Kanchenjunga, towards Bhutan. The humbling view of the highest peaks was an incredible sight to hold and an unforgettable memory etched forever in our minds. Excitement, wonder, and peace gripped me before even setting a foot into the world’s happiest country. The plane descends into the narrow valley, termed as the world’s most dangerous landing, towered by the mountains, which leaves no room for manoeuvrability.

The moment you step your foot, beauty of the mountains around and deafening silence, comes gushing your way, a sigh of relief from the hustle bustle of Mumbai. A peek out of the window makes you tag Bhutan, with clean roads, cleaner air, and happier people.

Our first stop was the capital city of Thimpu

An hour and a half ride from the Paro Airport. The unwinding empty roads, which are built and managed by Indian Border Road Organization, are well kept and cleaner than your imagination. This city, which stands tall on the banks of Thimpu River, leaves you with a feeling of a small quaint town in Europe. The unending love for their Royal family and Hindi Operas leaves you amazed. After spending some time with the locals, who are always dressed in the national dress – Kira for women and Gho for Men, one seems to conclude that these people are very content with whatever they have, and don’t wish for more materialism, but sheer happiness.

We retired ourselves into the only mall in Thimpu

We indulged ourselves into bowl of traditional Bhutanese Dish, Ema Datse with red rice. Ema Datse is a basically a bowl of cheesy gravy cooked with green chilies and comes in many variations, the spice content will make you teary emotional by the last bite. Another peculiar specialty is, Suja – the local butter tea, which is served with salt on the side. My taste buds did resonate with it , but would still suggest try and relish the same.

The Tashichoo Dzong, Buddha Dordenma Statue

The world’s largest sitting Buddha, Heritage Folk Museum, Takin Zoo, National Library, were some of the sights we visited. One can gaze the world’s tallest Buddha (169 ft) for hours, and the mesmerized city view and mountainous terrain will make you denounce the world and move to this beautiful country. The Dzong is magnificent with intricately painted walls, depicting various forms of Buddha, Wheel of Life and history of Buddhism. We strolled along, shivering in minus five degrees, the handloom market, where every shop is filled with colorful local souvenirs, and artists selling self-made musical ornaments, shoes to name few.

We made our way to the summer capital of King

Punakha, a picturesque town in West Bhutan. An hour into the ride, we stopped at Dochula Pass (3100 m) to inhale the panoramic views of the icy peaks of Himalayas and the snow-covered 108 chortens built by the eldest Queen Mother. The chortens, backed by the beautiful mountains, serve as a perfect background for your pictures.

In the warm city of Punkaha, magnificent Punkaha Dzong and the fertility temple are must visit.

Few kilometres short of Punakha, we trekked our way to the fertility temple in Lobesa. This walk is an unusual one, with large phallus paintings on the houses and shops, nothing like you would have ever seen. After a little bit of amusement and giggling, we gathered the courage to ask our guide about the same, wherein he narrated that one incarnation of Buddha was infamous for his notorious nature of drinking and playboying across the country, but nevertheless was believed to have killed the demons, thus this painting all over the town.

 

Built on the confluence of two rivers –Mo Chu (female) and Pho Chu (male) rivers, stand the magnificent Punakha Dzong that is the second largest and second oldest Dzong of Bhutan, built in the 17th century by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche. The first king was crowned in 1907 at this Dzong, and till date, all important religious/monarchical events are celebrated here. The Dzong stand tall with pride as a symbol of Unified Bhutan and welcomes you with a giant wooden door with steep stairs, which are pulled up at night. Rafting in the Mo Chu or Po Chu River is the best way to soak in the tranquility of Punakha and admire the fortress. The adrenaline rush of the rafting is accompanied with a ride down Bhutan’s wilderness, characterized with rich flora and fauna and endangered species of wildlife. The impeccably clean rivers of Bhutan are the best-kept open secret of this country.

Upon reaching the city of Paro the following day, we made our way to the oldest Buddhist temple, built in the 8th century, and home to the statue of Buddha Padmasambhva, founder of Tiger Nest. Sheer excitement to conquer the Trek to Taktshang Monastery (or Tiger’s Nest), kept me unsettling. Tiger’s Nest is at height of 3,120 meters, which is literally clinging on a cliff, perched on the Himalayan Mountain, is a 900 meters almost straight trek up from the base of Paro (2,195 meters). Completing this steep rough terrain and traversing the 700 odd stairs, leaves you with a sense of accomplishment. The atmosphere at the monastery is mystical and the panoramic sweeping view of Paro Valley breathtaking. This is surely a “Must-Do” Bucket list Item.

Subsequent to the strenuous trek, we soaked ourselves in Traditional Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath – where fresh river water is mixed with local Artemisia leaves and heated with fire-roasted river stones, with a calming view of Himalayan ranges. After spending a week here, I realized Bhutan is one destination, which will humble you down and still sweep you off your feet. Affordable yet a well-deserved break from our chaotic city life, Bhutan- “The Happy Country” is a must visit for all – worth a memory etched forever in your minds.

This article is written by Nayana Talwar who has been happily traveling since 1998 and writing about it. A long-time advocate of solo travel, she hopes that reading about her experiences will encourage other women to stop waiting for a travel partner and pursue their own travel dreams now.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Subhadip Ghosh

    March 1, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Other than the fact is so well described and vividly documented, it also is a source of inspiration for other women. Kudos to you Nayna. Would like listen about more travel stories from you. All the best

  2. Nikhil gupta

    March 1, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    What a superb travelogue Nayana.. I’m sure this will inspire many people like me who have been wanting to travel to Bhutan to take that trip fast !!

    Awaiting your next one !!

  3. Arthi

    March 1, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    I almost felt I was there..And hope I shall soon😊..Thank you for the lovely read and the detailed itinerary. Keep writing!

  4. Lisa Basumatari

    March 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Nayana, the forever pursuer of Solo Travel. You bet, surely a piece of Bhutan in all that the words spelt. Beautifully captured, the stories of yesteryear.. Hope it ignites the souls into actions, who itch to travel solo! All the best for the next Experientale!

  5. Akanksha singh

    March 1, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    i never knew Bhutan would be this picturesque!!! Especially the trek !
    Keep sharing such wonderful stories and articles and inspire others as well 🙂

  6. Neha

    March 1, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Brilliantly captured nayana .. well articulated while keeping the zest of bhutan alive ..

  7. Nihar

    March 1, 2017 at 10:58 pm

    Superbly articulated! Always knew Bhutan to be mini heaven on earth, but this article helps find the magic beans leading to heaven. Can plan my itinerary now and the exact spots to go. Hope to make a solo trip soon

  8. Aruni Mahapatra

    March 2, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Thankyou , Its one of my favorite place on earth . The picture selections are amazing , They depict very well, what Bhutan stands for- Hapinesss , Tranquility and Spirituality . You ve perhaps covered all the Important places one can visit in Bhutan , the article is a nice teaser and compels to know more. The journey is well documented. Would love to know some interesting interactions with local people . May a couple of memorable incident on cultural things peculiar to that pace ?
    Well Done and thanks again for this apetiser .

    • Krupa Modi

      March 6, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      One of the most beautifully described articles that i have come across. The detailing of the places visited gives a very clear picture of what to expect from the destination. Again, amazing pictures that really make you wanna go.

      Great going girl! Keep inspiring women travelers

  9. SHRUTI

    March 2, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Beautifully described. Helped me create a gorgeous picture of Bhutan through my mind’s eye. Nayana’s description of this happy country will motivate many people to take a trip tonBhutan and explore it with their heart and soul and not just with their minds… Way to go girl….. Your words have created a picturesque image of Bhutan in my mind….

  10. Rohini

    March 4, 2017 at 12:39 am

    We will always remember Bhutan coz we met you there 😀 What a power house of energy man 😘😘 keep traveling and keep sharing stories ..
    Rock it babe ❤❤

  11. Krishna

    March 4, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Beatutifuly described and well drafted coupled with some great pictures. Your article gives a vivid picture of the Serene country.Nayana your description of Bhutan would surely motivate many to spend their next holiday in the foot of the gorgeous mountain. Keep travelling and keep writing.

  12. Arita Ghotra

    March 6, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    Pretty Fab Nayana..Its beautifully written. I virtually traveled through both words and pictures. Like the way your thoughts flow. Keep exploring, keep travelling and keep sharing :). Will love to follow more such travel stories. All the best !!

  13. Prinita

    March 6, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Hey Nayana,
    I just read your article. It was as if i too was along with you in Bhutan… ☺
    👍

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