Sorry for the delay in posts, somehow these got away from me! I’ve also come to the conclusion that taking a guided tour through a country offers one so much knowledge that piecing it together in a blog posts presents as more challenging than anticipated. But here it is! My thoughts and rambles on Punakha!
Punakha was definitely by far my favorite place we visited in Bhutan. It was about a 3 hour drive from Thimphu, but as the bird flies only 15km. Yup those mountains are crazy big and makes for a challenge building a road. Fun fact, it’s only with the past decade that the country of Bhutan is started to become all connected via roads. Meaning that before hand it was super difficult to get from one city to another. It was little tidbits such as this that made me really realize where I was in the world.
Punakha was the original capital of Bhutan until it was moved to Thimphu, and is just a little farming, rice, and chili producing valley town. There isn’t a whole lot going on here. What I loved most about Punakha was the tranquility of it. It was peaceful, quiet, and we had the whole hotel to ourselves the first night (which was a bit odd and almost “Shining-esq”), until a tour group showed up the next day. Taking the time to really enjoy the peace, quiet and serenity of where you are is totally priceless. I’ve also never seen the night sky so clear, since there was basically no light pollution. It was truly a beautiful thing.
On the three-hour drive to Punakha from Thimphu we climbed high into the mountains and got to an elevation of about 3500 meters, which to put that in perspective is about 3/4 of the way up Mt. Fuji. Needless to say the altitude sickness did sort-of kind-of kicked in. However, the drive was breathtaking and we even made a stop at the Dochula Pass, which is a famous site in Bhutan and it’s known for its Himalayan views and 108 prominent stupas. Here are a few pics!
Unfortunately, for us the clouds were covering the top of the mountain ranges and we missed the views, but lets be honest these aren’t too shabby!
After arriving in Punakha we ventured to another temple. This time a temple meant for fertility, and let me tell you the Bhutanese sure love their phallic symbols, they were legit everywhere. The hike to this temple was in the lower part of the valley and it was absolutely breathtaking, we hiked through the rice and chili fields, as well as the little town full of fertility symbolism 😉 John and I even got a blessing at the temple…not like that will happen while in Japan, but at least we have some blessings from Buddha for the future (and yes the future!)
The end of our day was spent at the Punakha Dzong, which is a famous landmark in Bhutan and an incredible sight to see. This Dzong is home to the winter quarters of the High Llama in Bhutan and actually we got there just in time to see some of the decorations for an upcoming festival for him. Every May the High Llama moves from Punahka to Thimphu and there are many festivals to honor this. Oh and get this, he walks. Remember I said it was only 15km from Thimphu to Punakha, well there you go. Guess it’s quicker then driving…
The King and Queen of Bhutan were also married here. They’re photos were literally everywhere in this country and they are pretty idealized and appear super popular with the locals. I can only imagine how beautiful that wedding was!
Our last day was spent at hiking to a temple high in a mountain overlooking the rice fields. The views were absolutely breathtaking (again I need more adjectives), we also wandered through the valley and were able to see traditional Bhutanese homes and randomly even saw the birth of a baby horse, so you know nature and stuff…
Finally, we ended our day exploring a nunnery in the mountains and at the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. Our guide even treated us to some beers overlooking the river. Needless to say, Punakha although quiet and sleepy definitely was my favorite. The views, the quiet valley, and the unbelievably peaceful nights really made for a relaxing two days.
I’ve been a bit slow with these updates lately, mainly because John took a zillion and one photos and it’s taken all this time to sort through them, but also Japan life has me super busy lately. I hope to have our adventures in Paro up in the next week! Thanks for following along on this crazy adventure!
Until next time! Ja Mata じゃまた！