It was time to say bye to Thimphu. We were heading to Punakha now, that is approx. 90 kms away, not directly though. Dochula pass was our 1st stop. The moment we stepped out of the car, the cold winds made their presence felt & how, it was super cold. Consisting of 108 Chorten’s or Stupa’s, this pass was built by the eldest queen & is a war memorial. It is also the venue for the annual Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. You can hike to the temple opposite to get the complete top view, we ditched the hike. Instead had a hot cuppa with a mushroom pattice at the cafe. A elaborate photo session later we were back on the road with bollywood music in the background.
So here’s the thing – almost all bhutanese adults are addicted to pan & supari (betel leaf & nut) & its sold in small plastics at every nook & corner. Obviously, Pema made a stop near the roadside shops to replenish his stock is when I saw beautiful chillies & big puri kinda things packed & stacked. Mekhu – a local snack made in 2 variants – normal & masala(with spices) had to be tried. All I am gonna say is we couldn’t stop at one ☺ Few mekhu’s & a video shoot later, we were now heading to Chimi Lhakhang – the fertility temple in Punakha. Though you can reach the base of the temple in your car, Pema took us walking across the small village, crossing fields, through the lanes between houses. Yes, you will see huge Phallus (erect penis) paintings on most of the walls of the houses. You will also see locals selling paintings, key-chains & other phallus shaped accessories. Once you reach the temple, understand the history behind the “Divine Madman” you will understand the significance. A small temple built for the Divine Madman & a demon trapped in a stone outside the temple is what you can see here. Couples who have not been blessed with kids visit the temple from across the globe to perform a special ritual & seek blessings. As per the priest & the locals, many couples have actually been blessed, post which they visit the temple with their kids. Don’t forget to wear full sleeves shirt/top & full pants/skirts (basically you have to be covered) for this visit.
It was now super hot & the heat along with hunger was getting on to us. There are very few options available for a meal here. Our meal was egg fried rice which was quite boring. But we could see Indian food on the menu too. Mekhu helped us survive the afternoon. Next on the list was Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery – a religious school for nuns. It’s a larger complex which has a meditation centre, dormitory for the nuns where they stay & study. Peaceful & calm. Another spot for the scenic views of Bhutan.
There are 2 rivers in Punakha He/Male river which is strong, robust & She/Female river which is docile & calmer than her partner. At the confluence of these 2 rivers, the Punakha Dzong is located. One of the most majestic Dzongs of Bhutan, this is now the administrative office. A walk on the bridge across the rivers takes you to the main entrance of the dzong. A steep stairs later, you enter one of the most majestic structures. A big stupa & bodhi tree can be see in the courtyard. The white walls, beautifully carved & designed wooden windows makes you wanna keep looking at them. Even the wooden panels painted mostly in red, gold & black are really unique. Don’t ask me anything about the history of the dzong as I didn’t hear much what Pema was saying & was busy clicking pictures. Before leaving the premise we entered the main temple that hosts a huge buddha statue & the walls depict his entire life history through elaborate paintings.
This was also the venue for the Royal Wedding.
Thanks to our instastories, we got to know of one of most popular Bhutanese songs & Pema tried teaching us the same.
Since Punakha didn’t have any airbnb options, we had to choose one of the resorts there. We checked-in at the Damche Resorts located right next to the river. The room was really small & absolutely basic. You have to place your dinner order by 7:30 pm & the staff ensures that you do it. Simple dal, paratha & a paneer subzi was eaten, followed by some TV time. A good conversation later, we dozed off.
Day 5 – Click Here