THIMPU-the capital city
Thimpu, perhaps the most unusual capital in
the world, is a bustling town on the banks of
the Thimpu River and set gloriously in the hills
of the Thimpu Valley. Thimpu is the home of
the revered Bhutanese Royal family. the Royal
Government and Judiciary and to be several foreign
missions and development projects.
On the banks of the river lies Tashichho Dzong,
the main secretariat building which houses the
throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan.
The National Assembly Hall located in new building
on the opposite of the banks of river from the
dzong. During the warmer summer months, the
monk body led by His Holiness the Je Khenpo,
makes its home in the dzong.
Next to the dzong is the Bhutan's only golf
course nine hole circuit, popular with Thimpu's
residents, that offers a break from sight seeing
for visiting players.
Thimpu's charm is not embedded in its wealth
of museums or places of historic interest. Visitors
must wander along the main street and into shops,
all of which are decorated in a traditional
style. Thimpu's shopkeepers are helpful and
will do their best to oblige even the smallest
Tourists can enjoy Bhutanese and Indian food
in a growing number of free standing restaurants.
Here you will see Thimpu's society taking time
off from their schedules. The Swiss Bakery located
in the centre of town is a popular meeting place
for coffee and cake.
Bhutan's capital is ideal spot for day walks.
Phajoding Monastery is a three hour hike from
the Mothithang area of Thimpu. The walk is steep
and will test an average walker but the efforts
is more then rewarding with the stunning views
over the city and a good sample of Bhutanese
flora on the way up.
PARO - Valley of temples and monasteries
If ever a place exists where nature and man
consulted to create their dearest image, it
must be the valley of Paro. Generally visitors
enter the kingdom of Bhutan at Paro by national
airline, Druk Air. Thirty years ago all visitors
would have walked for five days across the mountains
from the Indian Border. Now the journey by air
is about one hour from Calcutta, India, or Kathmandu,
Paro Valley is one of the most populated area
in the country. Because of its proximity to
the airport, there are hotels and tourist amenities
close by. The Paro Valley contains a wealth
of attractions and requires a few days to be
Casting a shadow across the town of Paro and
controlling all secular and religious activities
in its valley is the elegant and perfectly symmetrical
Rinpung Dzong( above image). It is a fortress
situated on a knoll across the Paro Chu river
with a commanding view of the Paro valley.
Behind Rinpung Dzong, on the high hillside,
is the castle shaped Ta Dzong. Once a watch
tower built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley
wars in the 17th Century, Ta Dzong has housed
the nations heritage in Bhutan's National Museum
since 1967.The museum provides an excellent
way to pass an
afternoon and its circular shape augments its
Paro was the first stop of Guru Rimponche on
his crusade from Tibet to Bhutan (over thousand
years ago). Guru Rimponche is said to have arrived
on the back of a tigress and meditated at Taktsang
monastery, now a hallowed shrine for Bhutanese
Pilgrims. A terrible fire in April 1998 destroyed
Taktsang's medieval wall paintings and all the
inner temples. The monastery will be rebuilt
by the Royal Government. Tourists are still
able to visit the look- out point and cafeteria
about three hours of walk from the road.
There are few handicraft , souvenir and grocery
shops in Paro. All hotels in the town have souvenir
shops where visitors can buy last minute gifts
Eighteen kilometers from Paro town on the north
side of the valley are the burnt ruins of Druguel
Dzong (Victorious Fortress). It was from here
that the Bhutanese repelled several invading
Tibetan armies during the 17th century.
PUNAKHA-the old capital
The road from Simkotha winds into pine forests
and through small villages for 20 kms and then
opens miraculously into the northern ridge of
the mountains. The view over the Himalayas at
Dochula Pass, at 10,500 feet, is one of the
most spectacles in all Bhutan.
Punakha lies about two hours drive from the
Dochula down low in its valley. Punakha Dzong
is home to the central monk body and the Je
Khenpo (spiritual leader) during the winter
months. Punakha's climate and warmer temperatures
make its valley one of the most fertile in Bhutan.
One of the most striking features of the valley
is its abundance of crops and the vast terraces
of rice fields which change from lush green
in summer to golden yellow in autumn.Chime Lakhsang
located on a hillock among the rice fields is
a picturesque and it's a pilgrimage site for
childless couples. The temple is associated
with the famous saint Drukpa Kuenlay who built
this Chorten on the site.
Punakha served as capital of Bhutan until 1955.The
town of Punakha ,while dominated by dzong, grew
in the 1990s under several Royal inspired development
programmes. In spite of four catastrophic fires
and an earth quake that destroyed many artifacts
and the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
WANGDUE PHODRANG-the rich pastureland
Wangdue Phodrang is the last town on the high
way before entering central Bhutan. The town
is little more then an enlarged village with
a few well provided shops and hotels. Wangdue
Phodrongs formidable dzong is the towns most
visible feature. The road from Wangdue to Trongsa
is one of the prettiest in Bhutan, passing streams,
forests and villages before climbing to the
Pelela pass and on the dramatic Trongsa Valley.
South of the highway is the Gantey Gompa and
is an old monastery dated from the 17th century.
This dramatic place is house to the rare black
necked cranes that migrate from Tibet to pass
the winter in lower climes .The rare birds can
also be seen in East Bhutan at Yangtse.
BUMTHANG-the valley of pilgrimage importance
The Yutongla Pass and a series of hair raising
bends at 11,500 feet separate the valleys of
Trongsa and Bumthang. Views of Trongsa Valley
on the ascent are superb. Bumthang has an individuality
that charms its visitors and separates other
regions. Comprised of four smaller valleys,
the deeply spiritual region of Bumthang is shrouded
in religious legend.
Apart from the dzong at Jakar, smaller monasteries
are situated all over the valley. Tales of Padma
Sambhava dominates these holy shrines. The valley
is home to the sacred Jampa and Kurjey Monasteries
where bodily marks of Guru Rimponche are impressed
upon a rock. Kurjey Monastery located at the
end of the valley is the most sacred monastery
or temples the country. Its golden roofs and
ornate façade make a perfect backdrop
for a morning's stroll around the valley. The
Bumthang District is home to Bhutan's Spiritual