Bhutan may be small on the world map but it’s really big if the only means of transportation is by car. There is no trains nor domestic airports yet. I think that it’s nice to stay that way even though it takes a bit more time commuting. More vehicles, tracks and airports means more pollution. So you will spend quite a lot of time sitting in a car, particularly if you travel to the central Bhutan. At the moment, there is only one highway connecting the west the east. There is a road widening project going on right now that makes the road bumpy and some times rock falls and mud slides, making the commute more challenging. It is more challenging in the summer when it rains a lot. Having said that, it’s not all that boring on a long car ride. Bhutan is a lush country with a lot of trees and valleys. It’s beautiful everywhere and you will often see some yaks and cows herding along the road. Anther interesting thing is this type of trucks. Local people…
When I travel to Bumthang to see the Jakar Tshechu Festival, I stayed in this Yagharling Hotel which is up on the hill and not too far from Jakar Dzong. The hotel has a restaurant, a bar with pool table, conference facilities and free wifi but it is limited to the restaurant and bar area. There is no wifi in the room. The room is really spacious. There are two double beds, a dresser, two sitting areas, and a balcony. Besides, there are 3 electric heaters, 2 in the room and 1 in the bathroom which is very important in the winter. Well, I went to Bumthang in November. It was warm when the sun is out in the morning but it was freezing at night.
Tshechu means “Day Ten” is an annual religious festival held on the 10th of the month in every district of Bhutan. It is an annual event and each district holds the event at different time of the year. Spring and autumn are the best seasons visiting Bhutan when the sky is clear and weather is nice and there are some major festivals around the country that you may attend.
Situating on top of a mountain dominating the Tang River and the valley, Ogyen Choling (Palace) Museum is a very unique museum in Central Bhutan exhibiting the traditional Bhutanese living condition of a noble family in 1800s. The history of Ogyen Choling began with the visit by a Tibetan master of Buddhism in 1300s. Its position above the valley is an auspicious location which symbolizes the top of an elephant head with the mountain as the back. The place was blessed and regarded as a Tibetan saint Dorji Lingpa’s center. The better known history is that Tsokye Dorji, the fifthteenth generation of Dorji Lingpa, who was the Governor of Trongsa at a time had passed his position to the father of the First King of Bhutan in 1800s. The original Ogyen Choling was destroyed in the devastating earthquake in 1897. This current estate was rebuilt in 1898 and completed in 1899. As basic and old as the housing estate seems, Ogyen Choling is considered a valuable religious center and a historic estate in Bhutan. The heirs of this noble family…
In addition to dzong (Fortress) and temples, there are quite a few monasteries and nunneries which are also sight-seeing places for tourists in Bhutan. This Kharchu Monastery was founded by Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche in 1984. He was recognized by Dalai Lama as the incarnation of a Tibetan lama whose spiritual lineage dates back to one of the closest disciples of Master Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche bought a small plot of land in Bumthang at the age of 16 in 1982 and started to build a monastery with very little resources. Today, the complex has a two-storey building with a classroom, a dormitory, a library and offices. The monastery has grown considerably has more than 300 monks at some point. I didn’t see that many during my visit probably because many of them travel around and do not need to stay in the monastery the whole time.
Bumthang in Central Bhutan is a famous for buckwheat, cheese and honey. So when you travel to the area for sightseeing, don’t miss the chance to taste the buckwheat pancakes.
For those who travel to Bhutan for 5-7 days, particularly the first time visitor, you will probably just spend the time in the western region which covers the most popular tourist destinations, including the Tiger’s nest and Paro Dzong in Paro; the big buddha and Dochula Pass in Thimphu; and Punakha Dzong. If you have more time, there are a lot more to see in central Bhutan but there is a long ride.
Locating 3,000 meters above sea level, Gangtey Monastery (also known as Gantey Gongpa) is uniquely positioned overlooking the largest the largest and the most significant wetland valley in the country – Phobjikha Valley. It was first built as a small village monastery in 1613 and later expanded into a monastery complex with a main central tower surrounded by 5 temples. The monastery has been completely restored from 2002 to 2008, preserving the old structures, carvings and paintings while putting in 104 new pillars. Today, Gangtey Monastery Complex consists of the main tower, surrounded by monks’ living quarters, meditation halls and a guest house. It is a tranquil monastery with a spectacular view of Phobjikha Valley which is 3,000 above sea level.
Locating at an average of 1,200 meters above sea level valley and the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers, the magnificent white-washed Punakha Dzong (Fortress) is one of the most beautiful fortresses in Bhutan. Punakha Dzong is significant in Bhutan history. It was served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 before the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is the second oldest and second largest in Bhutan. The wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was held here, the “palace of great happiness”.
The Iron Chain Bridge is an unique attraction en route to Thimphu from Paro International Airport. It was built by Thangtong Gyalpo, a reputable Tibetan adept known as “Icon Chain Maker”. People believe that he had superpower and built 180 iron chain bridges by himself across Tibet and Bhutan regions. Many of them are still in use today.