Day 22: Phobjikha Valley to Punakha Valley


Our day started out relatively early, yet earlier for me as I’m finding I wake up when sleeping at altitude! The Phobjikha valley is the highest one that we stayed in at 2,800 M, or about 9,100 ft above sea level. I’m really looking forward to getting the the Punakha valley and about 1,000 M lower in elevation, with a higher concentration of oxygen!

We met our guide and driver and were off to visit the temple at the Gangtey Monastery. We had missed this the day before as if was the festival and the prayer room was closed that day. Today when we went into the temple square, we could see the monks busying themselves with clean up after the previous day’s festivities. It certainly looked empty compared to the day before!

Monks tearing down the decorations from the previous day’s festivities.

Once our visit was done, we headed to the pass from this valley to the Punakha valley which was at about 3400M. After a stop to take some pictures and look at the wears of the nomadic people we descended over the next 2 hours down into the Punakha valley. When we got up, the temperature was 3C and we could see frost on the valley floor. When we reached our destination the temperature was about 24C. This subtropical climate was a lovely change!

When we reached the valley, we did a short hike to visit Chimi Lhakhang, the famous temple of the “divine Madman”. This Bhuddist saint was a different sort. Unlike all others his practice included drinking alcohol and womanizing! This temple is where childless couples come to be blessed (the woman carries a large phallus like a baby and is blessed by the monk). Apparently given the number of photos of babies, both local and international that have been born after this ceremony, it gives one pause! Certainly the locals are supporting this belief as their houses were adorned with paintings of phallus’ and the local merchants had phallus’ of all shapes, sizes and designs for you to buy. The belief is that this symbol frightens away demons.

A house under construction as we walked to the Temple. Notice the special paintings that are done on all houses. To maintain this level of artistry in the country, the king set up a special school for artists to keep this tradition alive!
A view of the rice fields from the Temple

After our hike to and from the temple, we made a quick stop for lunch,and then we were off to see the Punakha Dzong. This large fort is the second largest in the country and plays a critical role in Bhutanese customs to this day. It is where the coronations of the kings has been held, as well as the marriages of the last 2 kings. The ornate decorative work was amazing, and the temple was large and equally ornate. (We, can only go into the large room where the monks pray twice daily. All other parts of the temple are off limits. )

The beautiful Punakha Dzong in the background

The front steps leading up the the final level of the Dzong have three separate steep sets of stairs. The centre set is reserved for the king and the chief abbot, or head of the religious order in Bhutan.

Look at the top section of stairs. They are divided into 3, with the middle cordoned off. These stairs can only be used by the King and the Chief Abbott
An elderly gentleman sits and turns the prayer wheel, sending prayers to the gods, and ringing the bell attached to let them know that prayers are coming. You would often see these (smaller and less elaborate) on hillsides with small springs or streams feeding a water wheel which would turn them continuously.
The inner courtyard of the religious order, and the entrance into the temple which can only be attended by the King or Chief Abbott. Dzongs, or Forts are often divided into to 2, with government administration in one half and the religious order in the other.

In the centre of the courtyard stands a beautiful Boddha tree that was given to the first king by the prime minister of India, Neru.

The Boddha Tree given by Prime Minister Neru

Once our tour was done, we headed off to or hotel. This hotel has a Birdseye view of the Dzong and a large part of the Punakha valley. And, our room has a lovely balcony to boot! Feeling nice and spoiled tonight!

Our room had a lovely balcony and great views!
A beautiful sunset view fro our room!

It doesn’t sound very luxurious, but out balcony provided a wonderful spot for us to hang some laundry! We also had some to send out as well…it has been almost 2 weeks since a proper laundry was done, and we were ready!

Our Hotel has wifi, but the signal is so weak that I cannot even get my wordpress app to come up! Oh well, we aren’t here for the wifi, and my updates can always be sent at a later time!

It was soon time for supper and we headed down the stone steps ( about 3 to 4 stories) to the dining room and had a delightful dinner. Because of the proximity to India, we were treated to a buffet that featured but Bhutanese and Indian cooking. A lovely assortment of dishes indeed.

Looking up to our room complex from the dining hall! Our room was on the 2nd storey, of course!

Well, it has been another long day of travel and touring historic sites. I am rather looking forward to a good night’s sleep at an altitude under 2,000 M. (Although with the location of our hotel, we might be higher than I thought!). Until next time!

Categories: Himalayas: India, Nepal and Bhutan 2019

2 comments

  1. Isn’t it nice seeing flowers near the end of November! And the room looks great with wonderful views.

    Like

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