Punakha: Royalty and Humbleness All Wrapped in One

October 23, 2015
Currently: Lounging on the balcony in Wangdue listening to the roar of a river anxiously awaiting dinner

So going off grid for four days is amazing. Except for the status of my blog. So I’m going to try to get all of the highlights of my time in Bhutan so far without a) missing anything important, b) losing any fun stories, and c) boring you (and future me) with unnecessary details.

We left Thimphu behind in a dusty retreat and headed to Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan until 1955. The most spectacular part of the drive was one of the passes. I’ll let the picture speak for itself.

Also, the peaks below are from that view. Just to provide some perspective: 7,000 meters is equivalent to about 23,000 feet. Like I said, making those Rockies look like the junior league! Pro tip: click on any picture to make it bigger 🙂
Onwards to Punakha, we finally arrive in this most picturesque valley.
I know. I don’t lie. Well around a couple more bends, we end up staring in the face of one of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen. Seriously. Ever. I couldn’t believe it was right in front of me, and I was so happy we had to wait five minutes at the spot where the picture below was taken because of some random classic Bhutanese road block (most likely two trucks trying to squeeze by each other). This one has to be a little bit larger than the others so you can appreciate it just a smidgen as much as I did in real life. I’d highly recommend seeing it in person though. As always, a picture cannot truly capture the surroundings, the moment, or the feeling completely.
Now this fabulous fortress is called the Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang or the Palace of Great Happiness or the Punakha Dzong. It’s so incredible, it has three names. It is truly the most beautiful fortress of Bhutan. It’s the second oldest and second largest dzong in the country. Dzongs are fortresses that house everything important from religious temples to administrative headquarters to social centers. What gets me is the detail and attention given to every surface within this place.

 

 in the olden days, they used to remove those steps for protection against enemies
some detail of the fading artwork
One of the best parts of this day even with the beautiful dzong was our homestay. We had the opportunity to spend an evening and morning with a local Bhutanese family. The entire night, a group of us badgered the son of the owners, Kinrab, with dozens and dozens of questions.
Meet Kinrab outside his family’s home, a young computer scientist who studied in India for a few years before heading back to Thimphu, Bhutan to search for a job.
It was so amazing to have a conversation (mostly one-sided) with someone so open and friendly. I’m learning that’s just the Bhutanese way! We asked about all aspects of life from religion to politics to his family’s background. I am so grateful for Kinrab for taking the time to talk to us and share not only his family’s stories, but also his honest opinions. My favorite story of the night definitely had to be the one where he explained the different employment opportunities in his village. He mentioned an astrologer, whose purpose is to let people know when is a good day for travel or marriage or even planting crops. Funny enough, that job has become obsolete with the advent of phone apps that are created by the most well-respected Buddhist astrologers in Bhutan. Oh, technology… Okay one taste of the more rural side of Bhutan.
Already this is too long so I’m going to end it here for now. Still two days behind, but truly enjoying recounting everything. Hope you all get some enjoyment out of it as well!!
Lots of love,
Lena

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