Retracing our steps through the Inner Himalayan mountains and Dochu La (3,140m) pass and Thimphu to reach Paro. It snowed up in the mountains the day prior and the roads were just opened. The roads were still a bit treacherous and in many areas, we had to wait on one side of the road as it had room for only one vehicle at a time.
One of the reasons I visited Bhutan this time of the year is to catch the Punakha Domchoe Festival. Part of the difference with other Domchoe festivals is that of the dramatic recreation of a 17th century battle scene of a Tibetan army invading Bhutan and eventually withdrawing. Quite unfortunate as it was raining today – but the “show” went on, albeit with less crowd in attendance. It was held at Punakha Dzong, a postcard perfect dzong that is serenely monastic. Built in 1637, this is the winter home of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and is the venue for…
That’s “hello” in Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan. It took me some time to learn it. I say goodbye to the surreal and ethereal Punakha Valley today (and the stunning Uma by COMO,Punakha lodge that I stayed at for three nights) as I travel to Paro through Thimphu. The UMA by COMO lodge is by no exaggeration a slice of heaven. Genuinely warm, thoughtful and friendly service, subtle but gorgeous architecture and the excellent food served. The hotel even packs my lunch for my daily outings. And did I mention the breathtaking views?
Punakha served as Bhutan’s capital for over 300 years, before it was moved to Thimphu, with the first king crowned here in 1907. It sits in a fertile and beautiful valley at the junction of Mo Chhu (Mother River) and Pho Chhu (Father River). The 4-hour hike through rice and mustard fields started by crossing the river over a suspension bridge and ended on top of the mountain to visit a temple. The guides call this “Deep Trekking” — journeys that takes one under the surface and given with the opportunity to interact and connect with people, landscape, religion and…