April 18, 2019
The morning started wonderfully since it is our older son, Adam’s birthday! Well, it is April 18 in Bhutan, but this was a good time to Facetime with him – he was in California – to wish him the happiest of birthdays. He is also my web guru and was the one who initially set up my blog, and now my website. Happy 36th, Adam!
Here is a picture of the sitting Buddha site we visited yesterday. It shows how it was cut into the mountain and the area still under construction.
After breakfast, we checked out of our hotel (and look at our view from the hotel this morning)
and began the 3 hour, 71 kilometer drive to Punakha. This was the first capital of Bhutan before it was moved to Thimphu. The road we were taking is the only road to Punakha and was the first road in the country and only built in 1961. It is a very winding road over the mountain. We saw cows in the road, yaks on the side of the road, and I wish I had been quicker with the camera because about 5 small horses ran right next to my car window. Maybe I will catch them on the way back tomorrow.
We reached the Dochula Pass in about 45 minutes. This is the highest point of the road and definitely closes in the winter. There was a wonderful view of the Himalayas from this viewpoint. We were invited in to the small restaurant for tea and a snack. There are 108 stupas built here in memory of the soldiers who were killed defending Bhutan from invaders in 2003. This was by order of the 4th King w who personally helped to build them.
After this visit, we continued to Punakha. Tashi told us that the hotel we are staying at has limited beds for guides and asked if we would mind if we stopped there for him to put his bag on a bed so that he would have one for the night. Interesting.. and OF COURSE we didn’t mind. In fact, we probably would have paid for a bed!
The hotel is the Drubchuku Resort. We were not checking in until later but we did get to see the beautiful gardens. This pictures are especially for you, Chris and Sandy!
As we reached the town, Tashi led us on a hike through the rice and wheat fields. This is the area of the Chime Lhakhang or the “Temple of Fertility” which we visited after our hike. On the way, we started to see the many phalluses that are painted on many buildings, and replicas are in most shops.
This symbol is called the “Magical Thunderbolt” based on Lama Drukpa Kuenley. He is called the Divine Madman because when he first came to spread Buddhism, he went around the town naked and did a lot of things that made people wonder if he was really a holy man. The legend says that he subdued a demon with his phallus – the Magical Thunderbolt – chained the demon and turned him into a black dog. So there is the only black stupa on the grounds of this temple. We are sitting under the Bodhi tree.
Women who have difficulty getting pregnant come to this temple to pray and there is even a book with pictures of babies who were born after the mother’s visit to the temple.
We had lunch at the Babee Restaurant. Here is the can of Diet Coke I had!
From the restaurant, we visited the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. It is 180 meters long and spans the Po Chhu river. Tashi said Norm directed him to make this heart below the bridge, but of course he was joking!
From here we walked to the Punakha Dzong or Fortress. Like the one in Thimphu, this is the center of the government here. It is one of the most beautiful and ornate, but we again are only able to take pictures from the outside.
When we got to the third courtyard and were ready to enter the temple, we found that there was a ceremony going on inside, so we waited in the courtyard. When it was over, the monks all filed out and we entered. Boys can choose school or becoming monks as early as age 6!
When we left the temple, we crossed this bridge to the other side of the river.
There are lots of dogs everywhere, Tashi says they are all vaccinated for rabies. They seem to sleep all day and bark all night. Loved this little puppy!
Also, there is a strict building code so that all buildings look very similar.
This guy let me take a picture of his t-shirt.
The King and his family are well loved here. Tashi said that the top three students (by the tests done in school) get to visit the King and get a full scholarship to study abroad. People can also visit the King at specific times to discuss issues.
Tomorrow we will travel to Paro. We need to take the same road over the mountains and through Thimphu. Lucky for us, this is the time of the 3 day rhododendron festival, so we will stop at the botanical garden on the way to attend the festival before going on to Paro and seeing the sights there.