April 19, 2019
Last night’s full moon was beautiful as was today’s sunrise in Punakha. We stayed at the Drubchu Resort, which I wouldn’t particularly recommend. The gardens were beautiful but the hotel wasn’t the best.
They did have a safe, but Norm could have carried it out without any problem at all!
Here are some pictures from our breakfast table window and from around the grounds. The banana and lime trees were cool.
When we checked in yesterday, I got a call from the spa to see if I wanted to book anything. I didn’t because it was already late in the day. But look at these prices..
The most expensive is a 90 minute massage for 2350, which is about $34 US. Wow, on the ship that would be 10 times as much.
We set out on our way to Paro. It is the same road that we took already and it will be about a 4 hour trip. But first we are stopping at the Royal Botanical Gardens for the Rhododendron Festival.
This is a monastery for nuns high up on the hills. It is under renovation now, and we didn’t visit, but it looked like it would be interesting.
More cows in the road.
We got to the Botanical Garden before the festivities started, Tashi said the sense of time in Bhutan is a bit off! So first we explored the small museum they have here and saw the many school children who were part of the festival as well as some of the families who came to enjoy it.
This was an interesting exhibit. When you went in, there was a black curtain and when you pulled it back, you saw yourself in a mirror! True, that.
While in the museum, the Director General of the Tourism Council of Bhutan, Dorji Dhradhul, approached us to get feedback about our experience and our guide. We had glowing remarks and got his business card so we can send him an email when we finish the trip. He told us that they are continuously trying to improve although most of their feedback is positive.
On his card, the motto says “Taking Tourism to the Top” and on the back were these 5 items under the topic
“Welcome to Bhutan”
- Birthplace of the Gross National Happiness
- Only carbon-negative economy in the world
- Young democracy gifted to the people by peerless Kings
- Mysterious (talking and flying statue, the snowman – yeti)
- Use of tobacco and plastic in public banned
Tashi said that plastic will be banned entirely very soon.
The Agriculture Minister of Bhutan was the distinguished visitor and he gave his speech in their language and also in English. Everyone here is very proficient in English. There were ritual dances and performances and we were fascinated by the whole thing. By happy co-coincidence, I sat next to two women from the local village. The one sitting next to me was educated in France and speaks many languages. She worked at the World Bank for 3 years. The other woman was her sister. They were so informative about the customs, the country and we had so much in common in our beliefs. It was a wonderful part of the day. And it turned out that the woman sitting next to me was the aunt of the leader of the village and a classmate of the Director of Tourism! She had a great sense of humor. She said that with the men’s national dress, it is a good thing that they need to wear the shawls for rituals because it covers them up. She said “if they had something to show, it would be all right!” The second photo shows what she means. The white shawls are worn by the men in all fortresses, and for all festivals and rituals.
They are very proud of this 12th grader who is developing sustainable farming techniques.
Here are some of the festivities.
We were ushered into one of the tents when we arrived and so had a very good view of everything. We were served their butter tea (ugh) and some rice.
We walked to the pond and saw some weaving and other crafts and games on the way – even archery. Sadly, this is the only rhododendron we saw, it is too early for the rest. The women I was talking to want to try to get the festival date moved until all are in bloom. There are 29 different varieties here, and we did see lots of red ones along the road.
Then we continued on our way to Paro. This time I did get some shots of the horses.
We stopped at the pass and got a few more of the Himalayas, I never get tired of looking at those spectacular mountains.
As we came into Paro, I got some pictures of those roadside signs I posted about before.
When we passed between Thimphu and Paro going both directions, Tashi had to show our papers to immigration.
The mountain views in Paro are also beautiful.
After our lunch in Paro, we went to the museum. We had to wait a while because they had a power outage. The actual museum was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and is being renovated, so the contents were moved to a nearby building. They actually make you put your cameras and phones in a locker here, no photos inside. It was really interesting, with walls of all the masks used in the dances and lots of information about the birds and animals in Bhutan.
This is the museum that is being renovated – it was the old watchtower.
We continued on to the fortress. It is smaller than the other two we saw in Thimphu and Punakha but equally impressive. Here’s the admission prices – all of ours are included in the daily charge we paid.
One of the young monks invited us to light one of the lamps and make our wishes.
We walked back across the bridge in the picture.
Our room at the Tashi Namgay. Very beautiful place.
Resting up after a great dinner. Tomorrow we climb to the Tiger’s Nest (Taksang Monastery).