Most answers I got after knowing I’m going to Bhutan were either “why there” or “where is Bhutan”, however Bhutan is not a foreign name for Taiwan since a famous actor and actress got married in Paro 2 years ago yet that gave people all the wrong reasons to want to visit Bhutan without understanding it’s culture. Bhutan has been on my list for years and I was super excited this dream was finally coming true.
About the size of Switzerland yet sparsely populated, the kingdom of Bhutan is seriously one of the world’s last frontiers and most untouched land. It nestles in the Himalayas between India and Tibet, with its landscape encompassing the 7,500 meter snow covered mountains in the north through the lower valley of lush paddies to the dense jungle in the south, Bhutan is an unspoiled hidden gem of Buddhist peace. Monks in red robes, monasteries, chortens and colorful prayer flags are to be found on any track even to the most mission impossible corners in the mountains.
Our first stop was Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan which was an hour and half drivr from Paro airport, we headed to the hotel for lunch and visited the Folk Heritage Museum, a restored 3 story traditional farm house. It demonstrates and describes with vivid presentation on how Bhutanese live with all the traditional artifacts in place. We also visited a Tibetan Stupa, our first interaction with Tibetan Buddhism and its people who spend a big part of their life devoted to religion.
Our first Amankora lodge is set in a blue pine forest of the Thimphu Valley, this 16 suite lodge is close to the capital’s sights and shopping while maintaining a very peaceful ambiance.
We left for Punakha the 2nd day, it was a long ride due to all the road constructions now in Bhutan, the government wants to widen most major roads. It was a scenic drive over the high mountain passes to Dochu La at about 3100m, a place marked by a large array of prayer flags and a collection of 108 chortens. This leads us onward into the sub-tropical valleys of Punakha at about 1200m.
Our 2nd Amankora lodge here is reached by crossing a suspension bridge over the Mo Chhu River, picked up by the hotel buggy before we arrived at the small and cozy 8 bedroom lodge.
I did a short trek over the rice paddies through the local farm houses after checking into our lodge the 2nd day, I wanted to get a feel of the pastoral landscape and a closer look at their local life. It was breezy and relaxed, a perfect way to end a tourist day.
We did a hike from the Punakha Lodge along the Mo Chhu through terraces of rice/wheat paddies to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten on the 3rd day, a monument built by Her Majesty of the Queen Mother. It is four story temple perched on a hill and exemplifies Bhutan’s finest architecture and artistic tradition.
We visited the stunning Punakha Dzong in the afternoon, Punakha Dzong sits on a warn and beautiful valley at the junction of Mo Chhu (mother river) and Pho Chhu (father river), it is one of Bhutan’s most impressive buildings and the most beautiful Dzong in the country.
We depart for Paro on our 4th day taking the same long windy road up the mountain and passed by Dochu La once again, we stopped at Thimphu zoo to look at their national animal: Takin. It took us over 6 hours to get to the Lodge at Paro and we headed straight to the spa for a nice relaxing massage. We took it easy since we had to be ready for the 5 hour up and down the Tiger Nest for the following day.
The Amankora Paro is a 24 suite pine forest retreat which is about 30 minutes from the airport.
We had an early start for the Tiger Next the following morning, for details of this trip, please check my https://smallchingbubblybee.com/2012/05/16/tiger-nest-bhutan-may-8-2012/.
We went to our driver’s house for lunch after the 5 hour up and down the Tiger Nest, we wanted to have a Bhutanese total culture immersion, we saw the house in detail, learned what composes their daily life,ate their home cooking food which is very spicy, it was fun and memorable.
We made a quick stop on the Paro town to do some fabric shopping before heading to an elegant temple: Kyichu Lhakhang was built in 659 by a Tibeten Emperor, it is regarded as Bhutan’s oldest and most beautiful temple. It was a long day and we headed back to the hotel to wind down our trip and prepare for our last supper in Bhutan.
We didn’t want to leave just like any other trips, however, feelings this time was different, we were so blessed and felt connected to Tibetan Buddhism, we prayed at every temple and received many praying objects. There is a special vibe whether spiritual or imaginary, but I strongly felt a bond and I cant wait to go back!