Thimpu – Punakha
From Haa, we took the road straight to Thimpu to be surprised of how big the city was. There are no traffic lights in Bhutan, but Thimpu has one famous crossing with the guard making hand signals – they installed a light years ago, but the people disliked it.
The highlight in Thimpu is really the Tashichhoe Dzong (Fortress) where the King still actually works from and lives. We saw the bringing down of the flag to symbolize the end of the working day and visited the Dzong’s grounds.
We stayed in a standard city hotel (Kang Residence) and went around the town by foot to see the old Post Office and handcraft street market. Other than that we also visited:
- Memorial Stupa: in the middle of the street this temple is where the locals spend hours walking around the main stupa and praying.
- Buddha Point: supposedly the biggest Buddha statue in world. It is being finished but already an impressive sight.
- Traditional Medicine Clinic: we were curious about it and health care is free for everyone including foreigners. We saw a doctor that asked us a few questions and measured our pulse with his fingers to determine our diagnosis. Quite a gift.
- Nunnery: small place with ongoing chanting by the nuns.
- Takin Zoo: this is a small zoo dedicated to the national animal. Quite an weird/interesting animal. The locals say it’s a mix of the head of a moose and the body of a cow.
- National Library: you can see the world’s biggest book in there but that’s all
We finished all the main sight in Thimpu so we had one day left which we used to go see the biggest Dzong in Bhutan – Punaka Dzong. Again, it was a painful car journey with not so safe roads but the prize at the end made it worth it.
Punakha Dzong is indeed massive. This is where the latest royal wedding took place and many other important celebrations like the Punakha Festival. The most impressive part of this Dzong are the courtyards but the temple itself is also impressive being all gold with huge Buddha statue.
On the way, we also stopped by the Fertility temple (Chhimi Lhakhang) where people go to ask for blessing to have babies. The procedure to be ‘granted’ the blessing is quite interesting: you have to hold a giant wooden penis statue, do 3 rounds of the temple with it, receive the blessing from the monk and pick a name for the baby out of a box. We didn’t do because Abraham was afraid of having a first child with a Bhutanese name J
After Punakha, we slept our last night in Thimpu before going to Paro airport. It was certainly a magical experience that we were lucky to share with our family. Bhutan left a nice feeling on our hearts and a hope that openness doesn’t change or destroy this beautiful country and culture. One day we would hope to go back and do more hiking.