October 13, 2019
Phobjikha Valley to Punakha Wangdue
Distance: 80kms – 2.5 hour drive
We stayed the night at Dewachen Hotel and Spa at Gangtey. Designed in wooden Bhutanese traditional architecture, perched on a hill overlooking the valley, it was out of this world. The cabin like rooms smelt of wood and exuded a totally relaxing atmosphere. We woke up to this beautiful morning view.
Before we hit the road to Punakha Wangdue, we stopped for some education. The first was to see an injured Black Neck Crane at the museum. Broken leg – they said. The hushed atmosphere occasionally disrupted by camera shutters pointing at the crane and American accents.
We entered the museum, akin to an open air encyclopedia of Black Neck Cranes and Bhutan’s geography. We learnt of their migration movements, how far they fly and how high, their light weight and cultural significance supplemented with a full on reiteration of the encyclopedic data in video format. It flew over my head once we sat in the bus. From the museum, we went back to the festival at the temple. Life was cool so I was in search of an anxiety rush. No place better than the Gangtey Festival.
Because it was day three of three, the crowd insanely got larger and larger. It drove me crazy. I worked on some breathing techniques and mindfulness for anger management I presumed were taught here at other times. As a result, I shifted my forward thinking focus to spending the rest of our days getting stuck in nature, touching the earth – waaaaaait for it – next post spoiler alert.
Lunch at Dochula Resort was delicious. The resort’s location was super strange, kind of like in the middle of the winding highway but offered a panoramic view of the snowcapped Himalayas. Evidently, a hotel built at a sight seeing spot.
We arrived at Punakha to begin our hike. After crossing the suspension bridge, we walked across layers upon layers of paddy fields until we reached the foot of the hill at 1,300m in elevation. We started our climb up to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten built in 2004 by the Queen of Bhutan. She wanted to protect the Kingdom and bring in peace and harmony. We were on our own, away from other beings. The route up was a challenge, elevating our heart rates, huffing and puffing until we reached the top at 1460m for an absolutely breathtaking view. Some of us hung around the courtyard, talking of our pets and vet bills while a fiesty dog was chasing its owners outside the Chorten. I walked around the courtyard to take in a 360 view of the valley.
Time: 1 hour 7 minutes – including photo stops
We checked into Damchen Resort early in the evening set in the Punakha valley, surrounded by abundant greenery overlooking the Mho and Po Chu rivers I totally missed. The resort’s mud stone foundation caught my attention especially as it was embroidered by the colorful Bhutanese wooden structure; pink bougainvillea trees adding to its perfect finish. It was a special place!
What a wonderful reprieve it is to look out over a valley filled with rice paddies. I paused on that specific photo for a long time, Sarah, as it was exactly what I needed this morning. It exudes such a lovely sense of calm. Like I’ve said before, I’m really enjoying this Bhutan series of yours, partly because it is a place I would love to visit, but am not sure I’ll ever be able to. Like you, I far prefer being out in nature than being surrounded by masses of people.
Thanks for your kind words Jolandi..I’m really happy you’re enjoying the series and finding a sense of calm as you read through. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to travel like we used to. I miss taking long road trips far away – I’m reading Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia” and I’m getting the blues. I’m grateful I was able to explore all these places before things changed. You must be excited about Portugal – I can’t wait to read your updates!
I am, Sarah. But also a bit nervous. Like you, I also find solace in reading, especially travel books. Funny how there are so many things one becomes grateful for doing, while stuck in one place with layers and layers of restriction on movement. It is perhaps only when one loses something that one can have a true appreciation of it – or at least a deeper level of appreciation.