We woke up to a very early breakfast because the hotel staff needed to prepare for a visit from the Prime Minister of Bhutan to our hotel. Our guide enquired if we wanted to stay and meet the Prime Minister. But we were (surprise surprise) looking forward to the day we had. We visited the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which was 7 kms from Punakha. It is a very famous temple that is four storeys high and requires an hour’s trek to reach it. There are two ways, the first way making the trek longer. We obviously decided to take the shorter route that is simply a shorter version of the first way.
The trek tested our strength, our determination, our willpower, our tenacity and our knowledge of hiking, which was nil, to be precise. For me especially, crossing the bridge over the river (which reminded me of the Lakshman Jhula over the fiercely flowing Ganga) tested my fear for heights. After crossing it, I felt like Edmund Hilary when he was halfway up Mount Everest full of jubilation and exhilaration. My mother, having a knee problem, my sister, one of the laziest people I’ve ever met, and my brother in law, carrying his camera gear, all were faced with similar problems. But we, as a unit, were able to accomplish something that a couple of days later, would seem insignificant (because of the last stop in our trip – an upcoming post)
Because there aren’t so many places in Punakha, today was a relaxed day because after lunch, we visited the Punakha Dzhong or the Pungtang Dechen Phortang Dzhong, a fortress where the Chief Abbot lives. The coronations of all the kings occur here along with the beginning of the weddings of the kings. It is considered to be a very special and holy fortress because it is at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu river, also known as the male and female rivers. There were two temples that we visited – the smaller fortress being the older one. The older one survived 3 flash floods and legend has it anyone that prays in front of the particular idol, their wishes come true.
With this, getting to know the farming town of Punakha was done. This town was completely different from the bustling capital city of Thimphu. Where Thimphu was cold, Punakha is warm. Thimphu was at an altitude of 2400m whereas Punakha is at an altitude of 1200m. While Thimphu was crowded, Punakha is quiet. And while Thimphu I liked, Punakha I loved!