Lost in the land of tranquility

Text by Syeda Nazneen Jahan

Days one & two
007When the plane landed to the runaway of Paro airport, Bhutan, I could not even imagine the amazing experiences that lay before me during my journey. One fine morning in mid September 2013, my three friends and I flew to Bhutan. We started at 10:00am from Bangladesh and arrived at Paro airport by 11:00am. Upon landing, I was immediately struck by the natural beauty of my surroundings.
Before we arrived in Bhutan, none of us had known that carrying nicotine and smoking in public places is strictly prohibited. We were fined nearly 1,200 Ngultrum by the Bhutan customs at the airport for carrying cigarettes. We had initially planned on going straight to Punakha after receiving our road and trekking permits. However we were forced to change plans as it was a Sunday and offices were closed. So we checked into a hotel in Thimphu and after lunch, we decided to walk around and explore the city.
The colossal statue of Buddha is visible from any point in the city of Thimpu – as he always watches over its’ denizens from his high perch up on the mountains. We decided to walk down the streets to the Buddha point.
As we moved slowly, we took in the view of the surrounding mountains and streams, and stopped to take photographs. Even after an hour, the giant statue still loomed in the distance slightly obscured by clouds that floated gently in the breeze. After three hours of walking in the fading twilight, we reached our destination. We marveled at the 167 feet high statue of Buddha which overlooked the entire city of Thimpu.
008The next day we received our trekking permits and headed towards Punakha around 11:00am. After an hour, we reached Dochula Pass. Upon getting out of the car, I was enveloped by dense clouds and for a few minutes my vision was obscured.
As the clouds drifted away, the sight of Druk Wangyal Chorten (which has 108 chorten) appeared in front of me. Dochula pass is also famous for The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple). According to the priest, this temple was built in the honor of fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 2003. The king used to visit this temple at least once a year. The historical saga of several Buddhist gods is depicted in a painting on the temple walls. We were slightly disappointed that the dense fog and rain kept the view of the Himalayan peaks out of our sight.
009After around two hours we arrived at Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. Mere words cannot do justice to its’ poetic beauty!
Punakha is a small town with trimmed houses, calm and quiet streets, with the fresh air of surrounding high mountains. We secured a hotel to stay overnight and a guide for the next few days. Then we headed towards the great Punakha dzong.
We were eager to view the confluence of the Po chu and Mo chu River. The large majestic Punakha dzong stands in the centre of the Po chu (Male River) and Mochu (Female River) river.
This dzong is the largest holy place and the centre of all administrative work for the people of Punakha. Two different streams of these two rivers had converged to create another new stream Punatsangchu.

– To be concluded in next issue

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