WHY do we travel? 🙂
We had a slight glimpse of the world we’d come from, when we walked down from our room that morning, for breakfast. The TV in the dining room had The Avengers on. Now how were we to walk away from that?!
So, post a heavy and unnecessarily long breakfast of Aloo Paratha, Toast, Masala Omelette, and Masala Chai from Hotel Home, we headed out to the streets of Thimphu. We had a long day ahead of us.
We met Mani on our way to the taxi stand and got onto his taxi (well, no free rides today then). He drove us around the city, narrating the many stories of his family, and dropped us at the bus stand.
The next day, Jan 2nd, we would be travelling to Punakha, and had to book tickets in advance. Bus transport in Bhutan is cheap, and if you’re one of those budget travellers, it’d be a good idea to inquire at the bus station and book tickets well in advance. However, we turned out to be a little unlucky. After a long wait at the bus station, we were told that 2nd of Jan is celebrated as the Bhutanese New Year (Random info: Losar Tashi Delek! is Dzongkha for Happy New Year!), a National Holiday, and that there would be no buses plying the streets. Slightly disappointed, we decided to take a shared taxi instead and went to the taxi stand nearby for enquiry. After confirming with the taxi guys, we walked back to Norzin lam for lunch. On our way, we stopped at Thimphu Chu for a couple of pictures.
At Norzin Lam, after two stops at a closed Shanti Deva and a crowded Hotel Ghasel, we chose to check out Hotel Singye. It is located right next to Clock Tower on the second floor. We ordered for Chowmein, Thukpa, Roti Dal and Masala Chai. After a quick lunch, we hurried downstairs to finally begin the day.
We called on a taxi, and arrived at a deal with the driver for the rest of the day. The youngest and the handsomest of the lot, he was probably the only guy we had little to no conversation with. He had a wild and untameable cough, but he managed to tell us that his New Year’s eve was even wilder. Apparently, he had got into a snooker cue fight with his friends, evident from the plaster on his forehead. Anyway, I digress..
Our first stop was at the Motithang Takin Preserve. Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. It resembles a cross between a goat’s head and a cow’s body. Bhutan, the land of myths and legends, also has a story on the Takin. It is said that Drukpa Kunley, a Tibetan saint, otherwise called the Divine Madman, during one of his religious lectures, created the Takin on request of the people of Bhutan to perform a miracle.
The Preserve houses a number of Takins, who live in harmony with the couple of barking deers and sambhar around it. While we were observing the Takins from outside the fence, a Bhutanese man on his daily jog, stopped by to take a peek at the animals. We introduced each other, and turned out he was a doctor, trained in India and now practising in Bhutan. He told us how the concept of zoo is absent in Bhutan. The elderly, unwell Takins are brought to the preserve and are taken care of, and only once deemed fit, are they released back into the forest. Also, by legislation, Bhutan is mandated to retain over 60% of their land as forest cover. Currently, that figure is a proud 72%.
From the Takin Preserve, we drove to Sangaygong (View Point). At a height of 2685 m, you get a picturesque view of the Thimphu valley from up here.
Our next stop: Thangthong Dewachen Nunnery or Zilukha Nunnery. Only around 18:00, but it was already pitch-dark. The nuns welcomed us in and took us around the temple. Home to around 60 nuns, the nunnery is one of the largest in Bhutan.
Guilty of having barged in at an inappropriate time, we apologized to the lovely nuns. We clicked pictures with them and left an instant picture behind for them to remember us.
I wish we’d arrived a little earlier. It’d have given us room for more conversation.
Our last stop for the day: Tashichho Dzong. Each district in Bhutan houses a Dzong, which serves as the administrative, religious, social and military centre of the district. Within the premises of the Dzong, is also a Temple; it demonstrates the strong interplay between religion and government in Bhutan. Recommended to view after dark, we were there at the right time and caught the beautifully lit Tashichho Dzong in all its glory.
Back in the room, it was our final night at Thimphu, but the journey had just begun.