Bhutan: Paro and Thimphu – From a student’s diary
“Every nation needs a dream to beckon it and edify it to a purpose beyond the mundane and the momentary .Every person needs a vision that calls the mind to a realm that stays and satisfies. Every man, woman and child yearns for joy ‘that stills the tooth and nibbles at the soul.”
It looks at the jewel of Himalayas, the kingdom of Bhutan was destined to dream that dream forge that vision and communicate the eternal longing of the human heart.”
This is how Bhutan is- Happy, peaceful, soulful. And so was our journey.
Day 1: 1st Oct. 2015
Alipurduar: The train reached at 11:00 P.M. time at the Alipurduar station in West Bengal. Students quickly shuffled out of the train with their luggage. Next, the students boarded their buses, which took them to the border city of Jaigaon to spend the night.
Jaigaon: A two hour drive later, after arriving at Jaigaon, all students were shown to their rooms for the night. They were all instructed to get a good night’s sleep, in anticipation of the long day they had planned ahead of them.
Day 2: 2nd Oct. 2015
6 A.M.: All students hurried to get ready for breakfast at 7 o’clock. The students gathered on the terrace of hotel for breakfast. The view from there was breathtaking. Just a little ahead of the hotel lay the gateway to the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan. However, what lay ahead was even more magnificent. Lush green mountains, spotted by scattered slopped roof houses like seeds dropped by birds halfway through the woods. The excitement was ever more thrilling. Our joy was just bursting at the seams.
Phuentsholing: With the Gayatri Mantra, the students started their journey to the Bhutan border city of Phuentsholing for immigration at 10:30 a.m. We gathered in park, waiting for our turn at the immigration office. The park was marked by a temple at its apex. After a painstaking three hours, immigration was finally over! The students rushed back to Jaigaon to enjoy a last meal in India at 1 o’clock and to load the buses. Before we knew it, it was 4 o’clock and we were on our way to the town Paro in Bhutan. We stopped at Rinchinding for our first immigration check at 4:10 p.m. It was followed by yet another check at Chukha at 7:45 p.m.
Paro: After a rather long journey of seven hours, our buses finally halted at the gates of Hotel Galinkha, Paro at about 11 o’clock in the night.
Day 3: 3rd Oct. 2015
0or 8:00 A.M.: Breakfast was in order. After a desi breakfast of chole–bhature, students were debriefed about the activities planned for the day. After departing from the hotel at 10:20 A.M., the students finally got a good first glimpse of Paro. Lush green paddy fields, mountains so high that clouds seemed to be on earth, the Paro Chhu (river) and the completely contrasting and breathe taking buildings in Bhutanese traditional architecture. It was something that no student would forget for the rest of their lives.
National Museum (Ta Dzong): At about 10:40 A.M. we reached the Ta Dzong. It boasts a rich variety of artefacts from all over the country representing different eras, dating back as early at 4000 B.C E. to present day.
Dungtse Lakhang: After departure from Ta Dzong at about 11:45 A.M., it was time to visit our second building, Dungtse Lakhang.
The temple is notable because it is in the form of a chorten, which is rather rare in Bhutan. In the centre of the building, under the chorten roof, were kept four sculptures of deities, each facing one of the main cardinal directions. Around the deities was a parikrama path which was accessible to the public. The interior had an unusual aura about it.
Rinpung Dzong: Next up at 12:20 P.M. was the Ringpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of a Bhutanese fortified monastery; this dzong hosts the Paro Tsechu, i.e., the festival of masks. The dzong‘s correct name, Rinchen Pung Dzong (usually shortened to Rinpung Dzong), means ‘the Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. The dzong survived the 1897 earthquake but was severely damaged by fire in 1907.
Drukgyel Dzong: Drukgyel Dzong is one of the most important buildings of Bhutan, commemorating the victory of Bhutan over the Tibetan invasion. The building is situated around 14 KM north of the boundary of Paro city, strategically located to supervise any trespassing and protect the country from invaders. The building is in a dilapidated condition as it was destroyed in a fire caused by a butter lamp in 1954. The building has been in ruins ever since. Soon, it was time to depart for the next building, the buses leaving at 04:30 P.M.
Kiychu Lhakhang: Kyichu Lhakhang is one of the finest and most important temples of Bhutan. After arrival at 04:40 P.M. and seeing the temple, its magnificence couldn’t be helped but felt.
This temple was built for the royal family of Bhutan. The students could go inside, and explored the sanctum sanctorum, where the deity was kept. This was the room where all the royal family offerings and marital ceremonies took place. It is the oldest temple of Bhutan and is still well maintained and well ornamented, all in accordance to Bhutanese tradition.
Next everyone went to the Paro Central Market, at about 6:10 P.M. The next one hour was full of searching, eating, and shopping. Back to the buses at 7:00 P.M., then we headed back to the hotel.
Day 4: 4th Oct. 2015
03:30 A.M.: morning commotion was how the day began. All students rushed to get ready, all set for the 6 hour to and fro trek to the Taktsang Goempa scheduled for the morning.
06:15 A.M.: The buses halted at the foot of the hills for the trek. Not only was it a 22 K.M. long, steep trek, it was made even harder by the continuous drizzle and accumulation of clouds around the mountain. After a few injured casualties, and a two and a half hour long pains taking trek, we had finally reached the monastery. It was a sight to behold, one which left everyone awe struck.
The Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang Monastery): After the tiresome trek, the Taktsang Monastery was reached at about 09:00 A.M. Literally hanging on a cliff; the Taktsang Monastery was a sight to behold. The Taktsang monastery is one of the most important monasteries of Bhutan. It marks the caves where Guru Padmasambhava , the propagator of Vajrayana Buddhism in Bhutan, landed on a flying Tigress and meditated for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours in the 8th century C.E. The monastery was erected 9 centuries later, and has since been renovated multiple times ever since. A fire in 1998 destroyed the monastery completely, taking with it some important and irreplaceable relics. It was hence then restored to its original glory in 2004, and has been open to public again ever since.
After spending about one hour there, the students were directed to commence their downhill journey. Another two and a half hours, and we were all seated in our buses. The walk back was rewarding, as the clouds rose above, and the sun shone on the monastery, visible throughout the downhill trek. It was time to leave at 12:30 P.M.
Paro Village Museum: Located in the upper Paro valley region near the intersection of the Paro Chhu river and the way to Taktsang Monastery, our next stop was at the Paro Village Museum at 12:40 P.M
The museum, once the house of Nyangmey Chukmo, was made in the 17th century C.E., around 200 years ago, by the Lam (teacher) Kathog Rigzin’s treasurer and merchant, named, Tshangpoen.
Day 5: 5th Oct. 2015
06:00 A.M.: The day started with an early morning breakfast. After breakfast the students boarded the buses, ready to leave for the next stop destination at 07:30 A.M. On our way to the Chele La Pass, we stopped at the Paro Airport Viewing Point. The view was just magnificent. An airstrip just meters away from the Paro Chhu, running parallel to it
Chele La Pass: We arrived at the pass after a one and a half hour long drive, at around 09:30 A.M. Between the Haa valley and the Paro valley, Chele La is the highest pass in Bhutan, rising up to an altitude of 3780 M from mean sea level. The view from here was magnificent. Tall white flags which commemorated those who had passed away, with flying strings of little red, green, blue, yellow and white flag flittering with away prayers into the wind. And setting the frame, the snow covered caps far away in the distance, appearing to beonly an arm’s length away. Soaking in the serenity, we all looked at the vast expanses of mountains, reminding us how small and insignificant our existence is.
Tachog Lhakhang: Tachog lhakhang is a Bhutanese Temple situated on the bank of river Paro Chhu, standing on the Paro –Thimphu Highway on the other side of the Temple. It is around 17 K.M. away from the Paro city. It was built by Thang Tong Gyalpo who was one of the most eminent personality of Bhutan. This temple is well known for its suspension bridge, built by Thang Tong Gyalpo, which connects the temple to the highway across the river. As we reached the site, we were able to see the temple and the bridge down the hill. The students de-boarded the bus and all of them came down the hill and entered the supporting towers of the bridge. Crossing the bridge was a terrific experience for all as the bridge was suspended with the help of cast iron chains with huge links, the river flowing beneath our feet visible. After crossing the bridge we headed towards the temple, crossing chortens, prayer wheels and colorful flags all around.
After resuming our ride, we headed straight for Thimphu. Leaving Paro behind, the students were extremely enthusiastic to visit the capital of Bhutan.
: After a two and a half hour drive, the buses arrived at Thimphu, halting in front of Hotel 89.
We finally reached Thimphu after 2 hours of journey .Thimphu , the capital city of Bhutan welcomed us with its extravangance culture , the well defined traffic ,the chanting in the monastery , the hustle bustle of the market, happy – smiling faces ; everything symbolizing thimphu as a city where “dove bird resides” .
Day 6: 6TH Oct. 2015
On 6th Oct. we woke up early in the morning at 6:00 am .The morning sun was refreshing and had breakfast. After that we all gathered and reached Kuensal Phodrang known as Buddha point at 7:30 am.
Kuensal Phodrang: We visited the Kuensal Phodrang, locally known as the Buddha point, in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Following the trail into the woods we watched little glimpses of the gigantic Buddha looking over the city in every few minutes as the way up there was like a labyrinth in its own.
Finally when our bus came to a halt we stepped down in awe. The direct sunrays over the Buddha statue and its golden reflection made us all wonder about the scale and beauty of the place which adorned the skyline of the Thimphu city. The Buddha Dordenma (the statue) was adorning the hill top of Thimphu valley. The statue will house over one lakh (one hundred thousand) smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Buddha Dordenma itself, will be made of bronze and gilded in gold. The Buddha Dordenma is sited amidst the ruins of Kuensel Phodrang, the palace of Sherab Wangchuck, the thirteenth Desi Druk (Bhutanese King), overlooking the southern approach to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Upon completion, it will be one of the largest Buddha rupas in the world, at a height of 169 feet (51.5 meters). Although its completion was planned for October 2010, construction is still ongoing as of October, 2015.
Under the eyes of the Buddha statue, the Kuensel Phodrang nature park was formally opened as a recreational park in 2011. The park conserves 943.4 acres of forest area that surrounds the Buddha Dordenma statue. The 169-feet bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, Vajra Throne Buddha, symbolising indestructibility, and seated on a Vajra throne.
Dechen Phodrang Dzong : The monastery, located north of the city, has 450 student monks enrolled in an eight-year course. It is monitored by UNESCO and houses a number of historical Bhutanese artifacts including 12th century paintings.
The upper floor features a large figure of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal as well as the Goenkhang (chapel devoted to protective and terrifying deities). The central figure in the downstairs chapel is the Buddha Sakyamuni.
The Royal Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is situated to the north of majestic fortress monastery in the Tashichhoe Dzong precinct in Thimphu; It is an integral component of capital complex.
In the words of Christopher Benninger, “The structure must also convey a strong memorable image ; it must act as Bhutan’s icon of democracy many will visit just to ‘see it’ and ‘to experience it’.
National Library: The national library and archives of Bhutan has two building blocks in its premises. The older building was established by His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third king as the part of a government policy to preserve and promote Bhutan’s cultural and religious heritage.
Folk museum: The folk heritage museum is an old traditional farmhouse which was restored as a museum by Her Majesty Queen Ashi Dorji. The purpose was to let people know about traditional Bhutanese household techniques.
A Bhutanese home is not only a residential unit but also a social, economic and religious unit. Apart from providing a home for the family and shelter for domestic livestock, it was also an extension of the religious space of a temple. The arrangement of spaces within the house is extremely functional. Spaces due to functional demarcations were normally laid out in a vertical hierarchy, which start from the simple lower ground floor spaces used for sheltering livestock, to the storehouses for products from the farms in the middle level to the sacred upper level spaces, used for sleep, family, guests and spiritual rituals. Spaces in the home are designed to be functional yet flexible. Spaces usually flow organically from one room to the other in a relationship that brings the residents together.
Tashichho Dzong is a Buddhist monastery on the northern edge of the city of Thimpu in Bhutan. The Dzong is built just beside the Wang Chhu river .This is one of the mega structure in Bhutan and its architecture is magnificent. It acts as the government headquarters, as a monastery and also hosts social events. We reached the Dzong at around 4.30p.m. and waited outside for the change of guards ceremony to end. The ceremony was worth waiting for. It was colorful and had a lot of flamboyant moves.Post the ceremony, the visitors were let into the Dzong. It was breathtaking and the imposing structure looked amazingly beautiful in the fading light of the day.
Day7: 7th Oct. 2015
Memorial chorten : The memorial chorten, in the heart of the city, is designed is a tibetan style chorten, also called the jangchup chorten, patterned on the design of a classical stupa, with a pyramidal pillar crowned by a crescent moon and sun. The chorten depicts larger than life size images of wrathful deities with their female consorts in large numbers. On the exterior of the gate are representations of the three protective bodhisattvas – avalokiteśvara (the symbol of compassion), mañjuśrī (the symbol of knowledge) and vajrapāṆi, the symbol of power.
Then Students explored the market area of the city ,enjoyed the street food of Thimphu, After this we reached the hotel, packed up our bags and rushed to the buses for our way back to Jaigaon. After 7 hours of tiring journey we halted the gates of hotel Satyam in Jaigaon .we all were tired and also sad as the time of departure from Bhutan was near .We all rushed to the beds and slept after a long tiring Journey .
Day 8: 8th Oct. 2015
We woke up early in the morning at 6:30 and at 7:00 we had breakfast. After breakfast we were given time till 11:00 to explore the border area of India and Bhutan .We crossed the border and roamed on the roads of Fujiling , some went for shopping while other spent time in the park and some went to enjoy the cuisine of Bhutan and enjoyed the sights as much as we can and captured the last shots in other’s paradise. At last our journey filled with enthusiasm and journey came to an end . After 2 hours we reached the Alipurduar station at 2:00. It was time to say good bye to a beautiful journey . We all were carrying a bundle of sweet experiences and memories with us.
These are the memories and something that would always remain in our heart about Bhutan .The journey was ended but we had got a lot of experiences, memories moments of happiness, joy, fun that we are going to treasure for life.
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Kadinchey La (Thank You 🙂 )