MY DAYS IN BHUTAN: CONTRAST IN PANAKHA - Beddazzling Panakha Dzong vs Crumbling Village

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May 10th 2012
Published: May 20th 2012
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From Florida to Bhutan

Another trip to Asia on frequent flyer miles, thus all the stops along the way.

CONTRAST IN PANAKHA: The Bedazzling Dzong & the Crumbled Village


According to my itinerary, I was to go to Panakah on my second day. The agency, which had already changed my hotels, also changed my itinerary. I insisted on proceeding to Panakan valley on the originally planned date, but this would require a change on my “visa” for the restricted-area travel permit!!! That’s when I realized how tightly controlled every move of tourists here is. The visa office only opened at 9am so I had time to kill before living, we drove up to the unfinished Buddha view point. The 3storey golden statute was made in China and is being donated to Bhutan, I believe by Singapore.


With the late departure from Thimpu, before we reached the Chula Pass, we had missed the time to cross it before the road block due to road construction. I got stuck, as I had told my guide we would. Two hours lying in the car, feeling sick with the high altitude, were no fun and besides it was a waste of time. For the rest of the way I didn’t get to enjoy the scenery, lying down in the back seat, nauseous and dizzy.

But that’s how travelling is, unpredictable at times, and it offers practice on the concept of accepting what you can’t change.

I got to appreciate the Dochula La pass, at 314o meters, on the way back only. A great collection of prayer flags could be seen from the collection of 108 new white chortens (receptacle for offerings).

I skipped the visit to the royal botanical park and just enjoyed the views of the forests through my windows, changing from fruit orchards down below, to oak, maple, blue pine and finally rhododendron trees with the beautiful red and pink blooms.


It is spell bonding, with its lilac jacaranda trees in bloom.

The suspended bridge, the location by the confluence of two rivers (a female and a male one!!!) and the Himalayan backdrop completes the spectacular scenario of the Dzong where coronation of the kings happen.

Inside, the massive fortress-temple structure displayed intricate and colorful Bhutanese wood works and as always, with strong Buddhist influence. The wall paintings were beautiful! Interesting facts are that no nails or plans were used on Dzong constructions.

Monks kept crossing the grounds, going by their day as the few foreign visitors awed as they explored the Dzong.


On my second day in Panakha Valley, I wanted to see what lied beyond the photogenic Dzongs and fluttering prayer flags which dot the landscape seen by me so far, and probably all that’s seen by 98%!o(MISSING)f the visitors who aren’t here to go long treks. I was not interested in seeing the country homes for the royal family.

I stayed the night in the town of Wangdue Phodrang, at the Punatsangchhu Cottages. Coincidentally I was to find Dominik there, the German who lives in London I met at the hotel in Thimpu. Over dinner I inquired his great guide about a village nearby where I could see Bhutan’s real rural life. He recommended a village perched up on a hill off a winding road above the river, a few km to the north.

So, after breakfast at the hotel, with splendid views of valley and river, I got to see a face of Bhutan that is not picture perfect.

We took a short but steep hike to the village, walking through garbage filled grounds. Practically all decayed buildings were to appear. Old women worked to get the rusk off rice. Girls picked through old windows reveling dark rooms beyond their shadows. A little boy, with dirty clothe and face seats still by his home. Some women just sit together, another washes clothe on a faucet

Behind the small village was a very small village monastery. We went up, where we found the ground keeper praying. The paintings on the wall were covered for protection.

I see cactus flowers and an offering to ward off bad spirits just outside the village.

The view was beautiful, the Dzongs nearby gorgeous. This village represents, however, the ugliness of neglected poverty. It is quiet, very quiet up here, there are no “hellos” being share.

As I we descend, I glance back at the village and I wonder how these villagers would answer to the Gross National Happiness survey.

Additional photos below
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One male, one female!

20th May 2012

Which village?
Went to a poor village too in the Punakha area. Which village is this, Patricia?
21st May 2012

Lili. I don't have the name with me here, but it's a very poor area. I am now in Indonesia, about 2 hours from Singaraja, on north north of Bali, helping a very sick boy. See his link on my NGO site:
7th September 2012

Punakha, at the confluence of two mighty Himalayan rivers! At the Dzong, I was enchanted by the wall murals depicting he story of the Guru Rimpoche and the establishment of Tantric Buddhism..

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