View of Trongsa Dzong from our fabulous hotel
Trongsa Dzong is the largest of all the dzongs in Bhutan, and still retains importance as a center for government administration. In fact, before becoming king, the son of the king must serve as governor of Trongsa first, in what sounds to be similar to the concept of the Prince of Wales. The secular offices are contained in one end of the dzong, while about 300-400 monks occupy the other end. The structure has lots of fortress-style arrow-shooting vantage points, vestiges of the days when Trongsa Dzong was a critical fortress in fending off maurading invaders from other valleys before the separate regions were unifed in the late 19th century. Also, Trongsa Dzong is where the annual (December) techu festival takes place where the gigantic thangka is unveiled and the ritual dances are performed. We had seen this event on Michael Palin's "Himalaya", so it was neat to imagine this happening in the large courtyard where we stood.
Once again, we were priviledged to sit with the monks during their prayers which had actually begun at 2am to mark a special ritual. By the time we arrived, they had been praying for about 8 hours! Photography is never allowed inside
The largest dzong in Bhutan
the temples, so unfortunately, our words will have to suffice in describing the complex richness of temple aesthetic.
We stayed through the end of prayers and then drove up to the bottom of stone steps leading to the watchtower above the dzong. About 200 steps brought us to the base of the watchtower which is now a museum of artifacts, tracing the history of the Royal Family, along with many religious statues, thangkas, and metal sacred objects. The view from the top was windy and spectacular. We enjoyed lunch a couple of floors down in the tower.
After lunch, we hit the road for our drive to Bumthang Valley, the easternmost point of our journey. The nomadic rhythm of the last several days ended here as we will spend 6 nights in Bumthang with day trips and treks to a host of interesting places in the area. Our hotel here has a lovely garden of blossoming apple trees, and it feels good to finally be settling in one place.
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