Thimphu to Punakha
Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
11Trip End Mar 30, 2008
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Thimphu to Punakha
Our day gets started with a blessing. Our hotel is near a school, and the morning assembly is taking place as we are leaving. The roads are blocked so as not to disturb the students as they pray. We have the incredible bounty of observing this spectacle and of hearing the principal address the students. Each morning one student reads an especially composed paper. Today's reading is on the topic of "A Genuine Smile," and it is full of wisdom and inspiration. My favorite part is when the boy compares a smile to the most cost-efficient form of energy. A genuine smile sheds a great light, and does not cost anything.
We head out of Thimphu and up into the mountains, crossing the 10,000-foot Dochula Pass. At the summit is a huge hill with many Stupas. We can barely discern the high Himalayas in the distance. Walking around the Stupas quickly reminds us of the high altitude, as we pant for breath.
The road descends through pine forests, and blooming rhododendrons, and beautiful terraced rice fields. At one point we stop the bus and get off and walk downhill for about a mile, just to get exercise.
Our next stop is the Punakha Dzong, spectacularly situated between two rivers. The monks are having a special prayer observance, and we cannot enter their shrine. We wait outside for a while, listening to their chanting, but need to move on in order to make it to our next stop before sunset.
We hike for 20 minutes across beautiful fields to the Temple called Chimi Lhakhang, founded by a "mad" Lama who is said to have subdued demons with his "magical thunderbolt." (Remember those special designs painted outside doorways to ward off demons?) We see many more "thunderbolts" painted on the houses in the surrounding fields
The young monks who live here come out to play soccer and get some exercise as the sun is setting. We have a chance to speak with several. They are having a wonderful time, and their joy is infectious. We feel that we have been blessed at both the beginning and the end of our day.
We continue to our hotel, located in the village of Wangdi. It is in town, near the Wangdi Dzong, and serves one of our best meals thus far. This evening a local gay man from Punakha visits with us after dinner to talk about his life in Bhutan. An interesting ending to a glorious day!