Journey to the mystical kingdom of Bhutan

For a long time, I had been planning to go on a trip. The difficult question was : Where? The answer came over a cup of coffee, when a friend told me about the amazing experience she had on a trip to Bhutan recently. The more I listened to her, the more I became convinced that Bhutan was the destination I was looking for. By the end of that week, all the bookings were made and I was all set for my journey to the mystical Himalayan Kingdom. In this post, I have tried to summarise the most amazing and memorable things about my trip.

Paro Airport

It was a late night flight from Delhi to Paro and I had mostly slept through it. I finally woke up to extreme turbulence in the flight, and to the pilot’s announcement of attempting to land at Paro a third time (the weather had been less than ideal that morning). I already knew that the Paro airport, surrounded by steep mountains, is one of the most dangerous airports in the world, but when my flight finally landed, I was certain that it has to be one of the most scenic too.

The Golden Buddha Statue

The great Buddha Dordenmam, which overlooks the city of Thimphu, is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. Situated on the top of a hill, it is visible from most parts of the city. Once I reached there, I realised how gigantic the statue really was. The statue made of bronze and gilded in gold, stands (or sits!) 169 feet high. It also houses 125000 smaller Buddha statues inside it. As sunlight pours onto the statue, it shines beautifully against the clear blue sky overlooking the valley below. The golden Buddha statue is a must visit for anyone travelling to Bhutan.

Punakha Dzong

Dzongs (fortresses) are a distinctive part of Bhutanese architecture. Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan, houses the second largest dzong in the country. The Punakha dzong was built by Zhabdrung in the seventeenth century and is strategically located at the confluence of two rivers — the Mo Chhu(female) and Po Chhu (male). Historically important, the dzong has witnessed the coronation of kings and also the wedding of Jigme Wangchuk, the current king of Bhutan. It is beautifully constructed and consists of numerous courtyards and towers, filled with intricate wooden carvings and paintings. At the far end of the dzong is a prayer hall, where I was lucky enough to witness several monks deep in meditation. The whole experience was out of the world. If there is one dzong in Bhutan that you should really visit, it has to be this one.

Tiger’s nest

This has to be the highlight of my trip. The Tiger’s nest is a monastery perched on the edge of a cliff at a height of about 3100 m. It is believed to be the place where Guru Rinpoche came riding on a tigress and meditated, thus bringing Buddhism to Bhutan, and that’s how this monastery got its popular name. It is a two hour climb from the base, with breathtaking views all along. You can choose to ride on a horse till the halfway point, but after that you have to climb on your own. I had been to numerous treks before, and was confident of completing this one easily. But owing to the high altitude and continuous steep climb, it was proving to be otherwise. As I kept going though, the views kept getting better and thus I carried on. Once I reached the monastery, which I explored with fascination for more than an hour, I realised that though arduous, this trek was also one of the most rewarding that I had ever been to. A trip to Bhutan is definitely incomplete without a visit to the Tiger’s nest.

Overall

When you step into Bhutan, you get a sense of peace and calm that is unparalleled. The Bhutanese culture is strongly interwoven with its ancient past and traditions, which is visible all around. The people are really nice and friendly. To my surprise, almost everyone could speak Hindi (probably because they watch a lot of Bollywood movies), and I could even use my Indian currency notes there. Altogether, the trip was everything I could have asked for and I am glad that I chose to visit Bhutan.