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Old 23rd April 2016, 11:44   #46
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Thanks for sharing. Being in Guwahati i wish that the Samdrup Jongkhar gate became like Phultsholing allowing entry into Bhutan with on the spot paperwork.
Than people from Assam could have made weekend trips to Trashigang and beyond.
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Old 24th April 2016, 00:00   #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by San Phrangmung View Post
Thanks for sharing. Being in Guwahati i wish that the Samdrup Jongkhar gate became like Phultsholing allowing entry into Bhutan with on the spot paperwork.
Than people from Assam could have made weekend trips to Trashigang and beyond.
Yes that would be nice, but I guess they must have their reaosns
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Old 24th April 2016, 20:50   #48
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Day 4 : Drive to Thimphu, Thmiphu


Finally we did set course for Thimphu passing through lovely countryside scenery

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But not before stopping by these ruins which had looked amazing the day we had drove in the drizzle by the failing light. Well, they still looked right but not so right as they had appeared then.

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Well, generally people will have a perception regarding Bhutan that it would a technologically backward nation. But in addition to spiritual advancement, these guys were also amazing bridge builders, guess necessity is the mother of invention.

If you do not believe me read this

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thang_Tong_Gyalpo

http://www.eturbonews.com/33518/bhut...-chain-bridges


Well if you read those above, this is the Dzong and bridge they are speaking about, and it lies between Paro and Chuzum

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Close to it wife also stopped by for bit of local knick-knack eatables at this roadside stall

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In addition to spices, organic raisins, and excellent walnuts which reminded me of 'kagazi akhrot' of Kashmir, she also got these dried apples, which she enjoyed a lot

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And we reached the Chuzum again, this time in bright sunlight

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And rode up the Thimphu Valley this time

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After a lovely short ride, we were into Thimphu

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(contd..)

Last edited by YanTra Makto : 24th April 2016 at 21:13.
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Old 24th April 2016, 22:38   #49
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Day 4 : Drive to Thimphu, Thimphu


Off we rushed to the MOHCA immigration office to get our permits for Punakha and Phobjika, followed by vehicle permit at RSTA.


The Immigration office is located on the main road of Thimphu, close to its far end opposite these handicraft stalls, and well the RSTA is at the bus stop as usual

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Relieved after having the permits made, it was time for another highlight of our trip, getting our very own personalized official usable postal stamps made at the GPO of Bhutan. Also available are stamps of Bhutan in various shapes like triangle, rhombus and even holographic and 3D ones.

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Sorry, for the poor quality but here is a closeup of our stamps

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The museum of GPO is among the better ones. An interesting fact I learned over there was regarding Garp or postal runners, one among them 7 feet tall, who were credited to travel incredible distances at unbelievable speeds between various Dzongs in these hilly terrains. These guys were especially chosen and were supposed to have birthmark of 'chakra' on their feet.

For further reference

http://www.kuenselonline.com/celebra...ooking-beyond/

http://businessbhutan.bt/the-huge-st...en-of-trongsa/

courtesy https://spunktitud3.wordpress.com/20...p-of-approval/
Quote:
What you see is a statue of their legendary postal runner (known as a garp) who was able to walk from Punakha to Trongsa and back in one day, crossing torrential rivers and dense forests (according to Google Maps, the distance is 135.8km per way and it would take 39 hours to walk. I think they have a real good chance of winning marathons!).
Garps were selected by the King or regional chieftains based on qualities such as speed, power of memory (messages often being verbal), clarity of speech, and being trustworthy. Modern telecommunication was only introduced in Bhutan on 17 November 1991, so these postal runners were an important part of the social system for a long time.
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Well now was time for a long delayed grub, we had thought of having it at The Zone based on reviews for Yak ribs. But we were not sure of its location, luckily we were able to find it just like that driving down a road. And we too found it to extremely nice. Mocha, the one next to it also appeared good with live music too.


While I enjoyed the Yak Ribs and the best Ema Datshi ever

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Now was the time to find a place to sleep for the night. But alas we were house fulled out of all hotels Finally one Bhutanese gentleman, the owner of a houseful hotel took it upon himself to find a room for us. He rang up few places and even led us in his own car to a hotel within our budget, fixed up a room and left only after I was satisfied with the room. The hotel guys said that they will take about 15-20 mins to prepare the room. With tension of room off our heads, we went out again and wife shopped at the handicraft market, before that she also went to the weekend market but we learnt that it was only a vegetable and grains market.

Though I found few interesting butcheries nearby preparing bacon.

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Finally before calling it a night, we went to have a look at Thimphu dzong in night.

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(contd..)

Mod Note: Please refrain from posting pictures of alcohol. Its not permitted on the forum

Last edited by ampere : 26th April 2016 at 15:47. Reason: Removed Pictures of alcohol
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Old 26th April 2016, 19:45   #50
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Drive to Phobjikha Valley



Thimpu, we would have loved to see you more but you were no where close to Paro, and we have places to see, so off we set course to our other attraction of trip besides the Paro Tsechu

But not before a round of Thimphu at the famous Clock Tower Square of Thimphu

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We also tanked up on groceries from a store nearby, and then tanked up the car, first time after Phuentsholing. We had driven 355.5 kms since then and she had returned an average of 15.5. Pretty healthy considering that she was loaded, the entirely hilly roads and her age of 8 yrs and 60k + kms. .

With lots of one-ways one has to go round and round in Thimphu and here is the famous traffic roundabout of Thimphu, where traffic lights were installed and then removed and replaced back by traffic policemen, reportedly on public pressure of it being impersonal.

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I had an option of choosing a different road to drive on, and obviously I took it plus as I anticipated it provided us with views and blessings of the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world, which unfortunately we were unable to go due paucity of time.

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The route we took when coming from Paro.

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The conventional same way back route to go further east to Punakha etc

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The route we took

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Soon we were out of Thimphu town, but not before losing the way by going straight when we were supposed to loop ourselves.

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The roads were BAD as a result of massive widening and resurfacing works under progress, even seemingly still well surfaces were being scraped out. We soon reached the immigration post at Hungtsho

https://www.google.co.in/maps/dir/27...27.4132239!3e0


And then a short uphill drive to Dochula, the drive would have been enjoyable had it not been for the dusty conditions and rattling ride due to road works, none the less the low speeds ensured that my wife and younger one both of whom suffer from motion sickness, did not suffer from it and thus enjoyed it

Thankfully the last few kilometers of road from Dochula was still not taken up for relaying / widening.

It was a nice and sunny day up here at Dochula, which was supposed to be the highest point of our drive.

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Dim view of the snow ranges, it was 1030 local time, am sure the views would have been much better earlier in the morning.

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These are what separates this Himalayan kingdom, a still preserved Shangri la (with all those check points and all) from the original Shangri La-Tibet, now lost to the occupying Chinese.

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Those geographically inclined and interested may try matching up the peaks

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Checking the zoom and manual focus of sons nikon

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A bit of history too courtesy Wikipedia

Quote:
The Druk Wangyal Khang Zhang Chortens are red-band or khangzang chortens, 108 in numbers, built in a central hillock at the pass, under the patronage of the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk. In local language they are called gYul Las rNampar Gyal wai' chortens or chortens of victory.[10] These were built as a memorial in honour of the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in the December 2003 battle against Assamese insurgents from India. It particularly marks the victory of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who dislodged the rebels from their camps (there were 30 camps) in Bhutanese territory from where they raiding Indian territory of Assam.[1][8] After the war the king went back to Thimpu on 28 December 2003 and at this stage the 108 chortens were being built

Some more interesting info on the battle in which the Prince studying in Oxford left his studies and joined his father the King to actually fight alongside the Army, reportedly he received bullet injuries in his leg too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_All_Clear

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/a...how/372621.cms


None the less the Chortens on top of isolated hillock inn center of the pass looked very lovely in the bright sunlight in bright red colour and gold gilded spires.

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Okay, find our vehicle in this one

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(contd..)
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Old 26th April 2016, 23:10   #51
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Day5: Drive to Phobjikha - closing onto Pele La



Well, the nice road which had began a few kms before Dochula, continued but just as I sighed a breath of relief, we hit the construction phase again, just a few kms after Dochula.

This kind of stretch continued, barring a few odd patches of completed surfaces of one odd kms in between. We reached the Rhododendron garden of Royal Botanical Park after Dochula which was one of our intended stops.

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The Barishto Lake in the garden

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We took a short walk in it and spent about half an there, it also has a small natural history exhibition room attached to it.

The rare rhododendron in park, it was just about early for them to be blooming

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Bhutan is literally sprinkled with beautiful and intriguing looking dzongs / gompas at commanding locations, you see many of them while driving on the road itself and are left wondering as to how does one reach there and the history behind it.

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We reached the bottom of valley and the road bifurcated for Punakha at Sopsikha, while we continued towards Wangdue Phodrang. I thought the going would be better after the bifurcation but I was wrong, after some time we reached Wangdue Phodrang.

Wangdue Phodrang with its new Helvetian sponsored bridge, over what is Sankosh river in India. The Wangdue Dzong got burned down completely due to an electrical short circuit in 2012 and is under the slow process of rebuilding.

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There existed an earlier bridge here, about which I had learnt in Postal Museum at GPO, Thimphu. Here is a stamp commemorating the same, nice subtle humuor too.

"15 Nu : 100th Anniversary of Tower Bridge - London, 16 Nu : 250th Anniversary of Wangdue Bridge - Bhutan"

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Crossed the new bridge, the road started climbed immediately, and just at the bifurcation of main east west road and the road to Wangdue, we were stuck for 15 odd mins due to a landslide whose clean up was under process. The construction zone continued and the going was slow. Stopped for lunch of soupy Wai Wai with ema for us and no ema for kids. Boy, now we were in the interiors it seemed, the restaurant owners could not understand Hindi or English and communication was through sign language and a lot of pointing.

Though the scenery looked beautiful as ever if not better as the light started slanting in the evening, lending perspective by shadows in the valleys

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(contd..)
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Old 27th April 2016, 18:42   #52
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Lovely write up YanTara ji! As you well know, lack of time, partly because of rascals like you and majorly due to non-availability of an internet connection, I could not document by travel to this lovely nation. So hope you won't mind me adding a few of my clicks.

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Another view of the Paro Dzong by night.

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The Buddha overlooking Thimpu

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The Dzong at Thimpu

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Thimpu Valley
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Old 30th April 2016, 19:22   #53
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Lovely write up YanTara ji!
Thank you Neel sirjee, bas sab aapse hi sikha hai, great pics of Thimphucpics. Unfortunately, we did not get to spend much time there, due to a squeezzeed schedule.
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Old 1st May 2016, 18:10   #54
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Wow. What a travelogue!! I felt I was in Bhutan past one hour and just returned back to good ol' sweltering Madras. Very detailed and useful info sprinkled throughout the write up. I wish I could drive down my 94k + run but as good as new Hyundai i10. Not sure if it's doable from Madras to Bhutan and back. That will be asking for too much I guess. I have decided to go to Bhutan for sure thanks to you YanTra Makto. And oh!! Fantastic pics BTW. What a way to end a Sunday
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Old 1st May 2016, 18:54   #55
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Day5: Crossing Lawa La into the hidden Phobjikha


Continuing on the road to Pele La, I saw a road taking almost a right U turn and going up, from my study of maps earlier I guessed that this must be the road to Phobjikha valley, there was no one to ask for directions, and no signboards too. I thought to cross check and thankfully the route on google map from Thimphu to Phobjikha which I had studied in hotel's wifi in morning was still open. I was not having any other GPS device and was off network, but because the app was not closed since last opened it still was showing position on map. And indeed the turning was correct, thank you GPS, Android and Google.

The road climbed through Rhododendron forests to a beautiful grassy, small and rolling pass, which I learned later was called as 'Lawa La', and as you turn on the passes shoulder you are greeted with the first view of this beautiful hidden valley.

Also my watch's altimeter showed this place to be higher than Dochula, later I cross checked and found it to be correct, Lawa La is about a 1000 ft higher than Dochula, making it the highest point of our drive.

Phobjikha is a bowl-shaped glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains. The valley is located at an elevation of 2900m. The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan, is popular for its scenic splendour and cultural uniqueness.The valley is covered by a rich sward of grass in the marshy land where special variety of dwarf bamboo (Yushania microphylla) grows on which the black-necked cranes feed. The Nake Chuu and Phag Chuu River runs through this valley. There was no electricity in the valley till recent past and now the electric supply to the valley is through underground cables to avoid disturbance to the Black Necked Cranes.


Rhododendrons have just started blooming

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Monks of Gantey Gompa out for an evening walk

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Gantey Gompa stands out on the edge of ridge providing the only access to this isolated, hill locked hidden valley

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Courses on Buddhism are with a curriculum of up to 9 years!

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The lovely Phobjikha Valley, being readied, the ploughing starts when the black necked cranes go away

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Its a high altitude wetland, marshy

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This definitely must be beating Switzerland

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Lovely Valley

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Nice to drive too

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We reached as the cows came home

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Reaching the hotel, we booked into our room and went for a quick recce drive around the valley in remaining part of daylight, before coming back to our room.


Shots of Raven, the national bird of Bhutan

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Lovely View from our lovely stay the Gakiling Guesthouse

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In addition to the beauty of the valley, the main purpose of coming to this valley was to be able to see the black necked cranes if they were still here. But alas, it seems we were late in the year and they had already left for their residence in the Tibetan lakes. Asked around few people and they said that there have been unconfirmed sightings of 3 of them today. We asked the area, that was bit far from where we were and it was becoming dark fast, so we headed back to our room.

Its a lovely family run place, my wife and kids became friends with the owners bubbly daughter, Pema

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After a sumptuous dinner, we called it a night and snuggled into the warm quilts in our cosy rooms, ready for tomorrow.


(contd..)
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Old 2nd May 2016, 19:23   #56
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Day 6 : Exploring Phobjikha



Got up early for having a drive around the valley, but unlike yesterday, it was cloudy today, with the light conditions not being very good, and chances of seeing black necked cranes almost nil, decided to allow the kids to catch up some more sleep and leave the guest house once and for all after having breakfast, and packing up the car.


It was a cloudy day

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So we roamed out late, after having our breakfast

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The kids gelled very well, language no bar when you have the universal language of love, fun and innocence

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With our lovely hostesses

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The lovely dining hall of the guest house with the central stone bukhari

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Lively painted balcony of our stay

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Our Braveheart parked in front the Guest House

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Setting course for the Day The old / original building of the guest house, it is presently undergoing renovation and is currently used for stay for drivers and guides

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(contd..)
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Old 2nd May 2016, 22:48   #57
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Loved the thread! Remembering my own trip to Bhutan last year covering Thimpu, Paro, Trongsa..


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You must have noted the fan following for Hyundai Santa Fe and Tuscan; almost every second car is a hyundai.
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Old 4th May 2016, 19:22   #58
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Loved the thread!

You must have noted the fan following for Hyundai Santa Fe and Tuscan; almost every second car is a hyundai.
Thank you breezydrive, sorry I did not particularly notice Hyundais, proabably was not looking out for it, but what I did notice was the large numbers of Toyotas, land cruisers and hiluxes, also surprising was the number of Altos!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amalraaj View Post
Wow. What a travelogue!! I felt I was in Bhutan past one hour and just returned back to good ol' sweltering Madras. Very detailed and useful info sprinkled throughout the write up. I wish I could drive down my 94k + run but as good as new Hyundai i10. Not sure if it's doable from Madras to Bhutan and back. That will be asking for too much I guess. I have decided to go to Bhutan for sure thanks to you YanTra Makto. And oh!! Fantastic pics BTW. What a way to end a Sunday
Thanks a lot for the lovely compliment Amalraaj , hope am able to finish the few remaining parts of this travelogue.
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Old 10th May 2016, 15:17   #59
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Originally Posted by YanTra Makto View Post
Thanks a lot for the lovely compliment Amalraaj , hope am able to finish the few remaining parts of this travelogue.
Please update the rest. Waiting eagerly.
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Old 11th May 2016, 20:51   #60
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Day 6 : Exploring Phobjikha



Since it was already late in the morning, and we did not have any real chance of seeing the black necked cranes, decided to visit the RSPNB center first.


With statue of a Black Necked Crane

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Wearing the Black Necked Crane cloak, used in the Gangtey Gompa Tsechu

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The center has a nice audio visual presentation followed by a informative documentary. Well, the story goes that a flock of black necked were heading south as winters descended on their Tibetan lake homes. The eldest got exhausted and fell down in this beautiful valley of Phobjikha, the others thought he wouldn't make it and started circling overhead. A local or I forget if a monk, took the fallen one and nursed him, giving him water and salt. The other black necked too came down seeing the elder recovering. The elder recovered, but by now the black necked started liking this beautiful valley and gentle good willed people here and they decided to stay here itself for the winters. When summers came the Black Necked blessed this valley and the peasants here, before setting course back.

Every year since the black necked cranes started arriving here, the eldest arrives first followed by the rest. All the cranes who come in first circle the Gantey Gompa thrice as 'kora', an act of reverence before settling down in the valley. The villagers look forward to their arrival and blessings.

Such a lovely gentle story, well they don't tell you this in the presentation, that's more academic, don't know where my wife picked up this tit bit from.

Lovely Paintings in the audio visual room

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The sun finally showing up in patches

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Wow, to our surprise we learnt we could actually see a black necked crane. A juvenile was attacked by a leopard few days back and had broken a wing. It was being cared for by the center, so finally we did see one of this rare birds though not a free one.

Kids having a dekko at the injured Black Necked

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A Black Necked Crane

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Wife and younger one collecting huge pine cones

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A country home in Phobjikha

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Another one, all barks on the outside

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Country Roads

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Wide Bowl of Grass

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Village Behind

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Horses in the wind, the loveliest sight

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Up and down the roads we go and still yeh dil mange mo

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Yak Alert

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A monastery or school is it at other end of the flat, and boy whats that halo-ish glow behind the high center of the building !!

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Our lill braveheart taking us places, bet she has done more off-roading than most of SUVs

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Cant seem to get enough of it, another view of the lovely Phobjikha

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The streams of Phobjikha meandering through the marshes

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Holy Cows, holy or not but lucky ones !!

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Honing their horns for getting horny later

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IDs please anyone

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Lovely Phobjikha

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(contd..)
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