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Old 11th May 2016, 22:26   #61
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Day 6 : Exploring Phobjikha

Still could not get over the fact of it being a Marsh at such high altitude. And not only the flattish center even the slopes on sides were marshy at places, how can slopes be marshy, beats me. As per my understanding, slope=water flows=no marsh, beats me.

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A Mithun, did not know they had in Bhutan too!

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Having driven around the bottom of Phobjikha Valley, thought to give a visit to the mystic Gantey Gompa too before heading out of this paradise.

Monks at Gantey

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The Gantey village on the ridge, with gompa at the end

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Entry to the Gantey Gompa

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The Gantey Gompa

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The Gantey gompa was a lovely experience, as it was not just a touristy or glossy display one, but a truly functioning one, crumbling at places too. Neither was it a secretly secluded one, and all the portions of gompas and rooms and quarters were in bounds for the tourist too.

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The Garuda

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A local artisan painstakingly creating detailed paintings in the painting room of gompa

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His creations

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A pair of Black Necked Cranes, the love birds from heaven painted on tree mushroom. We picked it up, also for bargain are lovely wooden cravings with traditional motifs and black necked crane themes.

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A Raven, the national bird feeding on red Bhutanese rice offered by a monk in the gompa

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The earthy old world Gantey gompa

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Phobjikha Valley as seen from Gantey Gompa

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Buildings within the gompa perimeter

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The Gantey Gompa

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View from Gantey gompa

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The lovely pathway to Gantey gompa

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The Red-Billed Chough

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Parked at the entrance to Gantey Gompa

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Leaving the Gantey village

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Old 12th May 2016, 20:12   #62
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Day 6: Drive from Phobjikha to Punakha

So finally we had to pull away ourselves out of this valley, not before silently promising ourselves to return here for a longer stay, wishfully during the annual 11 Novevember Tsechu when the Black Necked Cranes should also be here.

How amazing is nature, just last evening about 16-17 hrs before we had come down this same road, and now it was a totally different scene, the Rhododendrons all along the road had bloomed this day, and a lovely sight it was. It further delayed our progress as we stopped frequently to take photographs, but no photograph can convey the actual beauty you see and elation one feels seeing nature in its beautiful full force.

The rhododendrons decided to bloom today, lucky us

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Slowly we made our way back up the lone exit from the valley upto Lewa La on the narrow single lane road through forests of pines and rhododendrons, full of chirping birds, man I do have to get back here some day for some serious hiking and birding.

As we closed in the Lewa La pass, the forest thinned out and grassland started, we saw many yaks, a baby and mother too. The baby had not yet dropped its umbilical cord.

Mother and Child

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Yak, Yak; same pinch

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Lewa La, the road top you see here is Lewa La (pass), the single entry exit into Phobjikha and the highest point of our Bhutan Trip.

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Lewa La area with its grassy slopes is a favourite hang out for Yak Shepherd nomads, that's a shepherd hut you see in the picture above. Okay, here is a closer view.

A Yak shepherd shelter

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Notice the Yak cheese hanging outside and the duster made of Yak hair

Quite a lucnh, wish we had the time to join in

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Even the white Rhododendrons had bloomed in larger numbers than the day before

White is colour of purity

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Nature's Canvas

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I tell you, these Mithuns are handsome creatures sitting on edge of precarious roads, chewing away the cud arrogantly, without battling an eyelid, caring a damn for rest of the world.

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Country homes

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We stopped for lunch at the place where we had stopped on our way up, but no today was Sunday and the lady simply refused to serve us, while my wife tried to negotiate with her, we saw this weekly Sunday fun event.

All Sundays, the Bhutanese get together for archery competition like these generally on a riverside (that's the flattest piece of land you find), which also involves singing, dancing, lots of friendly banter, a meal perhaps, great way to spend a Sunday. Once a month the archery competition has bigger prizes like washing machines, TVs etc. Today was one such Sunday of this locality.

Getting ready for the competitions

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With some singing

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and dancing

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to the business end of things

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while they judged

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Crossing the Dang Chu, we stopped for a meal of Wai Wai in a eatery close to the bridge.

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While coming I had taken the road which comes from Metsina to over the bridge at Wangdue Phodrang,

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but I was sick of driving on under construction East West highway and decided to go to our next destination by a much longer route, but it was good that we took this chance as it was smoother, hence faster and hence more enjoyable, almost a relief.

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We saw another of archery conglomeration on the way

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Old 13th May 2016, 18:31   #63
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Day 6: Chimmi Lakhang

Warning! This post contains graphic drawings of the male phallus. Do not read on if you are uncomfortable with such images.

This is a unique temple, with interesting anecdotes, so before I bombard you with photographs, a bit of history about it.

courtesy passportchop.com

In founding the site it is said that Drukpa Kunley subdued a demon of Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” i.e. his phallus! and trapped it in a rock at the location close to where the chorten now stands. Around the time when Drukpa Kuenley first visited Bhutan, a demoness called Loro Duem resided on a high pass presently called Dochu La. She terrorized all who tried to cross the pass and the people in the valley lived in fear. Two more demonesses lived on two smaller passes and the three of them caused people misery and suffering. When Drukpa Kuenley heard of this, he hunted down the demoness at Dochu La and the three demonesses recognizing Drukpa Kuenley’s power ran down the valley and the other two demonesses dissolved into the body of Loro Duem.

When she reached the plains of Lobesa, she transformed herself into a dog to avoid detection. But Lam Drukpa Kuenley recognized the demoness dog, killed it and buried it under the mound of a hill which he said resembled the breast of a woman. He then said “Chi-med” (no dog), and built a black chorten on top of this mound. Before killing and burying the demoness, he made the demoness pledge service to the Buddha and become a protector of the dharma. She is now the local deity called Chhoekim who is the guardian deity of Chhime Lhakhang.

courtesy Wikipedia

The monastery is the repository of the original wooden symbol of phallus that Kunley brought from Tibet. This wooden phallus is decorated with a silver handle and is used to bless people who visit the monastery on pilgrimage, particularly women seeking blessings to beget children. The tradition at the monastery is to strike pilgrims on the head with a 10-inch (25 cm) wooden phallus. Traditionally symbols of phallus in Bhutan have been intended to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip
The monastery is very modest, only one smallish building, but it contains a wood-and-ivory lingam through which one can obtain blessings from the monk in residence

courtesy lonely planet

A wooden effigy of the lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a wang (blessing or empowerment) from the saint. Newborns are also brought here to be named, and all leave with the same name: Chimi (or Chimmi).
Make a small offering and you’ll be rewarded with a blessing from the lama’s wooden phallus, tusk and his iron archery set. Mothers-to-be pray to a fertility goddess and then select their future baby’s name from a collection of bamboo slips.

Some more interesting anecdotes regarding “Divine Madman” the maverick saint Drukpa Kuenley

courtesy passportchop.com

Drukpa Kuenley was known as the “Mad Saint” or “Divine Madman” for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by singing, humour and outrageous behaviour, which amounted to being bizarre, shocking and with sexual overtones. He felt that the stiffness of the clergy and social convention were keeping people from learning the true teachings of Buddha. His outrageous, often obscene, actions and sexual antics were a deliberate method of provoking people to discard their preconceptions.

He is also the saint who advocated the use of phallus symbols as paintings on walls and as flying carved wooden phalluses on house tops at four corners of the eves

courtesy Wikipedia

He was known for his crazy methods of enlightening other beings, mostly women, which earned him the title "The Saint of 5,000 Women". Among other things, women would seek his blessing in the form of sex. His intention was to show that it is possible to be enlightened, impart enlightenment, and still lead a very healthy sex life. He demonstrated that celibacy was not necessary for being enlightened. In addition, he wanted to expand the range of means by which enlightenment could be imparted, while adding new evolutionary prospects to the overarching tradition. He is credited with introducing the practice of phallus paintings in Bhutan and placing statues of them on rooftops to drive away evil spirits. Because of this power to awaken unenlightened beings, Kunley's phallus is referred to as the "Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom" and he himself is known as the "fertility saint". For this reason women from all around the world visited his monastery to seek his blessing.

courtesy lonely planet

Kunley’s numerous sexual conquests often included even the wives of his hosts and sponsors. On one occasion when he received a blessing thread to hang around his neck, he wound it around his phallus instead, saying he hoped it would bring him luck with the ladies.

Okay, after that overload of useless knowledge, get ready to be overloaded with produce of a shutterbug..

We had an option to drive down to the Lakhang on the dusty road, but we decided that the more traditional walk would be a better option, and glad that we decided so.

House Art, the first village at the beginning of 20 minute hike from Sopsokha

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Handicraft Shops

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Warding off the evil spirit

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Wall Art, again

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Tourists Restroom

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Hiking through the paddy fields

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With young monks as our guides

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Thangkas, at the second village

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Stone Art, painted on stones brought from monastery

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Refreshing Scenery

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More handicraft shops

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with their ware on display

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About Chimmi Lakhang

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Young monks enjoying their time out

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The Chimmi Lakhang

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The Bodhi tree here is got from Bodh Gaya it is said

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Colourful looking structure

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Interesting Welcome Board

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Lovely handicraft shop

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A Face Mask, Creative imagination or Imaginative creation!!

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Trumpets made of real human thigh bones and available on sale too

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More handicraft

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The Trek back, equally lovely

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Old 13th May 2016, 21:26   #64
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Day 6: Chimmi Lakhang and Punakha Dzong

Warning! This post contains graphic drawings of the male phallus. Do not read on if you are uncomfortable with such images.

A painting or Thangka depicting the complicated motion of stars and planet around the earth

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A beautiful painting, these are costly as he intricate details imply that a trained artisan takes about six months to finish one.

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Fertility Handicrafts

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Inside of Phallus Handicrafts

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Having finished the trek, we made a dash for Punakha Dzong, which stands at confluence of Po Chu and Mo chu, or the father river and mother river and is said to be the most beautiful dzong.

The most beautiful, Punakha Dzong

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See this, opinions please, did I capture a shooting star or else what is it?, saw it only after downloading it.

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Lovely Punakha Dzong

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Massive steep stairways, needs a handrail to climb, unfortunately we were too late for the monastery to visit it

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The lovely cantilever bridge

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Punakha dzong in its night avatar

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Disappointed at not being able to see the Dzong, (but there's only so much you can do in a day), we finally set course to our room at Meri Puensum Resort at Walokha. Good rooms for the buck.

Bhutanese red rice with Kewa Ema Datshi

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And with a hearty meal we tucked in for the night, though with a slightly heavy heart as it was our last night in Bhutan.

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Old 15th May 2016, 11:44   #65
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The Drive back

Today was a longish drive, from Punakha till Phuentsholing and the plan was to start early. We got up in the morning to sounds of ominous almost continuous thunders in the land of thunder dragons. With the under repair roads, I braced up mentally for a tough slushy drive while also wondering whether it will snow the Dochula en-route. Part of me wished for it to snow so that we can enjoy it, while a part wished it not to for the driving difficulties it might pose.

Anyway, we re-packed up our trusted stead in light drizzle and were on course back.

Thankfully, the rain was not as bad as it was sounding, and thinned out as we gained altitude towards Dochula.

And to our surprise as clouds parted we saw it was snowing at lit higher altitude than ours.

Its snowing up there

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And so hoping against hope for a snowfall in March, we reached Dochula, but alas no snow at the pass itself. We stopped here to enjoy hot cups of coffee in the lovely chilly conditions at the Dochula Cafe. The cafe also serves nice buffet for lunch,but it was not time yet for it, so the kids had few cheese sandwiches while we had our coffee.

The picturesque Dochula Cafe

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Weathered, in spite of best efforts of moisturizing by my wife

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Hide and Seek, on the way down from Dochula

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Yellow Billed Blue Magpie, while we checked out at immigration check post at base of Dochula climb

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Farmscape, with cherry white and pink

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Approaching Thimpu

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Blessed by Buddha

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Leaving the mountains

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And for lunch, we stopped at the Chukha Dam view restaurant,

Chukha Dam, from Dam View Restaurant

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A Blue Whistling Thrush, the most melodious bird.

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Gedu, the college town, in evening light

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A stocked up local farm produce stall

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Snow view just about 35 km from Phuentsholing, these hills did not have snow when we were going up on these roads about 7 days back

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Descending into ocean of clouds

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And so ended our jam packed trip of Bhutan, but while it satisfied bit of wanderlust in us both provoked more than what it satiated, for example now I wanted to:

- visit the Paro Dzong again, spending more time in exploring the Dzong
- see the complete Paro Tsechu or Thimphu Tsechu
- visit Chele La
- visit Haa
- trek to chomolohari base from drukgyel
- visit Punakha Dzong properly
- spend 3-4 days in Phobjikha, leisurely hiking and photographing with mega zooms on its lovely hikes
- visit Phobjikha during Black Necked Crane Tsechu

Well, hoping to continue satisfying the wanderlust in me..

Thank you for going through my first proper travelogue
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Old 15th May 2016, 11:48   #66
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Default Re: Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Originally Posted by Amalraaj View Post
What a way to end a Sunday
Originally Posted by Dry Ice View Post
Please update the rest. Waiting eagerly.
Finally finished it, hope the bhpians like it, and do read the remaining part which took some time coming

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Old 22nd May 2016, 23:24   #67
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Default Re: Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Originally Posted by YanTra Makto View Post
Finally finished it, hope the bhpians like it, and do read the remaining part which took some time coming

Awesome travelogue. Glad that you had a good time here. Do visit us again preferably in the Autumn. The weather and road condition will be much better then.
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Old 28th May 2016, 20:43   #68
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Default Re: Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Originally Posted by Nagato710 View Post
Awesome travelogue. Glad that you had a good time here. Do visit us again preferably in the Autumn. The weather and road condition will be much better then.
Thank you Nagato710, yes I do wish to visit the lovely place in each season.

Looking out for December in Phobjhikha too, is it feasible!
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