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Old 10th April 2016, 01:23   #1
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Default Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Bhutan, the country with Highest GNH (Gross National Happiness)

After having it mind for last 8 odd years, was finally able to slot in a visit to Bhutan this March.

Whats better was that we were able to witness the last day of Paro Festival or Paro Tsechu

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A Cham Dancer at the Tsechu

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In front of huge Thongdrol of Paro Tsechu

Were lucky enough to see snow during our drive the first day itself, that too in March

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See Dzongs too in the backdrop of snow

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Enjoy the spring

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Taste few exotic dishes like "Fried Yak Skin"

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See the full moon

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Trek to the famous Tigers Nest

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Have some Hot Chilly Chocolate and Honey Spicy Cake

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Lucky to see the beautiful Chomolohari while driving in the Paro Valley

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Try traditional Yak Hair Highlander head gear

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See the Mountain Gold, the original Cordyceps, the Ophiocordyceps sinensis or the Yartsa Gunbu

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Witness planes taking off and landing from the one of the most difficult runways of the world

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Drive along the Ruins

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Get official usable stamps with our personalized photos

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Have delicious Yak Ribs with Ema Datshi

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Be able to see the entire chain of snow mountains separating this still surviving Shangri La from the original but now lost one (Tibet)

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See High Altitude Wetlands

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with handsome horses grazing in it

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See the Rhododendrons in bloom

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Witness local archery competition

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Be Welcomed by strange to us customs

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Enjoy the Splendor of the most beautiful Dzongs

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Be blessed by the Largest sitting Buddha statue in the world

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And to end it all, witness some fresh snowfall from up close to round off the trip

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Last edited by ampere : 14th April 2016 at 09:06. Reason: under process; removed alcohol mentions
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Old 13th April 2016, 21:43   #2
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Default Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan; Day 1, Entry and Drive till Paro

Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan; Day 1, Entry and Drive till Paro

In spite of all our efforts to reach the Immigration center about 15-30 mins before the opening time, but due to various reasons we're able to reach the center only by about 1000 BST (Bhutan Standard Time), a full 1 and 1/2 hours late, but still were able to be through it in about 1 and 1/2 hr. That was followed by the vehicle permit, and going up and down and to and fro the various rooms there, we were able to get our vehicle permit too by 1300 BST, not bad I would say, considering that I had not got much time to do prior homework on procedures and did not engage any tourist agent or facilitating tout.

Few pointers for the uninitiated from my side

1. Bhutan Time is 1/2 an hour ahead of IST.

2. The only IDs accepted are a valid (not expired) Passport or a voter ID card (even for kids). In case one does not have either, one can get a Identity Certificate from the Indian Embassy (which is the third kind of ID accepted). Do not really know the documents required by embassy for issuing the certificate as we had passports for all four of us.

3. Indians need to go to the Immigration Center for Entry Permit and not the Visa Center/Immigration check post for visa. This office is situated further up from the Border Gate on the right hand side, after petrol pump and entry road for the Druk Hotel.

4. It is a good idea to download, take a blank printout for each applicant (including kids and driver) and pre fill up the form to save on time.

The official site to download form is

Though the emblem above is coloured, personal experience tells that even a black and white print out is totally acceptable. The passport photocopy is being used as your proof of identity plus residence, so enter the address accordingly in the form. Though there is no outlined box for photo, a standard passport size photo is to be attached on the form along with photocopy of the ID.

5. Though this office will give you permission to visit Paro and Thimpu only, but it is better to mention all the places you intend to visit. If your hotels are not pre booked, write Any hotel in the column. Permit for rest of the places will be got from the Immigration office in Thimphu on a route permit form submitted along with entry permit. In Thimphu there is practically no rush and takes about 1/2 an hour.
The route permit from can be downloaded from here

5. When you reach the Immigration center, preferably by 0830 BST, do not forgot to get a token number written on your application form at the entry door to the building itself. Immediately as you enter, you will find stairs leading you to 1st floor where the counters are. Generally they write toke number on first 20 odd forms, who will be attended in sequence and there after its a fight in the queue. If you find a long long line with lots of people standing in it, be sure to enquire what he line is about, in all probability it would be labourers entering for work permit.

6. Avoid Mondays, they being rush days.

7. They take Iris scan and digital fingerprinting of all entrants, so depending on rush, the procedure can take lot of time with tour operators having large groups of 20-30 individuals on single token numbers.

8. Once done, they will ask you to return after 1/2 an hour to collect the permit. Once you get it, it is prudent to get few photocopies of it, if you are going to get Vehicle permit too, there are photocopy shops in the transport complex itself.

9. If you intend to self drive your vehicle, you need to write a simple application, requesting permission to go to all the places, your Entry permit number, total duration of stay, Vehicle Registration number, Insurance policy number, drivers license number along with photocopy of all of it, Road Tax Certificate (if separate from RC) and pollution check certificate.

10. Once ready go to the RSTA office (Phuentsholing Bus Stop)

11. Head to room number 4 on the second floor, there an official will verify your documents, write Verified and then sign and stamp it. Then you head down to room no 9 on the first floor, show all the "verified documents" to the official sitting there. He will then write the amount due depending on cc of vehicle on the application. Then you head back up to second floor and pay the amount inn accounts who will give you a receipt. You then have to head back down to 9 and attach and show the receipt. The official will then write paid on it, then you have to head back up to 4, the official there would sign the application form. You now have head back down to 9 and the official will stamp it and annotate the dates cleared (as per your permit) and zones cleared (i.e Paro and Thimphu)

Last edited by GTO : 15th April 2016 at 10:20. Reason: Typo
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Old 14th April 2016, 09:03   #3
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th April 2016, 11:07   #4
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Default Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan; Day 1, Entry and Drive till Paro, continued

11.. The permit for rest of the places will be annotated in Thimphu RSTA on basis of the route permit you get from Thimphu immigration office.

For ease of reference, here is where the Thimphu immigration office is (opposite the handicraft market on Norzin Lam),18z

and this is where the RSTA in Thimphu is

While we are at it, few differences about driving habits in Bhutan as compared to India. Also though the vehicle permit guys do not check if your insurance covers Bhutan or not, do check it in your own interest as many regular insurances do not cover the geographical area except India, though cheap add ons are available to include Bhutan, Nepal etc.

1. There are no traffic lights in Bhutan. One was installed in Thimphu but it is said that due public opinion of it being impersonal it was replaced back with Traffic policeman and that has become kind of tourist interest point now.

The traffic circle at Thimphu
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2. But that said, driving discipline is of much higher order than at home. At circles priority is given to the vehicle on right, while others wait patiently.

3. There is no honking (blowing horn), even on hill roads, everybody just sticks to his side, except when overtaking.

4. Now regarding overtaking, even signalling of your intent to over take by flickering of high beam (in day or night) is generally taken as offence. People really do feel bad if you happen to blow horn.
One is supposed to wait patiently, and the slow moving vehicle will give way to the faster one at opportune time and space. That said, do not for a moment think that you will have to lumber behind a loaded truck struggling uphill. On the contrary, awareness of all drivers including those of trucks, buses and taxis (excluding the oft spotted WB (west bengal registration) ones) is very high and they are more than eager to give way on their own at the first available moment, at times even slowing down or stopping for it !

5. Regarding signaling for overtaking, unlike the confusing one in India, they follow the more logical one, where in a left indicator indicates that the vehicle ahead is giving way to the trailing vehicle to overtake from right.

6. The roads having continuous curves and thus blind spots, the vehicle in lead can see the oncoming traffic before the trailing vehicle and cautions for it by giving a right indicator, do not take it as sign for clear to overtake.

7. All that positives said, one thing more the drivers there could have followed was to keep a safe distance behind other vehicles, but no in this aspect they are as bad (or good) as their Indian counterparts.

8. There are many one ways in towns like Phuentsholing, Paro and Thimphu, and timings too change. Be cautious to follow them.

9. Vehicle do stop on seeing anyone attempting to cross a road, like in the US, more so on a zebra crossing. At the same time, pedestrians too make efforts to cross from zebra crossings and not just zip across anywhere.

10. While travelling to Thimphu and beyond, be sure to get entry made and entry permit and vehicle permit shown at regular immigration check posts. You can identify one with an open barrier pole, look around immediately after or before and you find an immigration check post with written in yellow on a red board. No one really stops you, but you will face problems at next check post.

11. They have speed limits, which the notices near Thimphu says are being monitored by cams and dopplers.

In the end, compared to India as a driver, have patience, wear a smile, be courteous and enjoy the stress free drives.
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Old 14th April 2016, 11:35   #5
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Default Re: Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Great travelogue... please keep going.
Adding Bhutan to the places to visit list.
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Old 14th April 2016, 12:27   #6
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Default Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan; Day 1, Entry and Drive till Paro, continued

Kids increasing their knowledge about road traffic signs while I kept climbing stairs up and down at the RSTA, the to and fro procedure apart, the staff was very courteous and friendly

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The gate from Bhutan side

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So coming back to the trip. We set course form the border town of Phuentsholing and quickly crossed the first immigration check post about 5 kms after the town.

The road till here runs beautifully along ridge line with lovely view of the Indian plains. Crossing it the real in country begins.

Soon the road crosses a beautiful narrow road width ridge with valley on both sides, look more like a bridge but is all on ground.

Our ride for the trip, 8 yr old, 60k km +, been places, faithful brave-heart

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The architecture of the houses and also the paintings on them started becoming more traditional. Thankfully, the Bhutanese still seem to give a lot of importance to their traditions, customs and art in spite of the pressures of modern day globally connected world.

Buildings with traditional Bhutanese Wall Art

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After every few kms close to villages are these bus standish looking structures, but they are in fact what is called as "Farmers Farm Products Stalls". Everyday farmers set up stall in early afternoon and locals buy fresh stuff from here. Noteworthy, are the daily products milk, home made 500 g/ 1 kg cuboid slabs of butter wrapped in leaves and cheese (Yak and cows milk). The cow milk cheese made here is different than paneer and pretty sour. The Yak cheese is pretty hard and chewy and supposed to be kept in mouth for long, slowly dissolving with saliva and is supposed to alleviate high altitude sickness. Also available are fresh eggs of farm hens.

Farmers Farm Product Stall

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(to be continued...)

Last edited by YanTra Makto : 14th April 2016 at 12:38. Reason: corrections
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Old 14th April 2016, 12:37   #7
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Originally Posted by smartindboy View Post
Great travelogue.
Thanks, be sure to do it before the charm is gone, earlier the better

Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan; Day 1, Entry and Drive till Paro

"Farmers Farm Products Stalls". Noteworthy, are the daily products milk, home made 500 g/ 1 kg cuboid slabs of butter wrapped in leaves and cheese (Yak and cows milk).
Do not if it is the truth or not, but heard that only restaurants etc are allowed to buy packaged dairy products like milk, butter etc. This is done to keep the supplementary income and livelihood of farmers / villagers going.

Soon, as is typical of all mountainous regions, in the afternoon, winds picked up and clouds started engulfing us, thankfully we soon crossed over to the leeward side of the ridge and were spared slow speeds due fog.

Though the fog would have made driving slower and more attention taking, but none the less the sight of clouds rolling uphill presented a beautiful sight and a welcome chill after the heat of plains.

Clouds rolling uphill

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Soon we were passing through beautiful forests en route to Gedu. We slowed down to bit to enjoy the drive a bit, and suddenly on a straight-ish part relatively broad road, we saw a beautiful animal, bounce fleet across the road right in front of us. We just gasped and were spellbound by its natural beauty, unfortunately the cameras were not ready and it did not give us enough time to fetch them out, but as it was late afternoon, the birds had become active, chirping and flitting across us.

The road too was pretty broad with smooth surface and gentle curves, and the traffic surprisingly sparse considering that this way The Road through which everything in this Himalayan Kingdom comes in or goes out.

We really enjoyed this part of drive, the windows were rolled down, ac put off, music volume to zero, speed leisurely and were enjoying the sounds of nature around.

Rotating Prayer Wheels operated by mountain nallahs, prayer flags, forest, birds, broad road, smooth surface, gentle curves, no traffic

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Soon we hit Gedu, the university town of Bhutan

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The Gedu university

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Sometime in between we passed in Dantak Canteen, where we had originally planned to have lunch based on recommendations on TBHP, especially as the younger one loves idli, dosa etc. But as we were running late on schedule and wanted to reach Paro at least by dusk/beginning of night and the kids being warm, comfortable, cosy and asleep, we decided to give it a miss.

Few kms before Chhukha, I started feeling bit hungry and came across this inviting looking hotel / restaurant with comfortable space for parking too. Pulled over and got out to be greeted with a lovely view of Chhukha Hydel Power Station. Also was jolted by nippy almost gale force wind blowing here, quickly retrieved my jacket from the car and went inside and ordered for a cup of tea, did a quick survey for the spread on offer, and the menu and smell tempted me. But as the kids were still asleep and wife in no mood to eat anything (she suffers from motion sickness), had to fore go it. The place is recommended, serves both veg, non veg and Bhutanese, North Indian, South Indian and Chinese cuisines. The interiors are cosy and spacious at the same time. Adjoining it is a useful general store stuffed with local, Indian and imported stuff.

The Dam View Restaurant close to Chhukha

The view of Chhukha Hydel Power plant from parking of Dam View Restaurant

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(to be continued)

Last edited by GTO : 15th April 2016 at 10:14. Reason: Merging back to back posts
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Old 14th April 2016, 16:49   #8
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Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan; Day 1, Entry and Drive till Paro

After crossing Chhukha the road climbs to a board of first view of Chapcha, just before that is this beautiful looking restaurant of Bhutan Tourism Corp, was tempted to have look inside but did not wanted to break the tempo of drive so soon.

Lovely looking restaurant of Bhutan tourism between Chhukha and Chapcha

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After it the road descends down to a bridge just before which is the second immigration check post of the route.!3m1!1e3

After crossing Chapcha, the road unceremoniously hits the highest point of Phuentsholing Thimphu Road, and surprisingly it is not a pass or La just a spot on a straight ridge line. Crossing the ridge the road descends down to Wang Chu river. The road after crossing Chhukha till this point close to Wang Chu is pretty narrow and does not seems like the main road to capital. From there on it runs upstream along Wang Chu and is broad and gentle.

Hopeful Sun beams breaking through the pal of dark clouds near Chapcha

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Next we hit was Chuzom, or river junction, here the Paro Chu and Thimphu Chu rivers meet, the resulting river is known as Wang Chu. Wang Chu in India is known as Raidak.

We crossed over to other side of Wang Chu by a beautiful bridge here. Helpful signboard indicated that Paro lies to the right and to take left for Haa. We thanked the board and proceeded towards the road to Paro upstream along the Paro chu.

The road was good, but it was getting dark and it had started drizzling too, the valley seemed to be leading onto something wide, inviting and good.
Suddenly, the clouds opened up briefly in front of us and we could that it was snowing just a little above us, well, that was exciting and something we had not expected.

Glimpse of snowfall

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Soon a settlement loomed up, we thought we had reached Paro or its outskirts, though it was looking lovely in the deepening light condition, but it looked smaller than what I had thought it to be. We realized that it was not Paro but a settlement (perhaps named Shaba) before it. We then passed the beautiful Le Meridian on our left.

We reached a fork in road, with the road having a bridge on left crossing the Paro Chu, and another continuing straight. We hoped to get accommodation in Pelri Cottages, where we had confirmed on telephone that rooms were available. That was in some place called Olathang. So we asked for Olathang, and were told that both roads go there, the one on left is broader but under repair but with lesser traffic, the straight one goes through market.

Though we wanted to see the market too, but we were more interested in confirming a accommodation first. So it was left road we took. The road continued but did not seem to be reaching anywhere close to Paro, we were apprehensive that we have taken a wrong road, getting dark, raining but still could not resist to stop and take this picture of what definitely should be the Paro Dzong, the venue for Tsechu tomorrow morning, the main reason for which we were here. It looked beautiful, bigger than what we had thought and definitely worth the trip.

Paro Dzong in twilight

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The road was travelling on the western slope a couple of hundred meters above the valley and we could see the beautifully lit terminals of Paro airport. Made a mental note of revisiting this place for a picture, right now it was time to find Pelri Cottages. The road came to valley level and too a hard right to cross the broad valley. We thought we were lost, just then my wife spotted a board indicating Pelri cottages in the headlight of car.

We turned onto that road on left and it just took off, it was narrow and twice we had stop and wait to give way to oncoming traffic. It kept going, we thought we had lost the way again, asked a down coming taxi and he siad to just keep going up till last. We then entered a gate saying "Welcome to Hotel Olathang". Now I remembered reading somewhere that Pelri was situated behind this hotel, so we were definitely somewhere close but seemingly had entered into this hotel. this hotel looked great but I remember as having crossed this ouut as being well above our budget. As we had not seen any other worthwhile road branching off since we asked the taxi driver, we continued straight, then road became cobbled, we thought we were lost again, but saw a gate saying Pelri Cottages.

After all the effort, the place we reached seemed spacious, spread out with individual cottages and good enough. now, only if they still had rooms available at the discussed rates. Parked the car in parking, went to reception, the lady called the co-proprietor, one Indian Portuguese gentleman named Mr Peter, and the deal was stuck. Relief !!

Saw the cottages, took one, dumped the luggage, made some hot tea in the kettle, freshened up ourselves and the kids and out we were to explore the Paro market.

The main street looked good, but was kind of deserted, probably due to the drizzle. Located all the pre-shortlisted shops and eateries in a drive up and down the road. And decided to head to a restaurant called "Sonam Trophel". Lovely place with great food. Done for night, headed up to snuggle in after a rather long day. We did not wanted to be late for tomorrows Tsechu.

Sonam Trophel

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Coming, Day 2 : Paro Tsechu, the intended highlight of trip.
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Old 14th April 2016, 17:44   #9
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Day 2: The Paro Tsechu

Before I begin this, few explanations of words which appear in this write up


Wikipedia says

Tshechu (Dzongkha: ཚེས་བཅུ།, literally "day ten") are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district or dzongkhag of Bhutan on the tenth day of a month of the lunar Tibetan calendar. The month depends on the place. Tshechus are religious festivals of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Tshechus are large social gatherings, which perform the function of social bonding among people of remote and spread-out villages. Large markets also congregate at the fair locations, leading to brisk commerce.[1] The Thimphu tshechu and tha Paro tshechu are among the biggest of the tshechus in terms of participation and audience.

About the schedule of Tsechu

The dance schedule for each day of the four-day festival is set out and generally consists of the following dances.

On the first day, the performances cover: Dance of the Four Stags (Sha Tsam); Dance of the Three kinds of Ging (Pelage Gingsum); Dance of the Heroes (Pacham), Dance of the Stags and Hounds (Shawo Shachi) and Dance with Guitar (Dranyeo Cham)
On the second day the dances performed are: The Black Hat Dance (Shana), Dance of the 21 black hats with drums (Sha nga ngacham), Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies (Pholeg Moleg), Dance of the Drums from Dramitse (Dramitse Ngacham), Dance of the Noblemen and the Ladies (Pholeg Moleg) and Dance of the Stag and Hounds (Shawa Shachi)
On the third day, the dances performed are: Dance of the Lords of the Cremation Grounds (Durdag), Dance of the Terrifying Deities (Tungam) and Dance of the Rakshas and the Judgement of the Dead (Ragsha Mangcham)
On the last day of the festival, the dances performed cover: Dance of Tamzhing Monastery in Jakar, Dance of the Lords of the Cremation grounds (the same dance as day 3), Dance of the Ging and Tsoling (Ging Dang Tsoling) and Dance of the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava (Guru Tshen Gye).
The last day of the four-day festival also marks the unfurling of the Thongdrel, a very large scroll painting or thangka, which is unfurled with intense religious fervour, early in the morning. This painting measuring 30 metres (98 ft)×45 metres (148 ft) has the images of Padmasambhava at the centre flanked by his two consorts and also his eight incarnations. Devotees who gather to witness this occasion offer obeisance in front of the Thongdrel seeking blessings. Folk dances are performed on the occasion. Before sunrise, the painting is rolled up and kept in the Dzong before it is displayed again one year later

About Thongdrel now

A Thongdrel (alt. throngdrel) is a large appliqué religious image normally only unveiled during tsechus, the main religious festivals in Bhutan. They are the largest form of thangka paintings in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Thongdrels typically depict a seated Guru Rinpoche surrounded by holy beings in a composition that, unlike most smaller thangkas
Thongdrels are composed of several layers, mostly of silk. These begin with a backing, then the image itself, made up of appliqué pieces sewn to a background. Finally there is a yellow drape that covers and protects it when not on display. Thongdrels are stored rolled up. Thongdrels are displayed once a year as the highlight of the tsechu festival of a district or dzongkhag (although not every district has a thongdrel). Typically they are displayed on the last day of the tsechu. The painting is not allowed to be struck by the direct rays of the sun, thus it may be unfurled at around 3:00 in the morning and rolled back up by 7:30 AM.
The mere viewing of the unfurled thongdrel is said to cleanse the viewer of sin
The Thongdrel displayed at Paro is supposed to be 350 years old, one of the first ones and among the biggest too

Cham Dance

The cham dance (Tibetan: འཆམ་, Wylie: 'cham; Chinese: 跳欠; pinyin: tiàoqiàn),[2][3] is a lively masked and costumed dance associated with some sects of Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist festivals. The dance is accompanied by music played by monks using traditional Tibetan instruments. The dances often offer moral instruction relating to compassion for sentient beings and are held to bring merit to all who perceive them
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Old 14th April 2016, 18:28   #10
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Day 2: The Paro Tsechu

We got up early to be in time for witnessing the Thongdrel, an event which happens only for 3-4 hours every year

While wife woke up the kids, could not help but click a few snaps. Will let the photos do the talking now.

Waking up the kids in our lovely cottage

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Having the morning cup of tea while enjoying the view in balcony of our cottage
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Cherry tree next to our balcony as seen from window of our cottage

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View of Paro Dzong while we drive down from our cottage.

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The meaning of Dzong

Dzong architecture is a distinctive type of fortress (Wylie: rdzong, IPA: [tzɦoŋ˩˨]) architecture found in the present and former Tibetan Buddhist kingdoms of the Himalayas, particularly Bhutan and south Tibet. The architecture is massive in style with towering exterior walls surrounding a complex of courtyards, temples, administrative offices, and monks' accommodation.
Distinctive features include:

High inward sloping walls of brick and stone painted white with few or no windows in the lower sections of the wall
Use of a surrounding red ochre stripe near the top of the walls, sometimes punctuated by large gold circles.
Use of Chinese-style flared roofs atop interior temples.
Massive entry doors made of wood and iron
Interior courtyards and temples brightly colored in Buddhist-themed art motifs
Dzongs serve as the religious, military, administrative, and social centers of their district. They are often the site of an annual tsechu or religious festival.

The rooms inside the dzong are typically allocated half to administrative function (such as the office of the penlop or governor), and half to religious function, primarily the temple and housing for monks. This division between administrative and religious functions reflects the idealized duality of power between the religious and administrative branches of government.
From the Lonely Planet

The dzong's correct name, Rinchen Pung Dzong (usually shortened to Rinpung Dzong), means 'Fortress on a Heap of Jewels'

Read more:
More about the Paro or Rinpung Dzong can be found here

Though early in the morning, the town seemed to bursting alive with large Bhutanese families who were arriving by bus loads and car loads. The streets which we were driving on last night were cordoned off for vehicular movement in view of large amount of pedestrian traffic on the road leading up to Dzong. Still, we were lucky to find a slot on the main street itself.

Kids amused as we return back to car to pick up forgotten stuff in hurried excitement of missing the show

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A short walk from the main street of Paro, found us at the entrance to Nayami Zam.

Right after crossing the Nyami Zam, we found this helpful map !!

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About Nyami Zam

Below the dzong, a traditional wooden covered bridge called Nyamai Zam spans the Paro Chhu. This is a reconstruction of the original bridge, which was washed away in a flood in 1969. Earlier versions of this bridge were removed in time of war to protect the dzong

Read more:
Below the dzong, a traditional wooden covered bridge called Nyamai Zam spans the Paro Chhu. The original bridge was washed away in a flood in 1969 and the present one is a reconstruction. Earlier versions of this bridge were removed to protect the dzong. The bridge was also shown in the movie Little Buddha by Bernardo Bertolucci

We really did not know where to go and just kept following the crowd. A short stiff climb up from the bridge and we were at the staircase entrance to the proper building of Dzong.

A crowded line and we entered the Paro Dzong and were inline to be blessed by the GIANT painting. Though it was crowded, but still smooth and fast flowing considering the magnitude of crowd. The Bhutanese it seems are very quite people too, in spite of the huge crowd, there was not much pushing or showing around and the noise levels were minimal. We were lucky to been blessed by the holy thongdrel and lucky to be here as it is displayed just for 3 to 4 hours in one whole year.

Inside the Paro Dzong, destined to witness the Thongdrel.

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The reddish orange is the backcloth of the giant Thongdrel

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The Thongdrel

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Taking blessings of the Thongdrel

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Witnessed the holy Thongdrel, now time for a family photo inside the Paro Dzong

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You can still click a people less click

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in spite of crowd like this

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Heading up to the Tsechu grounds from the Dzong

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Another crowdscape

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Entrance to the courtyard of main building of Paro Dzong in background

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Entering the Tsechu grounds to witness the Cham dances and take blessing of Guru Thongdrel

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Loved the whole atmosphere, a totally different world to us

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The Guru Thongdrel with huge crowd in Tsechu grounds to see it and the Cham dances

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Last edited by YanTra Makto : 14th April 2016 at 18:57. Reason: W-I-P
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Old 14th April 2016, 20:18   #11
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Day 2: The Paro Tsechu

In front of the Guru Thongdrel after taking its blessings

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Families had set up their picnic spots in the huge ground

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Got a nice spot

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Lovely weather, scenic settings, colourful crowd and varied dances

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with all live music

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The offerings include Lays, Parle Gs and all other things which children love, as finally it is young monks who will be devouring them

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Few monks in attendance

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The Atsaras goofing around

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About Atsaras

Atsaras (Clowns)

They are hidden in red wooden masks with a hawkish nose, a permanent naughty grin and a big phallus on top, they can be witty, eccentric and even bothersome, but without them, a Tshechu would be too tame. They are called ''Atsaras'', clown figures who explain the meaning of mask dances to spectators, who joke around the crowd and liven up the festival with their witty behaviors and exaggerated movements.

But the Atsaras are more than just clowns. The term Atsara is derived from the Sanskrit word Acharya (holy teacher of India) and is called Dubthop in Bhutanese (Dzongkha). One explanation for their burlesque appearances is that, they're reminding us that we could reappear in any possible form in the future

- See more at:

now that you know a close up view of you know who

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Now that you are seeing the close up, another snippet of info

The familiar atsara face with a permanent grin brandishes a wooden phallus, rests it on the head of a young girl and says: "May you be blessed with nine boys."
"Nine is too much," reacts an elderly observer. "Then let it be 11 so that you can have a football team." The crowd bursts into laughter as the man in the mask leaves to help a hunchback find a place to sit.

Official photographer; is she ?

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They definitely are

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Meanwhile a Druk Airlines took off in spite of the cloudy weather from one the most difficult runways of world

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Mixed group dance now

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Audience in Tsechu grounds with Dzong in background

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Another dance with characters in wreath

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The Paro Dzong overseeing its lovely valley

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People came from far and wide and of all ages

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We had never expected things to be so interesting, and had planned a quick look at Thongdrel followed by breakfast back at hotel, and then visit Tsechu again for dances etc.

But now, we were glued to venue, thank god for these enterprising portable shops which spouted out of nowhere courtesy which we able to quell our hunger pangs while enjoying the performances

Snacks and Tea

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Do we call him a policeman in plain clothes

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The handsome old man rings the Cymbals, signalling the begining of fierce dance. The ones till now were gentle

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The Atsara decides to have fun with a young girl

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And the intense dance begins

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They made entries in twos, jumped up high touching their toes to their forehead and kept joining the circle

Toe to head touch

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In full compliment now

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Levitating monks are they

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Spot us if you can

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okay, here we are

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Old 15th April 2016, 12:02   #12
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Day 2: The Paro Tsechu

It was a pleasure to see a huge crowd which had turned up in their finest clothing and obviously they wanted to capture this moment too.

A beautiful young wife takes photo of her husband and son who are in the same theme of clothing as her while their younger one is bundled up on her back

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Well, these girls had a better way, they had a selfie stick

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Suddenly, unexpectedly the offerings accumulated in center of Tsechu ground were thrown open for the public. And my elder one, having seen what was there in the offing. looked up to me pleading and expectantly. I understood, and nodded my head giving him a go ahead. And off he was, through the large crowd. I was bit apprehensive (due to the crowd) and kept a Hawkeye on him, never letting him out of sight. Soon he was back sharing the 'prasad' with all of us.

Kids rushing to get some 'prasad' of chips, biscuits, instant noodles. Can you spot my elder one.

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Here he is with fistful of festivities

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As sun broke through the morning clouds, the colours of the place really bloomed.

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People from various viewing pavilions

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The beautiful Paro Dzong in the backdrop of snow crested hills, thanks to the snowfall last evening

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Getting blessed by the Thongdrel just before it is rolled up for the year

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The roll down begins

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First part done

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The crowd in full colour, these pavilions with white tops were reserved for high ranking district religious and administrative officials. Can you spot my wife and younger in this pic ?

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Here we can see the fixture on which the Thongdrel is hung

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Waiting for instructions

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Rolling in progress

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Did not know that there was such a beautiful building on one face of which the Thongdrel was hung

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Though the rolling down logically must be done once a year, but still it appeared to be a well rehearsed smoothly oiled drill. Notice how they are rolling in cream coloured silk in between the rolled Thongdrel, where ever faces of Gods appear.

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Almost done

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The rolled Thongdrel being covered in inner protective layer

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The Thongdrel now completely packed being taken to be put away for the year

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Two rows from people lined up on either side while the packed Thongdrel was taken from Tsechu grounds to the Dzong to be stored away for a year

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(to be continued..)
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Old 15th April 2016, 12:22   #13
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Excellent Travelogue. Really informative and well written.
Is that your own car that you drove? And from where in India did you start the journey?
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Old 15th April 2016, 12:34   #14
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Default Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Day 2: The Paro Tsechu

After the Thongdrel was taken away, there was a lull, we utilized the time for some photo shoot.

Kids and wife in midst of Tsechu onlookers

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Now time for my photo, this one is clicked by my elder son

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Posing with traditional religious head gear

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Swarms of small birds kept circling the Dzong and Tsechu grounds

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These were students from a deaf and dumb school, and were accommodated in prime viewing area

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Another take off from Bhutan's airport, the Paro International, one of the most difficult ones in world, only few pilots are qualified at any given time to operate from here

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Can you spot the Druk airliner

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Take off is still appears easy compared to the maneuvering these guys do to get the aircraft down

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The plane is already so low, but where is the runway ..!

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Okay, now he turns to get to the runway just behind the ridge

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This what Wikipedia says

Paro Airport is the sole international airport in Bhutan. The airport is located 6 km from Paro in a deep valley on the bank of the river Paro Chhu. With surrounding peaks as high as 5,500 m (18,000 ft) it is considered one of the world's most challenging airports.

As of October 2009[needs update], only eight pilots in the world were certified to land at the airport. Flights at Paro are allowed under visual meteorological conditions only and are restricted to daylight hours from sunrise to sunset

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Old 15th April 2016, 12:42   #15
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Default Re: Alto'ed: Blessed in Bhutan

Originally Posted by gautomobile View Post
Excellent Travelogue. Really informative and well written.
Thank you gautomobile

Is that your own car that you drove?
Yes, that is my own car and she has taken us places!!

And from where in India did you start the journey?
Lucky to be living in Bengal, and that is where I started from, thought to start the Bhutan part, sparing the getting till Jaigaon (India-Bhutan Border Town) part
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