24 Nov 2020

Exploring Punakha, the Former Capital of Bhutan

A joy to behold, A true treat! Those glorious days in Punakha are unspeakable. A perfect setting of magic and mysticism, one can imagine getting dive into the delightful world of Bhutanese Buddhism.

To get a hang of what life in Bhutan is, I urge you to pack your bags and explore below the top must-see and do things in the former capital of Bhutan, Punakha for a good reason!

• What if there is only one dzong, you would get to see in Bhutan, let it be the Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong. Thank god they do recognize calling it the Punakha Dzong. Here the two of thunder dragon kingdom of Bhutan’s important rivers converge. Beautifully named Pho Chhu, the father river, and Mo Chhu, the mother river. Even the critically endangered, extremely rare, white-bellied herons also known as the imperial herons can be seen homely here around these rivers. It’s a treat for the curious birdwatchers. The personified male and female rivers have different colors. You can easily notice at the confluence, the slight bluish hue of Pho Chhu river and the slightly brown hue of Mo Chhu river. Unfortunately through history, the mighty Punakha Dzong was destroyed countless times by earthquake, flood, and fire but fortunately every time the Bhutanese people rebuilt it the original lines of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. As I sat down cross-legged looking at the red-robed monks strolling around, magic happened here in the fort-cum-palace-cum-monastery snuggled in an alluring valley with commanding views of the surrounding hills.

• A walk on and across the Cantilever bridge or Punakha Suspension bridge, connecting Punakha village with the Punakha Dzong fortress on Chhu river is an experience to rejoice. Draped in hundreds of fluttering colorful prayer flags and spanning the 160 meters long Chhu river, this bridge is one of the world’s oldest suspension bridges you will ever see. I was amazed to find locals playing games and involved in playful gambling with some selling snacks around. Across the bridge, you will observe locals playing large dart game. Try your luck to dart at the target and win 100 Ngultrum at the cost of 50 Ngultrum. Mind you; You have only two darts to throw and it looks easy than done.

• Attend the world-famous Punakha Tsechu Festival at Punakha Dzong and you will simply fall in love with magical Bhutan. In fact, the Punakha Tshechu is known to be the most popular Tshechus of Bhutan with the unfurling of a large tapestry, thongdrol of Guru Rinpoche as the main attraction. Legend has it that the mere sight of the thongdrol liberates and cleanses the sins of onlookers. I was fortunate enough to get dressed up in traditional Bhutanese attire (Kira for women and Gho for men) to experience the six-day-long colorful performances featuring dances and actors. They immaculately wear vibrant clothes often decorated with intricate patterns and symbols with masks representing the animals

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