Yet another early rise, but it always helps when you know it’s going to be worthwhile. We had egg on toast for breakfast and then jumped into the car with Jamyang and Tshewang.
On the way to Punakha, we stopped at the Memorial Stupa. This was built by the fourth queen of the fourth king to commemorate victory over Tibet. It is an arrangement of 109 stupas – 108 small ones symbolising the 108 “beats” in a mantra, and one larger central one. The view from the Stupa is astounding, even though it was pretty cloudy today. On a good day, it’s possible to see the peaks of nine Himalayan mountains including the highest unclimbed ones.
The next section of the drive was to be the longest, taking us into another valley and towards the old capital city of Punakha. Here lies the Punakha Dzong, the largest and first fortress built in Bhutan. It is a simply magnificent building. Sat where two rivers join, it even manages to draw attention from the breathtaking mountain backdrop. We spent well over an hour being shown around the building as Jamyang gave us details of its history and function, and then stepped through the story of Buddha using the mural in the temple area for illustration.
It was after midday by the time we returned to the car, and Tshewang drove us to lunch a little under an hour away. As ever, the food was both plentiful and delicious.
Most of the day was to be driving, as we set off back to Thimpu after lunch. On the drive we saw the Temple of Fertility but didn’t have time to visit. As neither Hans or I are attached, let alone married, this is something we can leave for another trip!
Dusk was starting to fall when we got back to Thimpu, but it was light enough for a quick visit to the Takin reserve. The Takin is Bhutan’s national animal. It looks like a cross between a cow (body) and a moose (head). An ungainly-looking, but strong animal. They’re a protected species in Bhutan due to their low numbers, and efforts – so far successful – have been made to help the species recover in numbers.
We next drove into town where we dove online briefly, and I started thinking on plans for where to go after Nepal. More on this once I make my mind up!
Finally back to the house, where we settled in with tea and biscuits as dinner was prepared. I swear I’ll have put on a kilo by the time we get dropped off at the border tomorrow.
Our hosts gave us each a small gift to take home with us, for which Hans and I would like to thank them. We each received a wood carving depicting the elephant, monkey, rabbit and bird. Without going into detail, they’re the characters in a popular story, the moral of which is “even though we’re all from different places, we’re all the same”. When I next have a home, it will receive pride of place on a wall.