From Druk Hotel in Thimpu, we drove a good 2 1/2 hours just to get here. On our way, we passed Dochula Pass with a grand view of the Himalayan mountain range at over 3,000 meters elevation. Then we weaved around the mountains going down, passing cherry blossoms, poinsettia and magnolia trees. We made a brief stop at Chimi Lakhang and took our lunch in a lovely cafe overlooking paddy fields animated by men and women harvesting rice and gho-clad school boys gingerly walking around the rice fields.
Punakha Dzong. Where Kings are crowned. Site of the recent wedding of the world’s youngest monarch.
The fortress cum monastery is home to 600 monks, and sits at the confluence of two rivers with the lovely mountains as backdrop. You need a few minutes to savor this view, pinch yourself and get reminded this ain’t a dream, before crossing the bridge adorned with prayer flags.
As we crossed the bridge, we had our first glimpse of Punakha Dzong’s first courtyard. Climate here is milder, elevation not as steep as in Paro. The wooden staircase leading to the second courtyard is steep though. The same stairway can be pulled up in case of an invasion. Some security feature for this 17th century monolith.
As we climbed past cherry blossoms, we heard the faint chant and shuffling of hands and fingers from a small group of monks. Nearby, logs crackle from a bonfire set up in the middle of the vast courtyard. What a lovely, nearly surreal sight! This experience is so dreamlike it is deeply embedded in my memory.
Buddhism is NOT a religion, according to our guide. He claims it is a philosophy, a lifestyle, where Buddhists firmly believe that KARMA rules, among others. Where much of sufferings in life are rooted in wordly desires and material attachments. I certainly have no problems with these. The universe can definitely do with less hostility, and more compassion, more caring for each living creature.