On Thursday morning 11/17 Finn, Oogyn and Tshae Won bade us farewell and our new guide Songay and driver Needuup took us on the long drive up the National Highway and over a 10,000’ pass and through the Royal Botanical Park to the lower, lusher Punakha valley. The road is being expanded to two lanes, and much of it is dirt or under repair, so the 40-mile drive time was about 3 bumpy hours. We’ll be cliff-side on the way back… should be a good nail-biter.
At the summit, we visited the Dochu La and its collection of 108 memorial stupas, created in 2005 to honor dozens of Bhutanese lost in a small war to eradicate Assamese militants squatting in southern Bhutan. We hiked up to the Druk Wangyal Lhakhnag and its panoramic Himalayan views, then stopped for tea at a pleasant, well-windowed café before descending past apple stands, waterfalls and Indian roadwork crews to our lunch spot near the valley floor. The view and food were fine, but my seat perched at the end of a rickety porch was a bit unnerving… I was happy to move on.
Our next adventure was a mile hike across rice patties to the temple of the Divine Madman – Lama Drukpa Kunley, who apparently used audacious and obscene tactics to shock and shake preconceptions from the obsequiously observant…. Hence the many flying phalli about town. Judging by my boys’ reactions, he’s posthumously influential… their comfort zones are expanding.
Our Meri Puensum Hotel here in Punakah has large comfortable rooms with wood floors, a valley view and balcony; we relaxed in the common terrace for a bit before a brief trip up to the local nunnery on the hill. Walking down we passed the queen’s father and mother as their motorcade returned to their adjacent home. Back at the Hotel we’re catching up on our journals, but wifi bandwidth is very limited so images will have to wait until we get to Bangkok… stay tuned!