We wake early and hit the windy roads towards Punakha. We know there are scheduled road blocks due to road construction and we are expecting long delays. We get to the first road block and wait for around 40 minutes, this is not bad as it gives me time to wander around the area and take in all the sights and smells. It was a really interesting spot to get a feal for the local people and the culture. You see the local people set up make shift markets at these road blocks and sell there produce. There is everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh corn cooked on an open fire as well as the local porridge cooked on the side of the road. I was able to indulge myself in one of my favourite pastimes, “People Watching”, giving a rare glimpse into the Bhutanese travel industry.
Once through the first lot of road blocks we made it to the High Pass and the Stupa. We are at over 3000m again and you could feel the altitude, I was still loving the extra red blood cells i had left over from my hike to Mt Everest Base Camp, making this rather quick climb to altitude much easier. I was however starting to feel a little car sick, the windy roads were playing buggers with my stomach. Anyway at the top we stopped at a Tea House were I had some morning tea. Usually you are able to see over the Himalaya’s but the clouds were so thick we couldn’t see the car park. Pelma my guide treated me to a Butter Tea and some local porridge, which is usually for new years celebration in this area of Bhutan. I quite liked the butter tea, it is super sweet but quite nice, the porridge on the other hand i was not a fan. The texture was kind of like thick gooey mud with hard grains and filled with chunks of some kind of meat. The meat part was not actually that bad but i was not a fan.
We finally reached Punakha and had lunch at restaurant that was pretty obvious on the tourist route. The car park was filled with tourist vans and the only local people inside were
the tour guides. I much prefer to be in a real local resturuant/ corner shop style eatery but I understand the need or want for travel companies to provide a “Clean” or “Western” place to eat for there customers. This probably would be fine for 90% of tourists but for me, a more authentic experience is what i seek. After lunch, which I might just add, was absolutely incredible we walked up to the Chime Lhakhang, the temple of the Devine
Madman. One of my favourite stories from Bhutan is the story of the Devine Madman, who slayed a demon with his Penis, yes you did read that correctly, now you see penis’s all over town. They paint them on their house’s walls, hang them from ceilings, have them in restaurants to protect them selves from demons. Some times if you are lucky and the local Lama is around you can get blessed by getting donked on the head with a giant wooden penis.
That afternoon we went to visit the Punakha Fortress (Puna Dechen Phodrang Dzong) that was built in 1636-1639. This place is HUGE, completely amazing and set in such a beautiful location.
I could easily of spent hours wandering around this awe inspiring building. I have been struggling to film and document the beauty that I have seen behind the walls of these buildings. You can not film or take photo’s inside any temple or fortress, so the mystery of Bhutan still alive. I can tell you that the walls are covered in breathtaking art work depicting the battles between gods and demons, or the history behind Buddhism and stories of what have shaped Bhutan. Each temple will have a different local deity and there is no way that I could ever remember them all or even begin to understand Buddhism to that depth. I did find each story super interesting and I always got something special from each story.
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One Life, One Search,