Travel

Bhutan Diaries : Punakha

Punakha is a beautiful warm valley at an altitude of about 1200m above sea level – you can tell by the warmth that it isn’t very high up. Covered with lush green terraced paddy fields, the fertile district is Bhutan’s biggest producer of rice.

Paddy Fields seen from our room in the Drubchhu Resort, Punakha
Paddy fields outside our room in Punakha

Punakha attracts hordes of visitors for two main reasons – this is the first one:

Jacaranda blooms in spring, at the Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
Jacaranda blooms at the Punakha Dzong

Good reason, right? The Punakha Dzong is widely considered to be Bhutan’s most beautiful fortress. And it’s very hard to disagree, especially during spring – the front of the fortress is covered by gorgeous purple jacaranda trees in full bloom. No wonder the present king and queen chose to get married in this idyllic setting.

Jacaranda blooms in spring, at the Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
The gorgeous Punakha Dzong

The second reason is a 15th century saint named Drukpa Kunley, or the Divine Madman. He was an absolutely outrageous teacher who used his phallus (yeah, you read that right) to tame demons and bless followers – he called it his Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom!! I want to keep my blog family-friendly, so I won’t go into any more details, but you should totally google him – he’s an utterly fascinating character! Since he subdued a demon here at Punakha, there’s a temple called the Chimi Lhakhang, dedicated to him. It’s also called the temple of fertility. It is reached by a beautiful 20 minute hike through the village and past paddy fields. On the way, almost every home or shop has a phallus painted on it – this is actually very common all over Bhutan. The paintings are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Phallus themed souvenirs are very popular too.

Phallus paintings in Punakha, symbolizing Drukpa Kunley, the Divine Madman
Phallus paintings in Punakha, symbolizing Drukpa Kunley, the Divine Madman
Phallus paintings in Punakha, symbolizing Drukpa Kunley, the Divine Madman
Punakha is also home to Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge that hangs over a gushing river:
Bhutan's longest suspension bridge in Punakha
Punakha Suspension Bridge

We stayed at the Drubchhu Resort in Punakha. It is pretty modern, but it’s very charming and beautiful. It’s a family run resort, and the mom is a very passionate gardener. Every time we ran into her, she was in her hat and boots with a shovel in her hand – that is exactly what I want to be when I grow old!

The Drubchhu Resort, our hotel in Punakha
Our room at the Drubchhu Resort, Punakha
Nasturtiums at the Drubchhu Resort, our hotel in Punakha
Nasturtiums from the garden atΒ the Drubchhu Resort, Punakha
One of my favourite things in Punakha was hanging out with the young monks sitting on the grass outside the Chimi Lhakhang – some of them were doing their homework, some were practicing playing the dungchen, a kind of horn from Tibet. We couldn’t understand one another too well, but it was really fun to watch them learn magic tricks from Tenzing, our guide πŸ™‚
Young monks at the Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha, Bhutan
Young monks at the Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha, Bhutan
Young monks at the Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha, Bhutan
Young monks at the Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha, Bhutan
Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

7 Comments

  • Reply Azmat September 27, 2015 at 12:29 AM

    Hey Madhu, We met in Bhutan and on Tigers nest trek. Your Bhutan Diaries are awesome and I am still working on my post. All the best . Keep up the good work:)

  • Reply Madhu Gopalan August 13, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    Thank you so much Charukesi! Yes I absolutely love it – I'd pack my bags and move there in a heartbeat if I could πŸ˜€

  • Reply Charukesi August 13, 2015 at 7:42 AM

    Loving this Bhutan series! Beautiful photos – and I can see that you share my love for the place πŸ™‚

  • Reply Madhu Gopalan August 12, 2015 at 3:00 PM

    It indeed is, Niranjan. Thank you πŸ™‚

  • Reply R Niranjan Das August 11, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    Such a pretty place. Nice frames.

  • Reply Madhu Gopalan August 11, 2015 at 2:02 PM

    Thank you so much πŸ™‚ I saw many families with small kids having fun in Bhutan, so it should be perfectly fine. And being vegetarian in Bhutan is very easy – lots of delicious options everywhere. I'm a vegetarian myself, and I absolutely loved the cuisine.

  • Reply Sensuous2Spiritual August 11, 2015 at 1:40 PM

    Such simple living. As always, your captures bring alive your words. Advice check: Would Bhutan be ok for a vacation with a fairly patient 7 year old explorer and a heavy vegetarian husband? πŸ™‚

  • Leave a Reply