Bhutan – Punakha – Day 3
After having stent the great day in Thimphu (factories, shopping archery tournament), we left the city in the very early morning to Punakha and we started climbing towards Dochula pass on the crowded, steep but recently renovated road. During one-hour-trip to Dochula we had the chance to admire the Himalayan nature and the small villages located on the roads including the settlements of the refugees from Tibet. Somewhere on the road we had to stop for a domestic immigration control, which – according to our guide – aimed at control of migration of Indian citizens who can enter Bhutan without visa.
Dochula Pass is located on the altitude of 3,100 meters and it is marked by 108 stupas memorizing the victory of the Bhutanese army over the Assam separatists from India who were using the Bhutanese territory to plan and execute the attacks against Indian forces. During the nice weather ( which we didn’t experience), one can enjoy the views on the snowy Himalayan peaks including Bhutan’s highest mountain – Gangkar Puensum.
After another 20 minutes we reached Punakha Valley – the warmest place we experienced in Bhutan, which is the winte residence of the Chief Monk. We started our exploration from the 40-minutes-walk through the village to the Fertility Temple, a place which is famous by numerous couples experiencing problems to have a baby. The guest book in the temple is full of inscriptions thanking for progeny arriving in the family after the visit to this temple.
The road to the Fertility Temple might be quite shocking to a Western tourist because of hundreds of phalluses marking the facades of the houses and constituting the most of the stock of the gift shops. These symbols do not have a sexual character though and they should be seen as the symbols of prosperity.
After passing the small village with the gift shops, the road slightly climbs through the beautiful rice fields as Punakha Valley is very fertile not only in the human terms :-).
As Punakha Dzong was opening from 3 PM only we still had some time which we used to go to the longest hanging bridge in Bhutan (150 meters).
We ended the day with 2-hours-tour to Punakha Dzong, in our sole opinion the most beautiful and picturesque Dzong on our tour. Just look to the pics below!