Bhutan – Punakha to Paro – Day 4
Wake-up call in Punakha Valley
Well, we did not expect much from our accommodation following the experience with 4* hotel in Thimphu. The hotel in Punakha (Lobesa Hotel) was expected to be one category less. Plus location in Bhutanese countryside. What we found was surprising and amazing. Home-made food with variety of choices (although still with just one or two meat choices), spacious comfortable guest rooms and…. spectacular views from the balcony (see above). What a lovely place!
After breakfast we boarded the car and started the journey to Paro, the second biggest city of Bhutan after Thimphu. We hoped to have better views on Himalaya from Dochula Pass. Unfortunately, we saw no more than this.
After the magic two hours on the serpentine road we reached Paro.
Paro does not offer anything spectacular itself. Whereas Thimphu is clearly a city in the best sense of this word, Paro is something between a city and a village. It has a beautiful Dzong (all Dzongs are beautiful), one main road with shops and the airport. It is actually good for shopping. We saw and bought some souvenirs which were not available in a bit overcrowded Thimphu.
Paro hosts also one of two hospitals in the country. I had to ask for the doctor’s advice concerning an inflammation developing on my back. Healthcare and medications are free both for locals and for tourists. There was no queue in the emergency station, the premises looked very tired but the doctor was very professional and communicating good English. I got my prescription and… I was asked to go to a counter nearby to pick up my antibiotics. Although you might see pharmacies in Bhutanese cities, they mainly sell Vitamin C, some pain killers and shampoos. Prescription drugs are only available in hospitals, where you get them in a plastic bag, in the quantity exactly prescribed by the doctor (this should be also considered in Europe instead os selling people full boxes of drugs if they only need a half of it to recover).
Although Punakha Dzong is unbeatable in terms of beauty, architecture and location, the Dzong in Paro also a must-see-place in Bhutan with beautiful paintings inside.
In front of the Dzong we saw women selling the famous Bhutanese Cordyceps. This are the mushrooms which can be found just above 3,000 meters in Himalaya. During their lifecycle they grow into the bodies of caterpillars thus creating the mixture of albumins beneficial for the body.
According to our guide, cordyceps have to be put into the glass of wine for 3 days. Such an enriched glass of wine has to be drunk once a week. One piece of the best quality costs USD 20 in a gift shop in Paro. Women in front of Paro Dzong sell them at USD 5.
After lunch we went for shopping. A relatively uncomplicated road network allows for a good orientation in the city 😜.
In Paro you can shop for traditional jewelry, local textile goods, cordyceps, famous Bhutanese post stamps (printed on silk or in form of mini discs) and…. you can find a really good coffee in 2 or 3 shops. Moreover, there are some food store with local stuff including wine (some of them really not bad) and whisky (didn’ try it).
On the way to our hotel in late afternoon we stopped at Kyichu Lakhang, a lovel Buddhist temple. However, I think, this was the moment when we stopped to see the differences between all the temples and dzongs we have seen. This is not a criticism to the tour operator. This is the evidence of how intense the tour was and how many beautiful Bhutanese landmarks we have seen on our way.