Bhutan, prominently referred to as the land of happiness, is truly one of a kind. This picturesque neighbour to India, boasts of mystical mountains and green land, that make it extraordinary.
New Delhi: This is Bhutan, the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’, a mystical retreat landlocked in the magical and therapeutic Himalayas, inspiritingly untouched by globalization. The best way to explore is by booking yourself on a tailor-made trail with ‘Amankora’, literally translating into peaceful pilgrimage, it has had the good affluence to design a ‘path of insight’ offering stays at five diverse lodges, nuzzled advantageously through the primeval countryside, transporting a track of awe-inspiring prospect to lance a lifespan. If you are a first timer, you could perhaps plan a trip to Paro & Thimphu and come back again to discover the rest of Amankora’s nature-linked lodges in Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang burrowed along a path of edifying momentum, uncovering the richness of a pristine cultural and biogenetic evolution, deeply entrenched in the spectacular Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. An expedition that gives wandering a reason, not just a pretext. Let’s explore the valleys of Thimphu, and Paro with a reserved guide, taking in antiquated monasteries, imposing mountains and much more of this high-altitude Himalayan Kingdom. These activities like all Amankora excursions, can be regulated to suit preferences, both before coming and on the land. These are a few of my favourite ones!
TIGERS NEST MONASTERY, UPPER PARO VALLEY
Nestled between the picturesque mountains of the Himalayas, The Paro Taksang famously known as the Tigers Nest Monastery is nothing short of breath-taking. Built around a divine cavern during the late 17th century, this hermitage is believed to be the meditating ground for numerous generations of holy saints and monastics. A home-grown legend describes Guru Padmasambhava, as the travelling evangelist who introduced the concept of Buddhism to the local societies during the 8th century. It is till date acknowledged that, he flew on the back of a tigress and mediated at this very spot. This religious house is characterized by Tibetan style architecture and has gold dyed roofs and eaves which are tinted the propitious burgundy. You can come across a good number of temples here, each beautifully adorned by stunning mythical murals, traditional thangka paintings as well as handmade sculptures. The tigers nest trek takes approximately 5-8 hours to complete, but one can hire a horse halfway from the base camp if you find it difficult to trek uphill.
BUDDHA DORDENMA, KUENSELPHODRANG, THIMPHU
The largest and most prestigious Shakyamuni statue of Buddha is located in the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu. Commonly referred to as the Buddha Point, it is advantageously positioned on the top of a mountain. This magnificent structure can be viewed by onlookers from a distance and is made entirely of bronze. A stunning 51.5 meters in height, this statue serves as a big chamber, which houses a massive meditation hall, remarkable artwork which would leave any visitor enthralled and a whopping 125,000 buddha statues that are present within. These have all been graciously donated by people from different parts of the world. This beautiful edifice overlooks the gorgeous Thimphu valley and is located inside a national park.
ROYAL TEXTILE ACADEMY, THIMPU
The Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan, founded under the guidance of her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuk (the Queen Mother), is a non-profit corporation which aims at protecting the art of weaving as it is considered to be a vital constituent of Bhutanese ethos and tradition. The academy boasts of an Avant- Garde textile museum that showcases an excellent selection of relics, giving you an insight into Bhutan’s deep-rooted culture. Its displays a vivid variety of fabric weaves and also encourages special themed exhibitions. The gallery also spectacles clothes that were worn by the Royal Family of Bhutan. This complex comprises of a school that enables students to learn and develop skills such as old-style weaving, yarn dyeing and modern design.
BHUTAN POSTAL MUSEUM, THIMPU
Among the smallest postal museums in the world, this charming little museum is situated below the Bhutan Postal Corporation Limited Head Quarter. It is an ode to the country’s growth in terms of transportation, postal assistances and communication services over the years. It focuses on distinguishing the past from the present. The museum was started in the year 2015 to mark the 60th birthday of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk. The museum interestingly also features a stamp collecting shop, that makes personalized stamps as souvenirs. This gallery is split up into five individual sections that display various tales, artefacts and a massive assembly of stamps.
CHELELA PASS, BETWEEN THE HAA AND PARO VALLEY
The Chelela pass is the highest accessible mountain pass in Bhutan. The journey from Paro town takes only about an hour and a half by car. What makes this pass stand out is the fact, it provides the bystander with a magnificent sight of the country’s most revered peak, Mount Jomolhari, which is famously referred to as the bride of Kangchenjunga. The main activity one can indulge in out here is to do the assigned trail (an ideal spot for hikers), that has been neatly demarcated by prayer flags all over or find a nice spot to set up a picnic and enjoy the stunning views of the highlands around.
INCENSE MAKING AT NADO POIZOKHANG, THIMPU
Incense sticks are an important aspect of Bhutanese culture and are used on a daily basis in households. Nado Poizokhang is the oldest and biggest manufacturer of them in the entire country. Here one can learn the art behind incense making and get an insight into the main ingredients used to create and bind them in shape and structure. The sticks here are made in agreement to the primeval Bhutanese sacred scriptures which encompass recipes dated over 700 years. A family operated business, the Nado family only believes in using all natural ingredients, the sticks can range from basic to very expensive ones as well.
BHUTANESE ASTROLOGY AT PANGRI ZAMPA MONASTERY, THIMPU
The Royal Kingdom of Bhutan is a strong believer of astrology. All major life decisions are made through the medium of fortune-telling, be it health, marriage, education, love, construction of a house etc., nothing is done without the consultation of an astrologer. The Pangri Zampa Monastery also serves as a college which teaches this line of discipline and is one of the most significant breakthroughs in the country. The course is taught over a span of 6 years. Interestingly the main astrologer of the monarchy also resides here. Here one can visit and approach the monastery for a detailed astrology session.
The writer is an independent chef & food & travel writer, is the first Indian to have trained at Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy, rated as the world’s best restaurant in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, in 2016 and 2018 and currently in the Best of The Best Category.