Bhutan Day 5 – Bumthang

[Here is the photostream of Bhutan 2013 Day 5, for those who prefer pictures to tell a story. 🙂]

Hot oat porridge

Hot oat porridge

Today I had a very hard time crawling out of the very warm bed into the cold room. Hubby managed to set up the fire so I waited for the room to warm up before getting up :p It was too cold to shower!! Breakfast was the hottest we had so far! The lovely pipping hot oat porridge, which remained hot till the last drop, really warmed us up 🙂 There was also egg and toast, pretty standard fare.

Back to our room, we had difficulty getting the fire up again and had used up almost half the match sticks. Finally, while hubby was outside trying to gather more wood, he met one of the staff who helped us get the fire started with a single match stick and a tiny piece of wood. Talk about being experienced huh :p

Before leaving for the day at around 09:00, we decided to make use of the very affordable laundry facilities today so that we could continue to have fresh clothes for the remaining trip. The car could not start up due to the very cold weather, so Dorji suggested that we walk, since the temples were just nearby, and that the car would then pick us up at the final temple.

Jambay Lhakhang

Jambay Lhakhang

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll, alongside cows and horses, with Dorji to the oldest temple in Bhutan, Jambay Lhakhang. It was one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 659 AD on a single day across the Himalayan range. It was said that the temples were strategically placed to subdue the evil spirit, and 2 of these temples were in Bhutan. The one that we visited today was supposedly at the ankle of the evil spirit, and the other temple in Paro, Bhutan, was on the left knee.

Along the way to the temple, a cute little puppy tried to follow us for a while. The horses seemed to take great interest in the puppy, as a couple of them would stop and play with the puppy by pushing it around… very cute sight! But maybe not so cute for the puppy, since it looked quite scared…

After a short stroll across the farmlands, we visited the Temple of Paradise and Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan built in 1652 by Guru Rinpoche. During the 8th century, Sendhu Raja who was the king of Bumthang fell ill and he invited Guru Rinpochhe who brought Buddhism into Bhutan to cure him. Guru Rinpochhe found out that the King’s illness was caused by the local deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo. Finding the cause of the illness, Guru chased the deities into a cave, and Guru meditated inside the cave for three months. Guru then subdued the deities including the powerful Shelging Karpo and left his body imprint inside the cave, thus giving the name Kurjey (Body Imprint). Beside the Monastery is a tall cypress tree which is believed to have sprouted from the walking stick of Guru Rinpochhe.

Temple of Paradise

Temple of Paradise

Kurjey Lhakhang

Kurjey Lhakhang

We enjoyed the walk in the fine weather, seeing the little streams which were partially frozen, the beautiful river, and there was even a public hot stone bath just next to the river! Great view while enjoying a bath!

The final temple we visited for the morning was Tamshing Lhakhang, located in a village across the river from Kurjey Lhakhang, and built in 1501 by the Buddhist saint Pema Lingpa. A skilled tantric master and an artist he sculpted the main statues and painted the frescoes, which can be seen even today, mostly in original state. There is also a chain mail made by Pema Lingpa that devotees carry and circumnavigate the inner sanctum.

By the time we were done, our car was nowhere in sight! Also, the cellular network had been cut off, so we couldn’t call anyone, which by the way, Bhutan has had excellent cellular network for the last few days, even when we were high up in the mountains… So we just started to walk back towards Rinchenling Lodge. Meanwhile, Dorji and hubby kept trying to call out without success.

Finally, slightly after 13:00, we spotted a car coming towards us! Good thing that there were very few roads in Bhutan, so it was fairly easy to find us 😛 Turned out that there was really some major issues with the car, as it stalled again after Milan managed to get it started and drove a very short distance. Luckily,  one of their colleagues had just driven a couple to Rinchenling Lodge and so, he drove Milan to pick us up. Which was great, because it would probably take us the rest of the day to walk back to the lodge. I was so tired, I fell asleep almost immediately after getting into the car.

Simple lunch

Simple lunch

We ended up having a late lunch back at the lodge and they managed to whipped up something really quick for us – a simple meal consisting of white rice, mushrooms, pumpkin slices, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes grown in their backyard and bananas as dessert. The mushrooms, pumpkin and tomatoes were excellent! Dorji said that usually, he had to call up restaurants 2 to 3 hours in advance to order meals, because there were so such thing as “fast food” in Bhutan. Food takes quite some time to prepare. So we were quite surprised to be able to eat something delicious within 20 minutes of our arrival.

Jakar Dzong

Jakar Dzong

After lunch was a quick visit to the Jakar (White Bird) Dzong. Founded by the great-grandfather of the first Shabdrung, the Dzong was initially a small hermitage in 1549. It was expanded the Shabdrung 1646 to help consolidate his expanding power into the eastern region. Scouting for a place for the dzong a small white bird was seen perched on a hill, which was taken as an auspicious sign, and hence the name Jakar, meaning white bird. As others, the Dzong is now the seat of district administration and monastic body of Bumthang valleys.

Simple town area

Simple town area

Final stop of the day was to visit the town area. Interestingly, most of the products sold in the provision shops were actually imported from India. We also saw Koka instant noodles :p Nothing much to do in town, and the new cafe was closed today, so we ended up going back to hotel at 16:00, and had tea break while we chatted with Dorji and Milan. Now we start to see their playful side, as they tried to trick me into believing that the stones above the fireplace were very hot, when they were actually cold!

Dinner was excellent! We had red rice, puta (Bhutanese buckwheat noodles), brinjal, fried bitter gourd with potato slices (bitter but very nice when eaten together with the potato), long beans and chicken (much like sesame oil chicken back home – very good). We finished up almost everything except for the carbohydrates.

Lovely traditional fireplace

Lovely traditional fireplace

With some things good, there was usually some things not so good to balance things out… tonight’s hot water was extremely erratic, either very hot or very cold, making it really tough to shower! We were also having trouble trying to keep the fire going; it would burn for a while and just die off, so we had to get the staff to help us in the end. It was a rather embarrassing moment when the staff opened the door of the fire place and paused upon looking at the lined up matchsticks (which would light up for a few seconds and die off), before proceeding to sweep them away. Then he expertly positioned all the “fire starters” and wood pieces and viola! Strong fire burning with minutes 😛 Needless to say, it was a lovely cozy night for us 😀 I loved sitting by the fireplace to do some reading and basically just relax. It was perfectly fine not to have a TV or WiFi access; I just love the tranquility!

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