Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Seven Days Trip to Bhutan - A Travelogue - Part V

Day 5 – 25 Nov 15 – Punakha – Paro and Paro Sights

Yesterday, while talking to my daughter, who is a avid traveler in her own right, I mentioned about the valley, river and hills. She felt that the sunrise there may be fun. With that, me and my son had little choice but to get up and be outdoor with our camera at 0610 hrs (Sunrise at 0621 hrs) to see if there is something that we can capture in the sunrise. But before I start, remember my last part, Hotel Vara is overlooking a valley with a river flowing through it. See the photo below. 

Valley view from Hotel Vara
As we walked out to camp fire site of the hotel we were in for a marvel. The whole valley with the river flowing through it was covered in thick fog. Mind you only the valley, not the hills across, not the hotel area, just the valley and the river over its full length. 

The magic in he valley

We were so excited that first we woke up every one in the group to watch this wonder. Next we got busy clicking the wonder. Sunrise was a non starter being behind the tall hills but as the sun rays started falling on certain areas around the river, yet another beautiful sight emerged, the fog started slowing rising and started covering newer area. We spend soaking in to this marvel of the nature for about 45 minutes. 

Fog Covered Valley, A Buddhist temple Jutting Out
Fog Lifting up - Adding to Magic

One More of it

Time lapse Video of the magic
As the fog mostly lifted, we returned to our room and started working to get ready to depart from Vara, Punakha at 0830 for our trip to Paro via a visit to Royal Botanical Garden.

Leaving Hotel Vara, Punakha at 0830 hrs we reached Royal Botanical garden in about 30 mins (enroute to Paro via Dochula pass and Thimphu). After taking entry ticket we went in. This place is very good. We were impressed with it. It has all the varieties of Rhododendron of all the varieties available in Bhutan. This garden is spread over 45 sq KM with varied terrain  having a 1000 m differential in height. There are trekking tracks where cycling can also be done. There is a provision of camping also. However, all these activities are booked through local Bhutanese travel agents and not directly.

Royal Botanical Garden Board
We went round the Rhododendron garden and also visited their Tourist  Information center. This place was repository of information the Park, the vegetation in it and also the animals that can be found here and in Bhutan. They also have a informative video film for tourists but I guess we were little too early from the show time. We would up the visit in 45 minutes, just not enough for Royal Botanical Garden but that is what we could do in a touristy trip to the park.

Let me Peep and see who is that Specie
Oh, Its me

Bambu Forest
Rhododendron Garden
Continuing on our journey to Paro via Thimphu  we reached Dochula shortly. The Himalayan ranges that were clearly visible yesterday were partially obscure today due to clouds. It reiterated to us as to how lucky we were yesterday. After having a cup of tea at the restaurant there we recommenced our journey to Paro and reached there at 1400 hrs. As we entered Paro, our driver took us through an upper road from where panoramic view of Paro Airport (only international airport in Bhutan). Paro has a wide and extended valley and thus is able to have a international airport.

 Paro Airport Panoramic View
First activity after reaching Paro was to have Lunch as all of us were hungry. We had lunch at Hotel Peljorling in the main market. Why this hotel? Because this place has an Indian cook. The food was good. After lunch we left for a old and out use Dzong (and this time it was not seat of government plus a monastery and a fort)  which was a pure fort used in war between Bhutanese and Tibetan. On the way we stopped at a point on the road. From this point on the road the Tiger nest monastery view is available. Our binoculars were of good use to have a look at Tiger nest.

From there we went to Drukgyal Dzong, a old and crumbling fort with a great history. As we reached the parking and started going towards the fort, a local told us to take the left  side fork out of the two heading towards the Dzong. The left side fork took us around the fort through very isolated and less used path, though a very beautiful trail. As we reached around the Dzong we came across a trench running from the Dzong door to the lower protective wall. 

On the way to Dzong
The climb to fort using this trench was very steep. Looking at the steepness only me and Pranay decided to climb up to the fort. The climb was tough (and we took it as a practice climb as we both had made up our mind to climb to Tiger Nest Monastery tomorrow) but rewarding.

Steep Way up to Dzong through Trench
Entrance to the Dzong
The Courtyard

Second Courtyard
View of Second Courtyard

One more view
The Dzong, though not as grand and colourful as other operational Dzongs was strong and impressive structure though not preserved and breaking down. We went round it and realized how strong it must be in its prime days.

As we decided to return, we found a very easy ramp going down, much less in gradient and we realized that if we had taken the right side fork in the beginning instead of left fork, every one of our family member could have climbed up to this Dzong and enjoyed its ruins. See the graphics below:-

Post this visit we went to our Hotel Mandala Resort crossing Paro Town by about 1700 hrs. It takes about three tight hairpin bends to quickly gain height to climb up to this hotel which is on situated on some height at the edge of the town. We wondered where are we going. Any doubts that we had were put to rest when we reached the hotel. 

It was beautiful. It has its reception and dining hall (on first floor) in the center and the rooms (really cottages) on the right flank (called new block). On the left flank is the old block but since we did not stay there I cannot comment about it. The new block cabin cottages are on three levels with first two levels (middle and lower) offer fabulous view of Paro town and Paro valley. The top level cabins have only partial view as their view is obscured by middle level cabins. 

Panoramic View from Balcony of the Room
We were welcomed by the manager Mr Nobeen (Navin) and were provided a good cup of tea. After tea we placed our dinner order (typical Bhutan style with restaurant closing by about 2100 hrs) went to our cabins and relaxed.

Inside the Room
We went for the dinning hall for dinner at about 2030 and enjoyed a well cooked dinner. After dinner we briefed the manager about our requirement of self and son to have breakfast at 0630 tomorrow as we two had made up our mind to climb to Tiger Nest Monastery. After spending some time chit chating we slept off.

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