Western

Bhutan

Western Bhutan is the most important part or division of Bhutan. It consist of capital Thimphu as well as the only international airport in Paro the main entry points to country. The flight to Paro is both captivating and ecstatically. Paro has the famous National Museum situated in a round fortress the Ta Dzong as well as the ruins of the Drugyal Dzong, which was built in the 17th century to keep invading Tibetan forces in check, destroyed in fire in 1951. There are also ruins of of famous fortress, Dr. Drukgyal Dzong, which was built by father and unifier medieval Bhutan, the great Shabdrung Namgyal. The fortress was destroyed as accidental fire. There is also the oldest temple of Bhutan-Kyichu Lhakahang in Paro.

The most cherished and holy place to visit in Bhutan is the famous Taktsang Monastery which is popularly called Tiger's Nest Monastery because it is said that Guru Rimpoche came here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this place. The monastery is built astonishingly on a cliff in 1692. It was damaged in a fire in 1998 was restored to its former glory in 2005. This is the most sacred site which is visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On a sunny day it is advisable to carry sun screen, water, walking stick and a hat. There is about a one hour climb to reach cafeteria from where one can enjoy the captivating view of the monastery as well as flying prayer flags.

Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan which is at the height 2,320m it is the largest town of the Himalayan state with a population of approximately 100,000 people. It became the capital of Bhutan in 1961. It is about an hour drive from the airport in Paro.

Places to visit in Thimpu include: Transhichho Dzong which is only open to public after office hours, on weekends and public holidays. Every Saturday and Sunday market held on the banks of the river at the popular site centenary farmers market. Villagers and people of nearby places come to sell their products. There are two museums in Bhutan:-
Heritage Museum where exhibition of artefacts used in rural household are on display.
Textile Museum displays art of traditional wearing. There are also two fortresses in Thimpu:-

1. Thimpu Dzong is the largest fortress in the country. It is the seat of the office of the king of Bhutan.
2. Semtokha Dzong is the oldest fortress in Bhutan. It is about five miles from Thimpu.

One may also visit the paper making factory to see the art of paper making. There is also the National Memorial Chorten(Stupa) which was built in honour of late king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Viewpoints around Thimpu are quite captivating one may see the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin, in Takin enclosure in Thimpu.

It is also suggested to go to Dochu-La pass the first mountain pass in western region of Bhutan, and see the 108 Druk Wangyal Chorten situated on the top of the pass. On a clear day one can enjoy a panorama of the Himalayan mountain range the other town of western Bhutan is Punakha, which is ancient capital of Bhutan. Its elevation is 1,300m it is about two and a half hour drive from Thimpu across Dochu-La pass. After crossing the pass, one enters into warm fertile valley and wandering of flowing aquamarine river leading to the Punakha Dzong, the second oldest fortress of Bhutan. It was built in 1637 and remains the winter home of the clergy, headed by the chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is bewildering example of Bhutanese architecture. It looks like sitting in fork of two rivers. The fortress was destroyed by fire and glacial floods but has been carefully restored to its medieval glory. It is a commendable example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.

Punakha is in a valley. It has subtropical climate consequently food grains, vegetables, are grown in abundance here. A short drive up the valley is the Khamsum Yulley Chorten(Stupa). It was constructed in 1992. It is one of three such Stupas in the world.

As one further drives to south of Punakha, one reaches to the valley of Wangduephodrang at the elevation of 1,350m. it is an old town of a narrow street with single storied shops. There is plan to replace it by a brand new town carried out of terraced rice fields. There is a Wangduephodrang Dzong(Fortress). It is on a steep ridge overlooking the highway fork to the east and south of the country.

As goes towards Trongra in central Bhutan, one enters into the magical valley of Phobjikha, home to the rare Black-Necked-Crane. They migrate from Tibet in October and November and leave just before spring. There is also the famous Gangtery Gompu Monastery built in the 17th century.

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