Punakha

Tuesday – We began our day driving a short distance to the Punakha Dzong which is one of the biggest ones in Bhutan. Reached by walking across a scenic wooden bridge over the river, it was the seat of government for the country until the 1950s. There were several courtyards, and temples throughout the complex.

Through Kutira’s VIP access, we were taken up to the top of the Dzong, to the Machey Lhakhang, to the room outside a chamber holding the embalmed bodies of two important Buddhist teachers. One is the Shabdrung Namgyel, a lama who unified Bhutan in the 17th century. Only the king, and high lamas are allowed inside the actual chamber.

The royal wedding of the fifth king was held here in 2011. Before the ceremony, the fourth and fifth kings, accompanied by the Je Khenpo (the chief abbot) entered this chamber for blessings. According to this article about the wedding, during this time the bride remained in the small outer room we were in.

The views from the top, to the outside mountains were great. This was very much a special place to see.

Since the Dzong was large complex, we took most of the day exploring it. I even met the accountants! After lunch we were running a bit late (the morning had been so fascinating) and split into two groups, one taking the steep climb to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. It was a tough choice, but I went with the river rafting group. It was a fairly slow and very gentle ride down the river and past the Dzong. About this time, it began raining and we were very glad when the raft finally reached our hotel to change clothes.

After such an exciting day I was really getting tired. We had dinner, then it was great to use the hotel’s hot stone bath, more primitive than the earlier one, in a simple hut next to the river. Still the perfect ending to the day!