Punakha in Bhutan

Punakha

Moving through Bhutan, I realized the further we trudged and delved deeper into Bhutan, the more it lived up to its status of being a mythic and mystical land, untouched by modernity. Punakha was no different and it was beyond beautiful as what was expected. 

Punakha houses the most beautiful dzong in Bhutan. It is built on the confluence of Pho (male) Chu (River) and Mo (Female) Chu (River) by Ngawang Namgyal (1594–1651), 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche [Great Lama] and founder of the Bhutanese State.

Punakha

The blooming Jacardana bathes the Punakha dzong in purple hues. 

Punakha

Bhutan houses a very rich floral health, driving through this carbon negative sink one can notice different varieties of rhododendron blooming from deep to pale pinks, whites to yellows. Jacardana can be seen blooming sporadically all over Bhutan, its only in Punakha that these purple trees make a strong presence on the senses. 

Punakha

If only I could pluck them and take them back home, add them to my flower vases and tell people stories for years, stories as vivid as the brightness and vigor of the plucked flowers.

Punakha

Canopy and the floor colored alike.

Punakha

Shades of Blue

Punakha

To sleep, perchance to dream – dreaming in Dreamland. The Bazam bridge that one needs to cross to enter the Dzong

Punakha

Surreal is the word

Punakha

A masterpiece of architecture

Punakha

Ornamentation of the heavily timbered structure. The wooden stairs are extremely steep and meant to be pulled up at night. Also, there are beehives underneath the roof. 

Punakha

In the center of the courtyard is a Bodhi tree.

Punakha

Magnificient shadows

Punakha

The elaborate wood carvings are a sight to behold

Punakha

All the woodwork wrapping the columns of the structure are colored with illustrations of Buddha’s life

Punakha

We become what we think

Punakha

Not far from the dzong is the suspension bridge, a favorite with the tourists. One can easily spot the local guides from the tourists, men dressed in Gho, traditional and national dress for men in Bhutan, can be seen huddled up at the start of the suspension bridge instructing their respective batch of tourists to go to the center of the bridge and brave the squeaking and the swaying.

Punakha

The bridge is 350m/1000ft long. At the center of the bridge, the swaying is very prominent and strong winds just add to the momentum. 

Punakha

Holding on to dear life to save oneself from dropping off to the gurgling, foaming torrent 

Punakha

Posing even if its swaying and creaking.

Punakha

We couldnt find any homestays in Punakha for the day, almost all of the homestays were booked, barring one for which the owner was in Paro. Luckily for us, there was a single room available in Zhingkham resort. ‘Zhingkham’ means Heaven in Bhutanese national language, Dzongkha. 

Punakha

Overlooking majestic Punakha Dzong, river and magnificent surrounding hills, Zhingkham Resort is a charming establishment, perched on a hilltop

Punakha

The view from Zhingkham was incredibly arresting

Punakha

I made some friends in Punakha

Punakha

Alternate Planet

Punakha

Nothing I ever imagine about any place comes even close to the experience of being there in person. Bhutan was no different – with its strict rules, disciplined lifestyle and non-existent pop culture exposure, Bhutan seems to be stuck in a time capsule. Perhaps, an effort to save its fragile culture from the onslaught of modernity. In that process, Bhutan has also managed to save its natural resources and be the only carbon negative country. Sandwiched between two of the worlds most populous countries, India and China, being able to contribute to conserving the vulnerable Himalayan ecosystem is no mean feat.

Punakha

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Suneet Kaul
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Great safarnama, Rahgeer, as always! Bhutan is for sure in my bucket list as well!