After strolling the streets, visiting the clock tower and soaking in the atmosphere on my first day in Bhutan, I was so ready to see more of what Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city, had to offer. I rose bright and early on Day 2 in Bhutan despite not being a morning person – I don’t do early mornings and yet I was ready to leave by 8am. I had a hearty breakfast of Indian and western dishes at the hotel before leaving. One other reason I came down early was I wanted to use the hotel WiFi.Bhutan Fun Fact: While they have high speed 4G internet Bhutanese believe bedrooms are for personal time so you don’t get wifi in hotel rooms just the lobby or dining room. #Bhutan #Travel #Wanderlust Click To Tweet
You find a lot of people in the lobby and foyer and you get a chance to interact in person because of the internet. Read the irony of the situation.
Day 2 In Bhutan Begins
By 9am I was ready, I’d touched base with my folks back home and was itching to explore Thimphu. My guide arrived at 9 on the dot and we were ready to roll. As soon as I stepped out of the hotel the first thing I noticed was OMG the sun shines really bright in Bhutan! My guide explained that because of extremely low levels of air pollution and the high altitude, Bhutan is blessed with really bright days in winter. So my friends… make your shades your best friend when you visit Bhutan or be ready to squint all day.
En route to Memorial Chorten, my first stop for the day, Pema my guide briefed me about the history of the place. Bhutanese people love and respect their royal family and Memorial Chorten (Buddhist Shrine) was built in 1974 in memory of the third king of Jigma Dori Wangchuk after his untimely death.
Visiting Memorial Chorten
Upon reaching the shrine I was overcome by a wave of calm serene vibes. You will find a lot of golden colored prayer wheels, which people turn while praying. These wheels are huge and require some effort to turn them. Some elderly people have hand-held miniature versions of these wheels which they turn while praying. You will find a lot of local worshipers here. The inside of the Chorten has beautiful paintings depicting Buddhism and the philosophies of the religion.
Bhutanese people are deeply spiritual my tour guide tells me, they take their worship very seriously. Soaking up the peace and doing my own share of prayers, I moved outside to take some photos although photography is prohibited inside the temple complex itself. One thing about the bright sunshine is, you get Instagram worthy, bright pictures bringing out every minute detail.
Next Stop Buddha Point
Next we were ready to drive to Buddha Point, the largest Buddha statue in Bhutan where the body of the statue is filled with 125,000 smaller statues. As I arrived I realized that there was festival going on in the monastery and there were a lot of people waiting outside to pray and worship.
Inside the Monastery there were a lot of monks reading and praying and the head priest was chanting. My guide informed me that it was their annual festival and I got to see a lot of original relics and scriptures as they were used for worshipping.
In spite of thousands of people being present, they were very quiet and disciplined. The bronze statue painted in golden looked brilliant in the sun shine. The statue is sculpted to perfection and it has a very calming expression. The fun part started once I was done seeing the statue and the premises around it. My guide surprised me by saying that I had to climb down around 150 steps to get to our car park. While you can drive to the top, you have to climb down, this is how the sight is managed so you can’t complain about it.
Some 20 minutes and a couple 100 pictures (exaggeration) later we reached our car and decided to go for lunch. Pema suggested that we visit the local market and buy some fruits as I am a vegetarian so rabbit food was my only option. While Bhutan has a café culture, they do not have highway restaurants and going inside the city for lunch would waste time. I have travelled enough to realize that lunch time is a waste during travel and breaks your momentum. To add to this, I am a Gujarati, we never travel without home cooked food and traditional snacks. So I was prepared for an on-the-go lunch.
Thimphu Farmers Market
With this thought in mind we headed to the Farmers Market to have a taste of the local fresh fruits. One Bhutanese Custard Apple box later Pema took me to a local garden so that we can eat in the shade.
The garden had a huge statue guarded by two green dragons and here the Daenerys Targaryen in me found her Rhaegal.
Surprisingly Bhutan has a lot of Maple trees and they were golden in early fall. I enjoyed my lunch but alas the custard apples were a disappointment. They were bitter and not at all what I expected them to be. Pema had a good time laughing at my reaction after tasting it.
The last sight of the day Tashichho Dzong
After lunch we left for the last sight of the day Tashichho Dzong; the main secretarial building which houses the throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and also the head seat of Chief Abbot of Bhutan.
This fortress surrounded by rose gardens and maple trees is a prime example of Bhutanese architecture. As it houses the throne room the building has security, but it’s a treat for sore eyes. The artistically painted walls, the shrine inside the fortress, the courtyard which is used to host annual festivals, all is so grand. I can say that this is Bhutan at its very best and mind you I am saying this on the second day of my travel.
We were free by 3 in the afternoon, so Pema insisted that we go to an open gym, yes you are reading it correct, Bhutan has a culture of open air public gyms. They house traditional equipment, which are fun and beneficial at the same time. These gym gardens also happen to have amazing views and this particular gym I went to has a breath taking view of the Thimphu Valley. I don’t know if this view doesn’t motivate you to exercise, what will and the green mountains surrounded by civilization is a testament to co-existence.
After some light exercise at sunset, we were ready to return and Pema dropped me at my hotel, Phuntsho Pelri, at 5:30pm. The day is pretty short in Bhutan, everything closes by 5pm and after that you’re free. I was fairly tired after a day of walking around and also due to the thin air. The hotel staff had informed me that they had an amazing spa so I decided to go for it. Luckily they had an available spot and I got a chance to enjoy a very relaxing time.
I headed for dinner once I was done with the spa. The cold air increases your appetite and suddenly you are hungry all the time. Even after taking a spa and a luxurious dinner, I was free by 8:30pm. I decided to head up and retire with my kindle. A piece of advice, if you are planning to travel to Bhutan, carry a lot of books and movies because you will be free early every day.
After a day of seeing the lush green beauty of Bhutan, I have become a green eyed monster, envying the people living here. I am officially smitten and crushing on the Kingdom of Bhutan more than ever and I’ll share Day 3 of my Bhutanese escapades with you soon!
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