Chortens massed up in 3 layers at Dochu-La pass 10,500ft / 3,100M
18th April 2009: Up at 3:30am (!), packed, loaded-up the Scorpio and departed TT-Hotel, Thimpu by 4:45am. True, that's early; but in these Eastern parts sunrise is early and its clear daylight by 4:30am! We headed East and after crossing Simtokha and then the Check-Point at Hongtshu we reached the top of Dochu-La Pass at 5:40am and saw an amazing cluster of 108 Chortens, massed up in 3 tier layers in a big rising-ground of a Traffic-Island in the middle of the raod. The weather was chilly cold (my guess 4*C) and cloudy. I took a stroll amoungst these "Druk Wangyel Chortens" with prayer flags fluttering and took several pictures of the scenery. But there was no snow-peak views to the North due to cloud cover.
Our Scorpio at Dochu-La - See this Pass on Google Earth (WP217)
After a 10 min stop here, we continued on the Semtokha-Trashigang Highway (NH2) and passed through some scenic forests and the Royal Botanical Park. Later, we took a diversion off main route, at Metsina (WP221), to go to Punakha Dzong (WP224). We reached there at 7:25am. Punkha Dzong is huge fortress, in a beautiful setting at the confluence of two rivers - Mo Chu and Pho Chu. You need to cross a beautiful "covered-bridge" into the Dzong, over Mochu river.
Punakha Dzong (WP224); full name Punthang Dechen Phodrang!
Covered Bridge to cross Mo-chu to enter the Punakha Dzong
We could see the beautiful Punakha Dzong from the grounds, but we did not have a "Dzong Permit" to go inside. But we were surprised when the Security Guard said "seeing that you have come a long way to see our country and this Dzong, I will not insist on the Dzong permit, and allow you inside, on basis of Vehicle permit". We were surprised! And thanked him for allowing us to see the spectacular inner courtyards and the Prayer Halls of the Monsastry.
Punakha Dzong from the covered bridge
View of the Dzong through the trees & flowers of Punakha lawns
Monks gather in the Punkaha Dzong courtyard for prayers
The Tea-Kettle lady looks back smiling, as she sees me trying to get her baby's picture . . . on the Punakha covered bridge.
After Punakha we return to join the highway, headed east to Wangdi , Trongsa and Pele-la. Soon we pass the impressive Wangdi Dzong (WP228)built on a cliff overlooking the Wang river. We crossed the bridge (WP227) but did not stop here at this Dzong. We start climbing steeply up the hillside towards Nobding (WP232) and Pele-La (WP236).
Wangdi Dzong on top of a hill above the Wang river
We passed through some scenic valleys and rhodendron forests, as we reached the Pele-La pass (11,150 ft) at around 11:15 am.
Chorten at Pele-La (11070ft-3375M)
That's Trongsa Dzong across the valley ... still 14 Kms away!
Father and Son sitting by the road side near the Bjeezam Checkpoint
We finally reach ... and pass the Trongsa Dzong at 2:15pm
Yotangla pass with prayer flags as we enter Bumthang District now.
We entered the Bumthang region at 3:30pm, at Yotangla (WP251). It was pretty cold here too, as you can see HVK is sporting a turban made out of a towel! It took us another hour to reach Jakar (WP257). There we checked into a very nice River View Lodge run by one Mr Pema Dawa.