The Land of Thunder Dragon, Bhutan 2016

Bhutan is always on my wish list to visit, it has its own mysterious sense of uniqueness. Let me share some interesting facts and observations about Bhutan before going into the tourist stuff:

- No traffic light in Bhutan: roundabouts and traffic police are your driving assistance.

- Total population 7xx,xxx with about 180 doctors nationwide.

- All local beer tastes the same: Druk 11000, Druk Lager Premium, Red Panda, whatever. No wonder Druk Air does not serve those local beer on board.

- Sit on the left side of the plane when flying into Thimphu so that you can see the Himalayan Mountains during landing. Vice versa on the return flight.

- Lots of young women with small kids, literally most of them.

- Food is ok, personally feel like a mix of Mongolia, Chinese and Indian cuisine with a much smaller variety. E.g. stir fried chili pepper with goat cheese, or minced chicken with tomato.  Butter tea is great, especially with dry rice in it!

- Souvenir shops near Fertility Temple are overpriced, relatively cheaper in town. Airport is the worst (2-3x).

I believe most tourists follow almost the same itinerary when visit Bhutan. Land in Paro, drive to Thimphu, visit Punakha, and return to Paro to hike the Tiger's Nest on the last day. As a majority of Bhutanese are Buddhist, most tourist attractions are temple, fortress, monastery and places relating to Buddhism. It feels like a luxury version of Tibet (although I have never been to Tibet).

- Thimphu -

The capital city with no airport since it does not have enough flat land to build a runway. Several luxury hotels to choose from (we went for Taj Tashi and it was the right decision).

Atmosphere around the city, Thimphu.

Old People hanging around The Memorial Choten, Thimphu

Thimphu city center, probably the only place to buy things as there is no shopping mall in Bhutan

No traffic light, no worries, this officer will ensure the traffic goes smoothly, Thimphu

Watch out before photographing religious person/ object, always ask for a permission, Thimphu

Stray dogs are everywhere is Bhutan, but they are not aggressive at all, Thimphu

There are numerous kinds of Bhutanese colorful mask dances, this is just one example of a short performance at Taj Tashi, Thimphu

Archery is Bhutan national sport, There is a daily local competition happening all the times. Interesting, in the picture below, those women from the other team will sing & dance to disturb/ distract the contestant, however, if the contestant  hits the target, his teammates will sing & dance to celebrate him.

Local archery competition, Thimphu

Thimphu Gallery

- Punakha -

Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1950s. Although it is only about 80 km from Thimphu, the drive takes about 3 hours due to the road condition (bumpy & muddy). I think the greenery area around Fertility Temple and the outstanding Punakha Dzong (fortress) would justify the hassle to get there. Only a few choices for hotel, we stayed at Uma by Como, great view, but there isn't much beyond that around the area.

It gets really foggy around the midway to Punakha, note that people are walking around these pagodas numerous times as if they recite mantra numerous times

From a viewpoint on top of Punakha prior to our arrival of the Fertility Temple

This greenery trail leads us to the Fertility Temple (the car can pick you up on the way back), Punakha

Notice the paintings around this town near Fertility Temple. This temple was blessed by Divine Madman who advocated the use of phallus symbols, Punakha

Photogenic Punakha Dzong situated by the river and mountains, Punakha

A monk throwing away the offering water at the end of the day, Punakha

Bhutan's longest suspension bridge, Punakha

Punakha Gallery

- Paro -

Home to the international airport and the famous Bhutanese landmark, Paro Taktsang (AKA Tiger's Nest). I like this town atmosphere better than Thimphu, it is more traditional but does not offer many choices of food compared to Thimphu. All good hotels are a bit far from the city center.

This suspension bridge is on the way from the airport, so it is actually our 1st stop in Bhutan, Paro

Rinpung Dzong, another great fortress in Paro

Monks rushing out for a break, Rinpung Dzong, Paro

Paro Taktsang AKA Tiger's Nest, very unique monastery located in the valley, took us few hours to hike up there

Many people have a small temple room in their house where they pray daily. Farmer's House, Paro

Bhutanese temples are really colorful, unfortunately most of them prohibit photography inside

Another cultural performance where participants dance around the bonfire, Paro

Paro Gallery