Thimphu

By: admin on Monday, May, 4th,2015 in Recommended.


Thimphu (Tibetan script: ཐིམ་ཕུག།) is the capital of Bhutan, and also the name of the surrounding valley and dzongkhag, the Thimphu District. With a population of approx 98,676 (2005 PHCB), it is the largest population centre in the country. Thimphu is located at an altitude of 2320m/7656ft.

Overview

Thimphu with the 17th century fortress-monastery called Tashichho Dzong on the northern edge of the city, has been the seat of Bhutan’s government since 1952.

The city sprawls across the western slopes of the Wang Chhu river valley. Rapid expansion following the pattern of rural exodus has resulted in considerable rebuilding in the city centre and mushrooming suburban development elsewhere. Norzin Lam, the recently upgraded main thoroughfare, is lined with shops, restaurants, retail arcades and public buildings. Elsewhere, there is a mix of apartment blocks, small family homes and family-owned stores. By regulation, all buildings are required to be designed in traditional style with Buddhist paintings and motifs. A lively weekend market near the river supplies meat, vegetables and tourist items. Most of the city’s limited light industry is located south of the main bridge. Thimphu has a growing number of commercial services and offices, which provide for ever-growing local needs. The city is surrounded by forests, which make the city look even greener. With on going construction for the 2008 celebrations of 100 years of Monarchy and Bhutan’s transition to Parliamentary Democracy, more and more construction is seen throughout Thimphu.

Dechenphu, Tango and Cheri monasteries, and Dechenchoeling Palace, are located to the north of the city.

Month                         Jan       Feb      Mar      Apr      May     Jun       Jul        Aug     Sep      Oct      Nov     Dec

Average high °C         12,3     14,4     16,4     20        22,5     24,4     18,9     25        23,1     21,9     17,9    14,5

Average low °C          -2,6      0,6       3,9       7,1       13,1     15,2     13,4     15,8     15        10,4     5          -1,1

Thimphu is served by a ‘City Bus’ service, which operates throughout the day. Plans have also been made to construct a light tram along the banks of the Wang Chhu that is both environment-friendly and efficient.

Tashichho dzong hosts a colourful masked-dance festival (tsechhu) at the end of summer, which is popular with tourists. A new Tsechhu ground, which can take in the capacity of both tourists and the locals, is under construction and is expected to be completed by August 2008.

Thimphu is the only national capital in Asia that does not have traffic lights. When local authorities installed a set of lights, people complained that they were too impersonal. The authorities gave in, and took them down. Instead of traffic lights, the city takes pride in its traffic police that directs the oncoming traffic with their dance-like movement of their arms and hands.

The Memorial Chorten dominates the skyline of Thimphu. This Chorten is dedicated to the Third Druk Gyalpo(King), Jigme Dorji Wangchuck after his sudden death while traveling abroad. A great amount of renovation is taking place for the 2008 celebrations to mark the Century of the Monarchy in Bhutan.

The National Library (1967) built in the style of a traditional temple contains a large collection of religious books and manuscripts in Dzongkha and Classical Tibetan and a collection of English-language books. It also contains a copy of the largest published book in the world.

The Buddha Dordenma statue, the largest Buddha statue in the world, is under construction on a mountain top called Kuensel Phodrang, overlooking the city. The statue is expected to be finished in 2008.

The National Post Office, along Chang lam, is an institute itself where famous Bhutanese export is seen and sold: the various stamps. Stamp collectors all over the world know that Bhutan is the first country to diversify and export quality stamps. Old and expensive stamps are exhibited at the National Museum in Paro.

The Clock Tower Square is a recently renovated square surrounded by shops and restaurants. Fountains and traditional Bhutanese Mani Lhalhor (prayer wheels) make the place more comfortable. On one side, the Druk Hotel is situated. Various programmes and activities are held here.

Along the end of the Norzin Lam(Lam – road/street), Thimphu’s own Textile Museum that displays various Bhutanese textiles that are extensive and rich in traditional culture. It also exhibits colourful and rare kiras and ghos (traditional Bhutanese dress, kira for women and gho for men).

The National Folk Heritage Museum displays traditional Bhutanese ways of life in a traditional Bhutanese house. It is an interesting view in to Bhutanese culture and domestic lives of the Bhutanese. There are also Bhutanese dances and exhibits held in the Museum Compound.

VAST (Voluntary Artist’s Studio, Thimphu) located along Chang Lam is a busy place with after-school and weekend drawing and painting classes for youngsters conducted by volunteer artists. A gallery on the top floor exhibits a mixture of both traditional and contemporary works. There is also a small library and coffee shop where budding artists are encouraged to meet.

Tango Cheri Monastery: With about 12 kilometers of drive you arrive at the starting point of Tango hike. It takes about an hour to arrive at the temple and is about 900 feet climb. Tango Monastery is a Buddhist college, and it’s the residence of the Desi Tenzin Rabgye, a young boy who is the reincarnation of the 16th-century monk who built Tango. Built in 12th century by Gyalwa Lhanampa, it serves as the monastic school for study of Buddhist Philosophy, metaphysics, mathematics, poets and many other Buddhist studies. On the same day you can hike to Cheri monastery, return back to the road, your car will drive you to the traditional bridge over the Thimphu River. From here you hike for about an hour and half. Crossing the lovely traditional bridge you climb steeply to the monastery. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal founded the temple in 1620.

The National Institute of traditional Medicine has also a small museum on its premises.

Every monastery and temple in Thimphu is alive and well. These are some institutions where one can see how Buddhists pray and their daily routines.

Thimphu is the center for various educational institutions:

The city is the home for the office of the [[Royal University of Bhutan] (Commonly known as the RUB). Some of the member colleges of RUB which are also located in Thimphu are:

* The Institute for Language and Culture Studies (ILCS) provide training to undergraduate students in national language, culture and traditions of Bhutan.

* The National Institute of Traditional Medicine (Estb. 1988) contains an impressive, large laboratory and production facilities that ensures quality of the products, the components of which includes plants, minerals, animal parts, precious metals and gems. The Institution produces traditional Bhutanese medicine towards the needs of the public. There is a day-care facility and clinic where doctors diagnose patients and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments. The institute also researches the use of herbs and plants and has a plot(trial) on the premises. A small museum and a gift shop(where the famous herbal tea -Tsheringma- is produced) is also present in its compounds.

* Royal Institute of Health Sciences (RIHS) provides training to nurses and technician.

* Royal Institute of Management (RIM) provides training in administrative and financial management to mid-level manager.

The National Institute for Zorig Chusum is a training institute that trains students in the thirteen traditional arts known as the Zorig Chusum. Many visitors take time to look at the works and arts and even watch how a piece is made.

The Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA) is the home of the Royal Dance troupe. The history of the academy dates back to 1954 when it was started under the command of late His Majesty the King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck with the gracious intention to preserve and promote Bhutanese performing arts. The academy was institutionalized in 1967 with a mandate to preserve and promote performing arts traditions. Folk music and dancing- group was introduced in 1970.

Situated in the capital city, Thimphu, the academy is the only of its kind in the country, where all kinds of performing arts traditions are being preserved and documented for future posterity.

The Bhutanese culture including music is being threatened owing to accelerating infiltration of other cultures. To combat this trend, the Royal Government has been making every effort to reorganize the existing activities at the academy to enable its efforts to preserve and promote the performing arts traditions. This process has called for an expansion in the programs, including curriculum development.


Paro

By: admin on Monday, May, 4th,2015 in Recommended.


Paroསྤ་རོ་རྫོང་ཁག་ is the name of a district (dzongkhag), valley, river and town (population 20,000) in the Kingdom of Bhutan. It is one of the most historic valleys in Bhutan. Both trade goods and invading Tibetans came over the pass at the head of the valley, giving Paro the closest cultural connection with Tibet of any Bhutanese district. Important cultural sites include:

* Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest, the most famous monastery in Bhutan. Northwest of Paro, perched more than 3,000 feet above the Paro-chu River, is the Buddhist hermitage of Taktsang. Legend holds that the great 8th century Buddhist teacher, Padmasambhava, traveled throughout the Himalayas on the back of a flying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan and other areas in the region. He alighted at the site that is now Taktsang, which means “Tiger Lair.” Since that time, many notable spiritual masters have come here to meditate. Although the hermitage appears inaccessible, one can actually reach it after a long and steep hike up the mountainside. It was a beautiful hike, punctuated with a welcome rest at a teahouse set high in the mountains across a valley from Taktsang. For those who would prefer to save their energy and ride as far as the teahouse, horses were available for rent in the valley below.

* Kyichu Lhakhang, which along with Jambay Lhakhang in central Bhutan is the oldest temple in Bhutan, dating to the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demoness. Kyichu Lhakhang pins down her left foot and Jamba Lhakhang in Bumthang her left knee.

* Drukgyel Dzong, at the upper end of the valley, built to protect against invading Tibetans, but in ruins since a fire in the 1950s. Drukgyel Dzong is situated 14 km from Paro at the end of the road.

This Dzong was built in a location chosen for control of the routes to tibet. In 1647 Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel erected the Drukgyel Dzong, just north of Taktshang, in commemoration of the victory over the Tibetans in 1644. Thus while Bhutan has many cultural associations with Tibetan cultural areas, it has not been dominated by Tibetan political influence since the 17th century.The name “Drukgyel Dzong” means “Fortress of the Victorious Drukpa”. In 1951 it was destroyed by fire. Now the Dzong is closed to all visitors. There have been attempts to renovate the buildings.In the background there is the Jhomolhari mountain, which is the place and embodiment of the female mountain goddess Tsheringma, who watches over the land.

* Paro Town, the single market town in the dzongkhag which is booming (by Bhutanese standards) due to an influx of tourist dollars.

* Rinpung Dzong, also known as Paro Dzong, the massive fortress/monastery which is also the administrative center of the dzonkhag. Scenes from the movie Little Buddha were filmed in and around this dzong. Also known as ” fortress of the heap of jewels “, it was built during the time of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646. The approach to the Dzong is through a traditional covered bridge called the Nemi Zam. A walk through the bridge to the Dzong, over a stone inlaid path, offers a good view of the architectural wonder of the Dzong as well as life around it. It is also venue of the Paro Tshechu, held once a year inspiring.

* Ta Dzong -The National Museum of Bhutan : The  Ta Dzong is a castle-shaped fortress built in 1651 as a watch tower to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century. The National Museum of Bhutan is a cultural museum now housed in the Ta Dzong. In 1968, it was renovated under the command of His Majesty, the King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the third hereditary Monarch of Bhutan. The necessary infrastructure was created to house some of the finest specimens of Bhutanese art, including masterpieces of bronze statues and paintings. Suitable galleries were constructed to house the extensive collections. Works of art were elegantly displayed on scientific lines.Today the National Museum has in its possession over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. Its rich holdings of various creative traditions and disciplines, represent a remarkable blend of the past with the present and is a major attraction for local and foreign visitors.

Paro contains the only active international airport in Bhutan, the Paro Airport, a beautiful small green-roofed facility in a valley, served only by Druk Air (Bhutan’s National Airline) from India and other countries in Southeast Asia.

Paro is bordered by Haa dzongkhag to the west, Tibet to the north, Thimphu to the east, and Chukha dzongkhag to the south.

Paro was featured on the NBC Today Show segment Where In The World Is Matt Lauer  and on the Discovery Travel show “1000 places to see before you die”


Punakha

By: admin on Monday, May, 4th,2015 in Recommended.


Punakha (སྤུ་ན་ཁ་) is the administrative center of Punakha dzongkhag, one of the 20 districts of Bhutan. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is about 72 km away from Thimphu and it takes about 2 ½  hours by car from the capital Thimphu. Unlike Thimphu it is quite warm in winter and hot in summer. It is located at an elevation of 1200 m aboove sea level and rice is grown as the main crop along the river valleys of two main rivers of Bhutan, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu. Dzongkha is widely spoken in this district.

The Punakha Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637-38. It is the winter home of Bhutan’s Central Monk Body led by the Je Khenpo. Punakha Dzong is perhaps Bhutan’s most attractive landmark. Constructed in 1637-8 during the reign of the Shabdrung, the dzong was Bhutan’s second, after Simtokha in Thimpu. At 600 ft long, the dzong has housed as many as 600 monks. Today, the Central Monk Body winters here before moving to Trashi Chhoe dzong in Thimpu for summer. The dzong also hosted the National Assembly until the capital was moved to Thimpu in 1961.

The dzong has survived 6 fires, 2 glacial lake bursts, and 1 earthquake. Its defensive fortifications include a giant wooden front door that is still closed and barred shut at night and a steep set of front steps than can be pulled up.

The dzong’s location at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and the Pho Chhu (literally, the mother and father rivers) not only quelled the spirits present wherever two rivers meet, but it was also foretold by Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century, when he said that a man would “arrive at a hill shaped like an elephant.” (Guru Rinpoche introduced Buddhism to Bhutan.) Look closely at the two hills left of the dzong and you might be able to see the elephant laying down with its trunk pointing at the dzong.

The architect of the dzong conceived the dzong in a dream where Guru Rinpoche took him to Zangto Pelri, the Guru’s heavenly abode. Of course, the design was never put on paper or even sketched.

Machey Lhakhang in Punakha dzong holds the remains of the Shabdrung, who built and died in the dzong. Only four people are allowed into the room where the casket is held: the King, the Chief Abbott, and two caretaker monks.

Also in the dzong is Bhutan’s prize possession, an image stolen by the Shabdrung from Tibet, which resulted in a protracted series of invasions by Tibet (often at Paro’s expense).

This courtyard is the monastic courtyard.

The Chief Abbott lives in the corner of the dzong to the far right in this pic. His residence was destroyed by fire in 1986 and is still being restored. A large Bodhi tree (the species under which Buddha meditated) occupies the courtyard (dochey). This courtyard houses the dzong’s administrative offices.

In 1907, Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck (or Deb Nagpo) as the first King of Bhutan. Three years later, a treaty was signed at Punankha whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs.

In 1987, the dzong was partially destroyed by fire.

Due to its location at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the Punakha-Wangdue valley, the dzong is vulnerable to flash flooding caused by glacier lakes (GLOF). According to a recent report, flash flood damage to Punakha Dzong occurred in 1957, 1960 and 1994.[1]

Punakha valley is famous in Bhutan for rice farming. Both red and white rice are grown along the river vallley of Pho and Mo Chu, two of the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. The village houses are made of pounded mud with stone machinery foundations. Each house is only two storeys high. Surrounding the houses are the gardens and the rice fields. The gardens also usually have fruit bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. In the recent years, the farming work has been mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively prosperous.