November 9, 2016
Today was spent exploring the valley of Punakha. Initially we passed the Punakha Dzong set between what is said to be a male and female river. This dzong is also known as Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, which means very awesome dzong or the palace of great happiness or bliss. But we will come back to this dzong later. We did happen to run into a National Geographic tour group as we stopped to take a photo. I think we preferred our small private trip after seeing the large group tour bus and I'm pretty sure we paid less for our private tour.
So for some reason Bhutanese prefer not to smile in photos. I noticed this every time I tried to take a photo of Nidup. So I tricked him and got him to smile after I took the first "official" photo. It was nice to capture his real smile, which appeared so often during our trip, but not in photos.
Next was a short uphill hike to a temple built by the mother queen. The hike was very pleasant, first crossing a footbridge, passing thru rice and wheat fields and finally thru forest trees up to the temple. The temple is in the shape of a four story stupa housing significant religious temples on each floor. There is also an incredible view from the top floor.
On the way back down we stopped before the fields and bought a few guavas from an old man to eat on the last section of our walk.
Now it was time to explore the Punakha Dzong, which houses the most sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Kagyu school. Upon entry into the dzong there were massive bees hives hanging from above. This photo doesn't come close to doing them justice. The hives were literally pulsating.
Inside the first courtyard is a large Bodhi tree, the same type of tree Buddha was said to meditate underneath.
Previous to our trip we had heard and read a lot about the falice being everywhere in Bhutan, representing fertility. Well I hate to break it to you, but it wasn't everywhere. In fact, it was most seen in Punakha where it is still worshipped for fertility, but apparently it is not as common now as it was in previous generations. Anyways, here is one photo to satisfy you hunger for seeing a falice from Bhutan.