November 7, 2016
When we initially chose the itinerary I'm not sure we read all the details or quite understood what the roads and transit time would be between cities. Today was a long day driving from Thimphu to Trongsa. Thankfully, we had a stop about a third of the way at Dochula Pass, home of 108 stupas built by the eldest queen mother as a memorial in honor of the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in December of 2003 in the battle against Assamese insurgents from India. The pass is at an elevation of 3,100 meters (10,200 feet). In the distance, on a clear day, you can see the snow capped mountain peaks of the Himalayas. Thankfully it was a clear day for us.
The road from Thimphu to Trongsa is gnarly to say the least. The government is currently widening the road to allow for traffic to pass both ways more easily. This construction will likely be finished over the next five years, but until then, it will likely be the long bumpy journey we experienced. When we finally arrived at our hotel outside of Trongsa, we had an incredible view of the Trongsa Dzong lit up at night. Jonathan, of course, also tried to get some good night shots from the hotel.
November 8, 2016
Our next morning was spent exploring the Trongsa Dzong, which is the largest dzong in Bhutan. This dzong is built overlooking the grove of the Mangde River and was first established as a temple in 1543 and then constructed as a dzong in 1647 and later enlarged several times during the 18th century.
After our visit in Trongsa, we hit the road again, eventually stopping at Pele La pass for a quick view of the Himalayas in the distance. At the pass were some small vendors selling locally made souvenirs.
Next stop, the beautiful valley of Phobjikha, which is the home of the historic temple of Gantay. Entering the valley was a significant change of scenery with much more mellow terrain and small farms dotting the hillsides.
The Gantay temple and monastery was nearly empty when we arrived. One of the great things we noticed about visiting Bhutan was the lack of tourists. Since the government limits the number of tourists visiting the country, it's fairly easy to avoid the crowds.