Eastern Bhutan

From Trongsa, we drive to Bumthang and beyond.

The morning we leave Trongsa, the dzong is shrouded in mist.


The beginning of the journey to Bumthang – we are above the clouds.

At a rest stop, the pass is covered in prayer flags.

Flag Day

Our accommodation in Bumthang (pronounced ‘boomTONG’, not ‘BUMthang’, FYI) is in the Tang Valley. Tula, our guide, describes our hostess, Ms. Kunzang Choden, as ‘of a noble family’. She’s also an author, having published ‘Dawa: The Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan‘. Her husband is Swiss. We have rösti with our dinner.

At home with the princess

On the grounds of the property is the Ogyen Choling museum.

This is the Jampa Lhakhang monastery near Bumthang. It’s famous for staging a mysterious ‘naked dance‘ annually.

Dance Naked

Bhutan has a lot of festivals. Peak tourist season (which we are NOT in now) usually means foreign visitors want to see these spectacles performed.

Doorway – Jampa Lhakhang monastery

It’s not something we like to do: Bhutanese people are very sincere about the importance of these dances. We feel that the more they become a tourist attraction, the less vital they become for Bhutanese identity. But that’s just us.

We visit a ‘heritage house’, which portrays traditional everyday life in Bhutan in the past.

Our hostess is the dignified Ms. Dorji Lhamo.

We are shown tools, textiles, and other artifacts.

Mr. Rinsin, our driver, has to interpret Dorji’s eastern dialect

This is the balcony at the rear. Actually, Ms. Lhamo’s house next door doesn’t seem that much different from the ‘heritage house’.

Not far from Bumthang is the Pema Choling nunnery.

Get thee to a nunnery, go!’ – Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1

Among their duties is caring for the nearby Burning Lake – an important place in the national mythology.

On the way, we see a stupa under construction. The low-tech scaffolding and ample manpower bring to mind the Pharaonic construction of the pyramids.

Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens.‘ – Exodus 1:11

Another day, we make an excursion to Lhuentse.

Langur in a tree

Along the way, we stop to visit a suspension bridge over the swift-flowing  Kuri Chhu river.

‘… a way a lone a last a loved a long the / riverrun…‘ – Finnegans Wake, James Joyce

Lhuentse Dzong from below.

As usual, the doors are photo-worthy.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern. ‘ – William Blake

And below flows the Kuri Chhu river.

These dzongs often combine the monastery with the local civil government.

Courtyard – Lhuentse Dzong

A young monk takes a break from his studies.

We stop for a picnic lunch along the river.

We make a postprandial visit to Khoma, a village where women bring home the bacon by their weaving skills.

House in Khoma

This woman spends about four hours a day at the loom.

That’s besides doing other household work.

Fruit of the Loom

We visit another monastery on top of a mountain.

In the courtyard, monks and lay people are practicing for an upcoming dance.

Tula tells us about a politically incorrect Bhutanese saying: ‘Beware of women or monks driving.’

Monk practicing his motorcycle skills for his driving test

Another fancy door.

Courtesy of Tula

Some monks relax in the garden.

View of the river far below.

This monk is very generous about explaining the history of the monastery.

Thanks for the tour

We arrive back in Trashigang.


Trashigang looks a bit like an Elizabethan town.

Town square

Tula, Mr. Rinsin, and I stock up on water for the road.

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.

Doing a victory dance

We see a fascinating example of how this works. Rivals shoot from 125 meters (!) away. The opponents do a mocking dance in front of the target, daring the other side to come close to hitting them (while keeping a close eye on the actual trajectory of fired arrows.) When a team does score a bulls-eye, then begins an elaborate dance that looks like a bunch of football players celebrating a touchdown.

Sight or Insight of the Day

We hear that João Gilberto passed away. Descanse em paz, amigo.

Um cantinho, um violão…

This man almost single-handedly brought Bossa Nova to the world. That world is a richer place for containing such classics as ‘Chega de saudade‘ and ‘Corcovado‘.

See you in another life, João.