Punakha

Thick morning  mist began to dissipate quickly as the sun peaked over the hills into the Punakha Valley. The Kahmsum Valley Temple was our goal today located at the end of a two hour trek from the valley bottom and the Po Chu river to the site of the temple at about 1500 m. A suspension bridge over the river started our trail that wound through terraced farmland before entering a series of switch backs through pine forests. Slow and steady wins the race as our bodies are still adjusting to the altitude. 

Rice is the predominate crop, raised in terraces, interspersed  with corn and beans, as well as the occasional pea field. Guava trees are plentiful. Irrigation is done by gravity, with channels cut in the hillside to divert fast flowing streams to where the water is needed. The terraced hillside prevents erosion and helps the ground retain water. Rice is planted here twice a year and a patchwork of colour indicated crops near the harvest and those just planted. Cows are plentiful. We passed numerous small shacks with a cow or two eating breakfast, as well as people selling guavas and other edibles. Laundry was being done in some of the irrigation ditches. We had a lovely exchange with the woman below. After asking permission to take her photo, we told her she was beautiful (the life force flowing out of her was incredible) and she told us we were crazy for wanting to take her photo 🙂 Magic !

The temple was magnificent. A climb to the roof top afforded unparalleled views of the valley both east and west. 

The hike down went smoothly and off we went to visit the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, the Punakha suspension bridge spanning 520 feet across the Po Chu. It links villages on either side and the east side is a starting point for treks into the mountains that surround the valley. It felt surprisingly stable and the people watching was outstanding ranging from villagers bringing supplies and firewood across, to a group of Russian influencers, to tourists of all sizes and shapes. The strong warm wind funnelling down the river felt amazing once out on the bridge!

Our afternoon finished at one of the most spiritual, peaceful places I have ever experienced – the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Temple and Nunnery. In most Buddhist temples the art is often violent and the vibe not calming. This temple was completely different. The art calm and peaceful: the space immaculately clean filled with feminine touches including crystal chandeliers. There was an air of joy and serenity at the site – the laughter of the nuns working in the orchards below the temple, the smiles on the faces of the young nuns who welcomed us to the main temple all contributing to the aura. The site of the Nunnery is magnificent, perched high on the hillside at the west end of the valley. It is a place I could see spending some time. We finished our visit by purchasing bracelets made by the nuns which had been blessed at the temple. It feels right to take a small piece of this place with us when we leave.

This is our last night in this beautiful valley, tomorrow we leave for Phobjikha.

We would like to round off todays blog by introducing our driver Monu and guide Pratap posing here at lunch with Jam Jam.