Bhutan Day Five (Punakha to Haa Valley)

We left Punakha in the morning and drove to the Haa Valley via Thimphu. We went back over the Dochula Pass, where we had slightly better views of the distant Himalayan ranges.

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Dochula Pass traveling from Punakha to Thimphu

In Thimphu, we went off itinerary and ate an early lunch at Momo’s and Noodles. Domingos and I shared a plate of beef momos and a bowl of cabbage soup with more beef dumplings. They were all delicious!

The road to Haa was very bumpy, windy, and narrow. We had a nice view along the way of this former prison.

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Since we made good time, we stopped by a 7th century temple, Lhakhang Nagpo, also known as the Black Temple. The outside was beautiful, but it was locked up so we didn’t get to see the inside.

Our next stop was Lhakhang Karpo, the White Temple and counterpart to the Black Temple. This one was more central, larger, and is where the local festival takes place. Nagpo and Karpo were both established by the Tibetan saint and king Songtsen Gempo.

After the White Temple, we arrived at our home stay at Ugyen’s Farmhouse. Ugyen and his wife, Dole Bidha, turned their large 200-year-old farmhouse into a home stay experience, and the couple and their two children were lovely and welcoming. After tea served with far too many snacks, we set off to try our hands at some archery. Namgay and Lama joined in, but none of us hit the target even once!

After archery, we were ready for our traditional hot stone baths. The stones are heated for hours, and then partitioned wooden tubs are filled with water, and the stones are put in a separate compartment. That water was hot! I mean scalding, burning hot. But it was also incredibly relaxing after a bumpy day in the car and some of the hiking we had been doing. We stayed in for quite a while. Outside the bathhouse, they kept asking if we wanted more hot stones to make the bath hotter, but considering the water was still steaming we declined. We have decided to do another hot stone bath in Paro after our hike to Tiger’s Nest.

The kitchen was definitely the hub of family life in the farmhouse – the room stays nice and warm with the central wood stove, and Dole Bidha and her daughter were busy fixing dinner. A Belgian family with their three children also stayed in the farmhouse that night, so we had a nice crowd in the kitchen with the two guides and two drivers as well. Conversation flowed, and an excellent dinner was served (cheesy potatoes, the best turnip greens I’ve ever eaten, pork, beef, lentil soup, and of course rice. After dinner, we tried the local ara liquor, which is cooked with fried eggs and butter! The liquor was very strong and it was definitely interesting and different with the eggs in it.

Distance walked: 3.1 miles
Flights climbed: 35

Full photo gallery from today

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