After a nice buffet breakfast at our hotel, we set off for the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, which is located on a beautiful ridge overlooking the Punakha Valley. Along the way, we stopped to take some photos of the Punakha Dzong, an enormous and beautiful fortress located where two rivers come together.
Namgay promised us that we would visit the dzong later in the day, but it was a good idea to take photos with the morning light instead of the harsh sun of noon. Punakha is much, much warmer than Thimphu – we were in short-sleeves most of the day and the sun was intense.
There was a short, steep hike up to the stupa. At the prayer wheel at the bottom of the trail, an old man talked Namgay’s ear off as we were trying to start the hike. Namgay explained that he was complaining about unemployment, and that he kept saying the same things over and over. It was pretty funny to witness, especially since Namgay was doing his best to be polite but separate himself from the conversation.
At the top of the mountain, we visited the stupa and toured the temple. There were more people there than we’ve seen anywhere else along the way, but I still didn’t feel crowded.
After we made our descent, we drove to the Punakha Dzong. We entered in the administrative side, where it sounded like court was in session in one room, and made our way over to the monastery side of the fortress. We visited the temple and walked around the rest of the dzong, and then it was time to find a spot for our picnic lunch.
We drove a little while to find somewhere shady, and then Namgay and Lama whipped out a massive amount of food, still hot in their tiffin carriers, as well as hot water for coffee. We were surrounded by stray dogs, but none of them got aggressive or begged; they just waited patiently, and Namgay gave them all of our leftovers after we finished eating.
After lunch, we stopped in a small town to buy gifts for the host family we’re visiting tomorrow in the Haa Valley, as well as a bottle of Bhutanese whisky and Bhutanese rum for Domingos’s home bar. Then we proceeded on to our last stop of the day, the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery. This is a new nunnery perched atop a high hill. The views are gorgeous and the winds are powerfully strong. The nuns were occupied with a ritual when we arrived, so we watched for a while.
Then it was back to the hotel for a few hours of much-needed downtime before dinner.
Distance walked: 5.2 miles
Total flights: 78