Saturday 9 May 2015

Druk Diaries: Day 8 - Thimphu, Punakha enroute to Trongsa

This was designed to be a long day. We had planned on visiting Punakha and then reach Trongsa before night fall. We decided to start early.
Hotel Norbuling and our car ready to go

6:00 AM Checked out and left the hotel and started driving towards Dochu La. At this time we realized that we probably had our itinerary wrong. We should have merged Dochu La and Punakha. Nevertheless, no point pondering over mistakes.
Crossed Dochu La, for a moment thought about stopping there for breakfast but then continued and decided to look for a breakfast place further down the road.
7:35 AM Reached Royal Botanical Park. Looked like a good place for stopping, bio-breaks and may be some breakfast. It is really a good place. Finally we ended up spending upwards of an hour there.

Information center of the park as seen from Cafeteria

Visitor information center

Park has a large variety of Orchids

Rhododendron Garden

Landscape of Park from top

Lake in the middle of park, you can do boaring

Me, thinking, really!

Strange formations of tree

Information board at the entrance

Main gate of the park

We continued from the park after breakfast and a walk across the park. We continued our drive towards Punakha. The roads are typical Bhutan roads, a combination of single and two laned roads, decent in most places but bad in some places due to landslides etc.
10:02 AM We encountered a random police check. They were stopping vehicles and checking the documents. We were also waved for stop. The officer checked all the permits and also asked for license, checked it and then let us go.
10:30 AM We reached Punakha Dzong. It is kind of hidden in the valley. You have to be really close to it before you see it.
Punakha Dzong is really magnificent. Once we reached, we were told that at that time it is closed and we had to wait for 15 minutes before it opened.

Punakha Dzong from parking

Cantilever bridge

Large flag


Tree in courtyard


Most of the rooms along the corridors seem to have offices


View from the top

Decorative roof

Decorative walls

From parking

Another angle from further down the road

Much further down the road

Gate to parking, seems to be replica of gate from kings wedding
Finally we were done with the dzong. It is a pretty big structure and take sometime to go through. There are multiple levels and you have to climb using wooden narrow stairs.
12:00 PM We started back from the Dzong. We remembered seeing a resort while coming to Dzong. We decided to have lunch before continuing further to Trongsa. The resort is Damchen resort and could be a good option if one decides to stay night in Punakha.

1:20 PM We started our journey after lunch. As soon as we reached back on highway, we realized our misfortune. We did not know that there are road blockades with a timetable. The police officer on duty told us that we can go down the road on the other hill via Wangdue Phodrang town and byepass that blockade.
We go back towards Punakha, near the petrol station cross the bridge and continue on the narrow road towards Wangdue town. After crossing the town, we continue towards Trongsa.
2:04 PM We reach the second road blockade and there is no option for us except to wait. I asked many local drivers, they were all unanimous that there is no other option but to wait. So we wait.

4:00 PM The blockade opens and we start but before we could reach the point of next blockade, the road is closed again. We have to again wait.
We also see the timetable for blockade properly here.
Blockade timings
Now we know that we have to wait till 6PM here.
Hill cutting work

6:00 PM We start from the blockade but soon it is turning dark. Because of the road work, the roads have become much narrow and there is lots of traffic. The progress is very slow.

6:50 PM As we make very slow progress towards our destination, it turns dark and it starts raining. The rain coupled with clouds coming on the road alongwith other obstructions means we were making really slow progress.

More rain, more bad roads.
A time comes where we are so confused that we start to stop for each signage to confirm whether we are on right path or not.
Finally we reach the checkpost just before Trongsa. There is a sigh of relief that we will reach our hotel. We call our hotel and he tells us that the hotel is 6 Kms away from the checkpost.
We register ourselves at the checkpost. Unlike other checkposts, this place doesn't stamp your permit. They just note down your details and let you go.
9:30 PM We finally reach the resort. It was probably most difficult and mentally draining drive that I had done in a long time even though the distance we covered was very small.

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