Here’s the morning view from the second floor window of our lodgings in Bumthang.
General Shop & Bar (+ cheeky kids)
We are now 314km away from the start point of our trip in Paro. This would be the furthest that we’d travel into Bhutan.
I liked this part of our trip because the pace was slower and we spent three nights without changing location.
Less time spent riding the bumpy bus meant that we had more time to mingle about and observe Bhutanese life.
Everything went at a more relaxed pace here… which is how I like it.
And at almost every site we’d visited, we were just about the only tourists there…
… in retrospect, it felt pretty surreal.
Our guide pretty much veered away from the planned itinerary.
And we just followed him, meandering around…
… and enjoying the atmosphere.
Junior monks preparing prayer candles
The temples and monasteries weren’t big or impressive in Bumthang, but I could sense so much history in them.
This monastery, in particular, left a deep mark in me… its interior had a naturally lit inner chamber that caught my heart so much that I feel thankful I wasn’t allowed to snap a picture of it… because I remember it better in my mind’s eye than in a photo.
Truth be told, Bhutanese decorative art and architecture follows a strict set of rules. It looks very uniform across its districts.
But it’s all about perspective… for some it can feel monotonous and repetitive, for others it can feel calming and meditative.
The next morning, our guide arranged a visit to a local Bhutanese home in a nearby village.
I loved this visit.
Whenever I’m travelling in any country, I’d pass by houses and apartments all the time… and I’d always wonder how day-to-day life would look like inside those homes.
So being privvy to this meant a lot to me.
With a cryptic ‘OK, follow me’… our guide led us out of the village…
… we walked past wild farmlands…
… whilst listening to the village kids singing, from a distance, agrarian songs into the open sky.
After an hour or so of walking, we climbed up a hill in the middle of nowhere…
… and ended up here.
I lost the name of this temple.
But what stayed within me was the memory of being faraway from everything that I knew… sitting silently in a cyan room built against a vertical rock face, facing an altar filled with snack offerings… the plastic packets swollen from the thin air.
Inside the shadows, we watched a monk ritualistically pour local ara into a 7th century wooden bowl as offering.
We then closed our eyes and sat in silence for 10 minutes as the crisp mountain air whispered past our ears.
This morning walk past pastoral villages and unknown temples did not have any jaw-dropping sights to boast about… yet it left the deepest and most lasting insights within me. I’d consider this the highlight of my Bhutan trip.
Lunch happened in the township of Chamkhar…
…where we sampled local dumplings, buckwheat pancakes and wild mountain vegetables.
We also had a short stroll around, watching the locals go about their business.
Mebar Tsho Burning Lake
The day wore on with a slightly longer bus ride to a sacred site called the burning lake, where our guide spent a fair amount of time regaling us with stories.
On our way back, by request, we visited Amankora Bumthang for evening drinks before we got back to the hotel for dinner.
Aman resorts is a worldwide luxury hotel brand that focusses on sumptuous yet understated simplicity. They gave us a tour of the lodgings offered at the resort…
All I can say is… if I had a bathroom and a view like this, I’d never leave the resort to explore Bhutan!
The best moments of my Bhutan trip were spent here in Bumthang valley, faraway from all the other reaches of the world. But this trip instalment ends here.
In the next and final instalment, we’ll head back to where we began, and embark on our final ascent up Bhutan’s most celebrated temple – Tiger’s Nest.
Other Bhutan photo-series: