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3 Places you must visit when you are in Punakha

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After a detail online survey, I decided to spend two nights at Punakha at least to complete basic Punakha Sightseeing. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955 when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is about 72 km away from Thimphu and it takes about 3.5 hours by car from the capital Thimphu.

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Unlike Thimphu, it is quite warm in winter and hot in summer. It is located at an altitude of 1,200 meters above sea level and rice is grown as the main crop along the river valleys of two main rivers of Bhutan, the Pho Chu, and Mo Chu.

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Punakha valley is famous in Bhutan for rice farming. Both red and white rice are grown along the river valley of Pho and Mo Chu, two of the most noticeable rivers in Bhutan. In recent years, the farming work is mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively affluent.

My Punakha Sightseeing

Most attractions of Punakha require a little hiking or short drives so it’s suggested that you hire a car for the day which will help you cover all the attractions around. However, you’ll see the suspension bridge and Punakha Dzong while not a vehicle if you’re staying in Punakha.

Punakha is additionally the middle of Bhutan’s longest suspension bridge (Punakha Suspension Bridge) and is regarding 7.5 kilometer by cab to Chimi Lhakhang, the Divine Madman’s fertility temple

Punakha Dzong

Situated at outskirts of Punakha Town and the opening time was 11 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 5 pm. This Dzong is entry free. No tourists are allowable within beyond these hours (though locals will go inside).

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The Punakha Dzong is in the headquarters of Punakha District which is constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, first Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637–38, it is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan. Punakha Dzong was the executive center and therefore the seat of the govt of Kingdom of Bhutan till 1955 once the capital was transferred to Thimphu.

The Dzong is located between the Pho Chhu (Male) and Mo Chhu(Female) river in the Punakha–valley. In view of the healthy climate within the region, Punakha is that the winter capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Jacaranda trees grow around the dzong, blooming with mauve flowers in the spring.

This monarchy of Bhutan was established in 1907. The same year, Punakha Dzong was the location of the installation of Ugyen Wangchuck (or deb Nagpo) as the 1st Druk Gyalpo. At that time, Punakha was the capital of Kingdom of Bhutan. After few years, a treaty was signed at Punakha whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. The wedding of the current king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and his fiancée, Jetsun Pema, was held at the Punakha Dzong on 13 October 2011.

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The dzong is a six-storied structure with a central tower with a scenic, mountainous background. The materials used in building the Dzong consisted of compacted earth, stones, and timber indoors and windows. Administrative offices of the dzong, a very large, white colored stupa, and a bodhi tree are located on the first floor.

Also seen in the same yard, on the far left, are a mound of stones and a chapel dedicated to the queen of the nāgas. The residential quarters of monks are settled in the second court. Flash floods resulting from glacial lake outburst flooding in the higher reaches of the valley are a typical prevalence in the Mo Chu and Pho Chu rivers, and in the past caused flooding and harm to the dzong, especially in 1957, 1960 and 1994. Fires and earthquakes have additionally further added  to the problem. The restoration works were for the most part funded by the govt of India and therefore the Dzong stands totally repaired to its past glory.

After complete refurbishment of the Dzong to its old glory, notable images, statues, and thangkas are displayed in the Dzong. These include murals portraying life story of Buddha done during the rule of the second druk desi. Large gilded statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, and Zhabdrung which belong to the mid-18th century and gilded panels on pillars are also here.

A covered wood cantilever bridge crossing the Mo Chu River was engineered together with the Dzong within the seventeenth century. This bridge was devastated by a flash flood. In 2006, work started on a new wooden cantilever bridge in the traditional style, with a free span of 55 meters. It was completed in 2008.

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Mo Chu river

Mo Chhu is a major river in Bhutan. The word “Chhu” suggests that “river” or “water” in Dzongkha, the official national language in Bhutan. The river rises in Gasa district near the border between Bhutan and Tibet. From there, the Mo Chhu flows generally southward to Punakha in central Bhutan, where it joins the Pho Chhu from the northeast. The confluence of the 2 streams is instantly below the Punakha Dzong. After leaving the Kingdom of Bhutan near to the town of Kalikhola, the river enters Assam in India and named as the Sankosh. The Sankosh ultimately empties into the Brahmaputra.

Punakha Suspension Bridge

One of the oldest suspension bridges within the world, Punakha Suspension Bridge in Bhutan was believed to be built by the Buddhist Monk, Thangtong Gyalpo.

Over the years it has undergone its share of restoration but it was once one of the eight bridges that served as the precursor to many of our modern suspension bridges. Punakha suspension bridge length is 160 meters! Gyalpo chain bridges did not include the suspended wooden deck and this makes walking across the bridge quite an exciting experience.

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Punakha Dzong suspension bridge is a very important a part of the architectural history of Kingdom of Bhutan because it was engineered to attach the villages of Shengana, Samdingkha, and Wangkha to the Palace of the Wangchuk Kings. The bridge was engineered because the Dzong lies in the confluence of the rivers Po Chu and Mo Chu Rivers and is at risk of the flash floods caused by the glacier lakes.

This hanging bridge in Kingdom of Bhutan is draped with prayer flags right along and provides an ideal spot for bird watching and nature photography to not mention the horror attacks it gives to a few visitors as it sways a bit due to the strong winds from the flowing river beneath.

Punakha suspension bridge length is 160 meters! Gyalpo chain bridges did not include the suspended wooden deck and this makes walking across the bridge quite an exhilarating experience.

Also read DOCHU LA PASS-ENCHANTING MOUNTAIN PASS OF BHUTAN

For more information https://www.gov.bt/local-government/punakha-dzongkhag/

also read BHUTAN TOUR- 40 TIPS FROM MY SENSIBLE EXPERTISE

Last updated 16.01.21

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