A visit to Bhutan is not just confined to treks, cultural trips, landscape and the Kingdom’s exotic flora and fauna. There are a lot one can do, and experience the various mediums and modes of entertainment. If you want to feel and taste what most Bhutanese do, this is the package.
Duration: 6 days
Exit and Entry: Paro
Places: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangduephodrang
Day 1: Arrive at Paro
You will experience an unforgettable flight and an adrenaline rush as you see views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Jomolhari and Mount Jichu Drake, before you land at Paro International Airport. The landing at Paro, considered one of the most challenging will also be an enthralling experience.
Our company’s representatives will receive and escort you to a hotel. After a brief stopover, your Bhutanese expedition will begin with visits to places of historical importance in Paro. It will be the National Museum of Bhutan, the Majestic Paro Rimpong Dzong and Kyichu temple, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built by King Songtsen Gyempo of Tibet in 659AD.
Towards the evening, there will be a bonfire dinner and a Bhutanese cultural program. You can watch and participate in the Bhutanese dances. The steps are not very difficult. From the old and traditional note to modern music, you will hear all the genres.
The last dance of every program called as the “Tashi Labey” is a song of gratitude and prayers for a good life and the opportunity to meet again. Usually, everyone is expected to participate in this last dance.
Night halt at hotel.
Day 2: Paro Halt – Taktshang Excursion and a game of Degor
After breakfast, we drive to Taktsang view point and begin the hike up to Taktsang Monastery – “The Tiger’s Nest.” We follow an ancient path marked by river powered prayer wheels to the holiest Buddhist Shrine in Bhutan and the ultimate point of pilgrimage. A blend of the spiritual and architectural wonder, the monastery is perched on a 1000m cliff overlooking the valley. Legend has it that the great Indian saint, Guru Padma Sambhava, flew from Tibet to Taktsang on the back of a tigress to tame five demons, who were opposing the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 A.D.
On the way back, we visit Drugyel Dzong,”Castle of the Victorious Drukpa,” located 16 kilometers from Paro town. In ruins now, this Dzong was built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over the invading Tibetan forces in the 16th and 17th centuries.
En-route to the hotel, amidst the beautiful pine trees and the Paro Chhu (river) nearby, we will play a game called Degor, a traditional Bhutanese game which is often mistakenly referred in literatures as a kind of shot put by foreign authors. It differs from shot put in many ways. It is played with a pair of spherical flat stones that are hurled at two targets (pegs) fixed in the ground at a distance of about 20 meters apart. The game is played all over Bhutan, but is normally played more in rural areas. Although there are no restrictions, the game is normally played in Bhutan by men.
The only required equipment for playing the game is a pair of flat spherical stones for each player. The size and weight of the stones differ from player to player depending on his choice and strength. A player can have as many stones of any size as he wants, but can play only two at a time.
Degor can be played as a team game or individual game. If there are three persons, the game is played as on individual gaming basis. If there are four or more persons, it is preferred to be played in two teams that compete against each other. There is no fixed numbers of players on the teams, but too many players make the game slower and cumbersome. So, normally seven players on each team is the maximum number for an ideal game.
Unlike shot put, each player hurls a pair of spherical stones to the targets from one end to the other by swinging the arm below the shoulders. The target pegs are nailed into the ground with their tips at ground level. As in horseshoes, the players try to make their stone land and remain closest to the target peg. A point is scored if the distance between stone and the peg is less than the distance between the thumb and middle finger of an outstretched palm. If two or more stones of opponent teams fall in same range, the closest stone will score the point. If all stones in the range belong to one team, then the team will score as many points as the number of stones. There is no fixed point score at which the game ends, but it is normally fixed at odd numbers up to 21, depending on the number of the players and the time the teams have.
Unlike in archery, in Degor the best players play first to occupy the areas near the target. The players playing later are allowed to hit the stones of opponent players that have been played before with their own stones to displace them from the target and replace them with their stones. But it is more difficult if the stones played beforehand are heavy and solid. So, players prefer heavier stones so that these cannot be easily displaced or can be used as a better force to displace other players’ stones.
Betting on the game differs from region to region and the occasion of the game being played. If the game is being played between villages, there may or may not be a bet. At times it is just played for the fame of victory. However, the game is mostly played to celebrate some occasions such as New Year and other major holidays. On such occasions, the betting is normally fixed on a grand feast and party where the loser will have to stand for the party solely or major chunk while the winner could share a little part. This kind of betting usually occurs for merrymaking and socializing within the communities or among the friends.
Night halt at hotel.
Day 3: Paro- Thimphu
After an hour journey, we reach Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. We will check into a hotel and then visit some of the capital’s landmarks.
Thimphu has lots to offer and the pick for you will firstly be the Memorial Chorten, one of Bhutan’s most beautiful stupas, built in memory of the Third King, Late His Majesty Jigmi Dorji Wangchuck, known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A short drive from there will take you to Buddha Point, where the statue of the World’s largest Future Buddha (Maitreya) will be seen.
From there we will move to the Handicraft’s Emporium, Weaving Centre and Changangkha monastery, one built in the 12th century. There will also be visits to the Takin zoo, Sangaygang, which offers a view point of Thimphu valley and a Nunnery.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant, after which we visit the National Library where ancient manuscripts are preserved and the Wood Craft and Painting school.
In the evening, we will visit Tashichho Dzong, the main secretariat building. This massive structure houses part of the government Ministries, the office of the King and the Throne Room. It also houses the State Monastic Body and the living quarters of the Chief Abbot and the senior monks.
Thimphu has several discotheques and entertainment centers. In the evening, we will visit some of them, especially the Drayangs, which are entertainment centers, whose popularity is steadily rising.
Overnight at hotel.
Day 4: Thimphu – Punakha/Wangduephodrang
We begin the journey to Punakha early morning.
About 45 min from Thimphu, is the Dochula pass (3,100m), offering visitors their first glimpse of the eastern Himalayan range, snow-capped peaks with elevations of 6000m to 7554m. It is a spectacular sight and the beauty is augmented by the 108 stupas (chortens) at Dochula pass.
The journey further descents down to the low lying sub tropical valley of Punakha, which served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still is home of the Chief Abbot in winter months. On the way to Punakha, you will hike for about one hour (round trip) to Drukpa Kuenley’s monastery, built in the 15th century. A monastery where the Phallus is worshipped, it is associated with Lam Drukpa Kuenley, the “Divine Madmonk”.
Punakha Dzong (Fortress), built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal has played a prominent role in the civil and religious life of the Kingdom. From far, it resembles a giant ship, rocked on a mass of still water as it is built at the confluence of two rivers – the Pho (male) and Mo (Female) rivers. Destroyed four times by fire and an earthquake in 1897, the Dzong has been now been fully restored in its original splendour. The Fortress contains some of the most sacred and significant religious relics of the nation.
We check into a hotel and after lunch, we will play Bhutan’s traditional and national game, archery.
Traditional Bhutanese archery differs from Olympic standards in technical details such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. The distance to the target is about 130 metres (430 ft). The relatively small targets are cut from wood and brightly painted, usually measuring about 3 feet (91 cm) tall and 11 inches (28 cm) wide. Traditionally, Bhutanese bows are made of bamboo, and arrows from bamboo or reeds, fletched with feather vanes. Arrows may be painted and tipped with metal arrowheads. The quiver may be wooden, with an animal hide covering and a woven strap.
Bhutanese archery teams number at 13 players; teams take turns shooting two arrows at a time first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. The first to score 25 points wins, however because the scoring system is complicated, winning can take a very long time. For example, a second hit by an opponent can invalidate the other player’s score. In addition, the interplay of wider socializing and festivities, with archery as the nominal focus, give Bhutanese archery competitions an excruciatingly slow pace. In the past, the most traditional matches could last for as long as a month, though modern matches tend to span a number of days.
Traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event and competitions are organised between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There is usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter’s ability.
You can also try Khuru. “Khuru” means “Darts” in Bhutan.
It’s a popular traditional Bhutanese sport. It involves throwing darts outdoors with a target approximately 10 meters (33 ft) to 20 meters (66 ft) away.
While playing the game players actually stand near the “Target” as other players are throwing the darts from far away using all their strength.
Every time when they hit the paperback-sized target players “Sing and Dance” .
Usually “Khuru” player builds their own pair of Khurus. As you can build your own Khurus without a lot of effort. People of all status can play Khuru.
Night halt at hotel
Day 5: Punakha – Thimphu
We begin our journey back and en-route we will visit ruins of the majestic Wangduephodrang Dzong, which was razed to the ground by a tragic fire in 2012. We will have lunch at Lamperi National Park.
Upon arrival at Thimphu, we will stroll around the town. A cultural program, including “Chhams”, (religious dances) will be organized during dinner.
Night halt at hotel.
Day 6: Thimphu- Paro Airport
Early morning, you will be driven from Thimphu to Paro for your onward journey out of Bhutan. Our representative will escort you.