Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together.
This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you as we shelter in place.
June 16th, 2020
After yesterday’s view to Punakha Dzong, today we cross the bridge and enter the complex.
I’ve included updated narrative below from my original story years ago, but mostly today’s post is just about photos.
Tomorrow we’re headed to Phobjikha Valley and I’ll share a few thoughts about the infamous expense of visiting Bhutan.
Upon crossing the bridge to Punakha Dzong, I discover the bridge is not diminutive at all and actually rather large with post and beam construction and a gable roof. Over the river and through the doorway, the gargantuan scale of the dzong becames suddenly apparent as I stand in its shadow and look up. This really is the essence of the beauty of Punakha Dzong – that its presence is harmonious with the landscape yet so grand and significant to those within and around it.
I walk beyond the entry and down the stairs to the gardens on the east side of the dzong. I want to get a photograph of the entire structure. I back up as far as I can but I still can’t capture it full frame, as Kinga provides scale standing on the steps at lower right in the photo. He looks so tiny!
The north entrance has two steep staircases, one of which is wooden and can be pulled up to deny entry to any unwelcome visitors. We climb up, reaching the landing with a walk-around prayer wheel and richly painted murals throughout.
Punakha Dzong is unique in having three docheys or courtyards (rather than two). The first courtyard accommodates administrative offices, monks quarters surround the second courtyard, and the third courtyard has a temple and assembly hall. No matter where you are in Punakha Dzong, beautifully ornamented doorways and staircases are all around.
We remove our shoes and Kinga leads us through the assembly hall where about 30 young monks are reciting texts in a continuous hum. They try to sit still and ignore the handful of tourists walking clockwise around the room, but I catch a few curious glances as we admire the interior. We receive a blessing – putting the water in our hands, to our mouths and then pouring it over our heads. Kinga tells us the story of Buddha’s life as portrayed by the murals on the north wall.
Having toured the interior, we return to the first courtyard and descend the staircase, passing incredible embossed metal work on the front door. Outside, the morning heats up as families and monks come and go across the bridge in colorful ensembles.
On to the Phobjikha Valley!