Everyone, including Indians need a permit to travel beyond Thimphu and Paro. The permit offices are only located in Paro & Thimphu and are closed over the weekend and all national holidays, so make sure to check and plan your trip to avoid any inconvenience. You would need a copy of front page of your passport and entry permit stamp to get a further permit. After you submit the documents, it takes about an hour to collect it back.
During the hour for waiting, we once again went to Ambient Cafe for breakfast and just as last time we totally enjoyed it. We were lucky to have an experienced Bhutanese driver with us, he knew the ways like back of his hand and was pretty well traveled throughout the country. Now we were off to the eastern Bhutan and had quite of bit of travel on our hand from Punakha to Trongsa & Bumthang.
A couple of hours into the drive through the Himalayas, brought us to Dochu La Pass. It is an absolutely mesmerizing place with beautiful panoramic views of distant mountains and valleys. The roundabout has 108 Stupas or memorial Chortens. Since the pass is at quite a height, the clouds keep passing through it, which makes this very serene. Most visitor cars park here to go about the Chortens and adjoining Druk Wangyal Lakhang, a temple which is just opposite on a small hike. Our driver told us that on a clear day, you can even see the highest peak of Bhutan, Gangkar Puensum from the pass. However when we visited it was pretty cloudy, so we could not see the peak. There is a pretty decent restaurant on the pass where you can enjoy some hot beverage and food.
Another about 1.5 hours from the pass we reached Lobesa in Punakha district. We checked into Hotel Vara, which had spacious rooms and great views towards the valley. We rested for about an hour, grabbed on some lunch and headed for sight seeing. Punakha has great valleys and we could see ever green rice field and terrace farming being done on the mountains. From Lobesa, the main sights are about 30 minutes away, however for us it was good to stay over in Lobesa as it is on the main highway towards Eastern Bhutan.
As we reached the Punakha Dzong, we came across the confluence of rivers Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. The Dzong in the background of this confluence was a memorable sight. Punakha Dzong is one of the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan. It is also the second largest Dzong in Bhutan and served as the winter capital for the King. A small walk over the carved wooden cantilever bridge over the river takes you to the Dzong. To access you have to climb a pretty steep set of stairs meant to keep the Dzong safe from invasions. The Dzong itself has beautiful carvings over wood in gold & red colors, while the assembly hall is a great sight to see. We witnessed several monks in their traditional attire going about the Dzong. This Dzong is definitely not to be missed on a trip to Bhutan.
Next we went to a suspension bridge, the largest of what I’ve seen so far and beautifully hanging over Pho Chhu river. My son thoroughly enjoyed beating us to the end of the bridge! On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the river to dip our feet in the flowing crystal clear water of Pho Chhu river which my son was longing to do. We played with the stones for a while and headed back to the hotel. Spent a relaxed evening at the hotel in preparation for a long drive the next day to Bumthang.
Read more about our Bhutan Trip in following articles