Breakfast at Hotel Osel
Another day of adventure awaits as I set off to my first hike in Bhutan. After a hearty breakfast at Hotel Osel, I packed my luggage and waited in the lobby for my guide to pick me up. They came at 9 am, and we headed straight for the hike.
Wangditse Day Hike
The guide says that this short hike up from Sangaygang (BBS Tower) to Wangditse Goemba, a monastery up on the hill is a good warm-up for the Tiger Nest hike. It is a good way to get ourselves acclimatize to the higher altitudes.
Although it is just a 2-hour short hike up and down, it is still rather exhausting due to the steep and uncut slopes. You tend to get breathless easily due to the higher altitudes as you climb up. After climbing up for the slope for 5 minutes, I was already breathing hard.
Nonetheless, you could always take a rest throughout the hike to catch your breath since it is, after all, a private tour. But at the back of my head, I kept telling myself I had to finish this hike quickly so that I could take a rest. It must have been this thought that gives me the willpower to continue without taking many breaks in between.
The view up here is amazing with all the colorful prayer flags strung up together and flapping against the strong wind.
As you head up the hill, the view gets even more picturesque. It was worthy to stop for photos as you look down the valley from above.
That was also the moment I realized that it is somewhat difficult to establish cities on such mountainous terrains yet Bhutan somehow knew how to work with nature and develop well-connected cities and towns. It is only in the valleys that life springs forth.
Once we reached Wangditse Goemba, the monastery uphill, we took a pit stop. I did not take many photos at a monastery as I was told that I was not allowed to take photos of the monastery. It is actually still under construction. Thus, there is not much stuff to do up there except to enjoy the scenic view from the hilltop.
Since the animals took the same route as humans, expect to see animal droppings on the path. So do look carefully as to what you are threading on as you hike!
After 2 hours and 30 minutes of hiking, we made our way back to Sangaygang (BBS Tower) and went to a nearby temple called Chagangkha Lhakhang. It is the oldest temple in Thimphu which was built in the 12th century.
Bhutanese Temple Etiquette
Photography is usually not allowed into temples, and you will have to be dressed in a proper manner (with knees and shoulders covered) to enter religious grounds. You would also need to take off your shoes before you enter the inner sanctum.
It was quite an interesting sight as we walked into the sanctum where the monks clad in red robes were sitting on the floor, chanting the mantras written on ancient scrolls which looked like they were a thousand years old.
The locals visit this temple to request auspicious names for their newborn from the resident monks and to seek blessings from the protector deity called Tamdrin.
National Institute of Zorig Chusum
The National Institute of Zorig Chosum is known as the painting school or the school of thirteen arts where students learn the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. This includes crafts like wood carving, embroidery, statue-making and painting in general.
At this institute, you will be able to catch a glimpse of students in action as they go about doing their crafts.
There are classrooms allocated to the different forms of craft work. These students were mostly in their teens.
This is how much the Bhutanese people value craftsmanship and no wonder many of them are great painters.
With the valuable skills that they learned, they would be able to find jobs for themselves once they graduate.
There is also an art gallery near the school where you can purchase souvenirs and craft work done by the Bhutanese people.
Lunch was a simple buffet affair at a restaurant. The home-cook style food was delicious, and I had no qualms about the meals I had in Bhutan thus far.
Gagyel Lhendup Weaving Centre
I wanted to make a trip to the National Textile Museum, but the guide proposed visiting Gagyel Lhendup Weaving Center instead. She says that I will be able to watch how the Bhutanese ladies weave the threads into clothing.
Unfortunately, it was their lunchtime, and the weaving ladies were not at their workshop. So we could only head up to the gallery to view the woven fabrics and products which they have created.
I spotted these traditional handmade Bhutanese boots which were worn by men. They make fashionable boots with their vibrant, eye-popping designs.
Bhutan Postal Office
Right after we left the weaving center, the sky began to pour. Thankfully, the next attraction we went to was entirely sheltered – it was Bhutan Postal Office. This is a popular tourist site for tourists to get a photo of themselves printed all postal stamps.
It would be fun to keep these personal postal stamps as souvenirs, but I saw no use for stamps especially when everything now is digitalized.
Instead of making stamps, I requested to visit the Postal museum instead. This museum, albeit small, houses interesting antiques from the past like typewriters and other machinery used in the 1960s.
You will also get to learn more about the Bhutanese culture as you browse through the galleries within the museum.
After the rain stopped, we left the postal office for Buddha Point at Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. The sky was still looking gloomy, but at least, the rain has stopped. But we could still hear the thunder rumbling in the skies.
What you see in this picture above is the bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma which stood at 169 feet tall.
According to the guide, the Buddha point will be an important pilgrimage site for all Buddhists from all parts of the world. However, some parts of the temple are still under construction. So, the site is not fully ready yet to welcome the pilgrims.
Namgay Heritage Hotel
On my second night in Bhutan, I stayed at Namgay Heritage. I was glad that I picked this hotel as the interior of the hotel looks stunning. It is a four-star hotel as it has other hotel amenities such as a swimming pool and a gym.
My Twin Bedroom
This hotel room is Instagram-worthy as the interior decor speaks of the unique Bhutanese arts and culture.
The rooms are very spacious. It is like a small suite with a living room attached. This is by far one of the best hotels I came across so far in Bhutan.
Walking Around Thimphu Town
Before the sky turns dark, I decided to take a walk in Thimphu Town. I had my guide to accompany me as I walked along the streets. Some of the shops sell modern clothes and sportswear. There were a few souvenir shops and minimarts as well.
Don’t forget to catch the sight of Bhutan’s only human traffic light at Thimphu town too. This traffic light man happened to be changing shifts.
I noticed that there were these mini taxis around too. Perhaps this is one of the ways of getting around town in Thimphu as there aren’t any public trains or buses. I also do not see anyone cycling on the road.
Dinner at Namgay Heritage
It’s dinner time! By Day 2, I was already quite tired of the usual rice and vegetables. But that is exactly how the locals eat here. There aren’t many food varieties unlike back in Singapore where there are so many cuisines to choose from due to our rich cultural heritage.
But as long as there’s warm food in my tummy, I am all good. I should be thankful that I have someone to cook and serve me warm food in the evening.
Goodnight and see you soon on Day 3!