Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2012 Asian Adventure - Paro

Day Twenty-Three

We were heading back to Paro this morning but first we stopped at the center of both the Government and the Buddhist religion in Bhutan, Tashichho Dzong.  A dzong is a fortress or, more specifically, a style of fortress architecture.  The building is impressive.  We waited at the entrance during a changing of the guard (Bhutan does have an army) before entering.  We entered the temple off of the courtyard and admired the decoration.  Like in Tibet, photography is not alloyed inside temples.

A monk spins prayer wheels at Tashichho Dzong.
After visiting the dzong we left Thimphu the same way we got there.  The drive back to Paro was just as beautiful and interesting as a couple days before.

In Paro, a rather small town, location of both the main airport and the main tourist attraction (the Tiger's Nest temple), our first visit was to the national museum.  Located in a seven story lookout tower overlooking the Paro Rinphung Dzong, the museum was damaged during a 2011 earthquake.  Some of the exhibits had been moved to a modern building adjacent to the museum.  The museum was interesting but it was obvious that only a small part of the museum's collection was exhibited.

Paro Rinpung Dzong (The national museum can be seen in the upper right corner).
After exploring the exhibits we walked down hill to the Paro Rinpung Dzong.  We entered and explored the beautifully decorated Buddhist fortress.  Off of the main temple was a balcony from which you could see Paro and the surrounding valley.

View of Paro from Paro Rinpung Dzong.
We left the Dzong and wandered down the hill and across a bridge to our waiting driver.  We drove into Paro and stopped for lunch in a small restaurant that felt local though there were a few ... scruffy foreigners there as well.  I realize now that I write this that I missed this in Nepal.  In China and Bhutan our noon meals were incorporated into the touring.  In China it was a time to talk with the rest of the group and compare notes, as it were, of the trip so far.  In Nepal we were on our own for meals every day. In Bhutan we ate with our guide, not exactly like China, but I liked that interruption of the touring day.

After we left the restaurant we were crossing the street when the Wife saw a toad in the middle of the street. The guide saw it too and, while the driver was stopping traffic, she scooped the toad up on a piece of paper and carefully placed it in the grass next to the side of the street.  We all smiled as we did this - nothing like a little good Karma.

Our last stop of the day was a temple overlooking Paro.  Kyichu Lhakhang, a seventh century temple, is the oldest in Paro.  By this time I was a little templed out.  If it wasn't special like the Tiger's Nest or Potala it was just another beautiful temple.

By this time, early afternoon, we were ready to settle down so we headed to our hotel.  I think our guide thought we were ending it a little too soon but the Wife and I were quite happy with what we'd seen this day.

The lobby of our incredible Paro hotel.
We checked into our gorgeous hotel, run by an Australian couple I believe, and settled into our large room with views of the Paro river and the green hills.  We did some laundry and went out to walk the grounds of the hotel.  The hotel was outside of Paro and was spread out on a nice chunk of land.  The hotel had gardens, a spa, and a tea room.  As we walked around we soon were surrounded my the hotel dogs.  Being the unwilling dog whisperer I am I soon became the head of a small pack who escorted us around the grounds.

The rest of the evening consisted in a nice dinner in the almost empty dinning room - it was the off season and we were among the few who came here during the monsoon season.  We were excited about the next day as it would be one of the highlights of the trip - the Tiger's Nest.

Pictures from day twenty-three (07/14/2012) can be found in my 2012-07 Bhutan Google Photos album.

Our 2012 Asian Adventure continues ...

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