We made our way to Trongsa after stopping by at the colorful festival in Wangdue. The town of Trongsa is smacked right in the middle of Bhutan and is one of the most historic towns in the country. Although the distance between Wangdue and Trrongsa is only 76 miles/123 km, our journey took almost seven hours long (including rest stops). You see, the road trip in the countryside of Bhutan is never straightforward and is not for the faint of heart.
The narrow road hugs the mountain with a steep drop on one side. It goes up and down, with up to about 20 dizzying hairpin turns per mile and it can also be a bumpy ride. Most of the roads were paved in the 1960’s and are now ridden with potholes. (The public buses in Bhutan are aptly called “Vomit Comet!” Go figure.) That said, don’t forget to pack your Dramamine if you’re visiting Bhutan.) But once you can get used to the shake and sway, the sceneries along the way are truly spectacular to behold.
The route traversed through Black Mountain and we stopped at its highest point, the Pele Pass (11,220 ft/3,420 m). Like all high mountain passes in Bhutan, it is marked with a stupa and colorful prayer flags, which are meant to bestow blessings to anyone passing by.
This is Tsagay, our driver whose amazing driving skill kept us safe on the road. During our lunch stop, we noticed that he rolled down his gho and written on his undershirt was “Fakebook!” We thought it was hilarious.
We stopped by to visit Chendebji Chorten located on a river confluence. It reminded us of the Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu and we learned that it was actually the model for this chorten. It was built in 18th century by a lama to cover the remain of an evil spirit that was subdued in this spot.
And as we entered Trongsa, we finally caught sight of its magnificent Dzong (fortress) dramatically situated on a ridge overlooking a gorge. A Dzong is the administrative and monastic center of each district in Bhutan. The Punakha Dzong maybe the most beautiful fortress in Bhutan, but the Trongsa Dzong in the largest and has the most spectacular location.
The Trongsa Dzong was the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The Wangchuk Dynasty ruled the district of Trongsa before it ruled over the whole country in 1907. The first two kings ruled from this Dzong. Today, the tradition remains that the crown prince serve as a penlop (governor) of Trongsa before ascending the throne.
The stragetic location of Trongsa gave the Dzong great control of the east-west trade and derived signifcant tax revenue from it. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan still leads through Trongsa and used to passed through the ground of the Dzong. The Trongsa penlop had the power to divide the country by commanding the closure of the gate.
The rich history of Trongsa Dzong goes back from the 16tth century when a holy man built a temple on the site after discovering a self-manifesting hoof-prints of a horse belonging to Bhutan’s protective deity Palden Lhamo. The dzong was built in its current form in the 17th century.
What is amazing about the architecture of all Dzongs is that no nails are used in their construction. No architectural plans are prepared either. They solely rely on mental concept of the design.
The Dzong is divided into two sections: the administrative section containing the government offices and the monastic section containing monks’ quarters and about 25 temples.
We were fascinated by this sight of this monk brushing a kitten. The kitten ran away but the monk caught up with it and continued to brush it. We learned that he was trying to remove all the lice from the kitten. Such a typical display of Buddhist compassion.
The spectacular view of the river and valley from one of the Dzong’s window.
We enjoyed our visit in Trongsa. We were captivated by its beautiful setting, its magnificent Dzong, its charming town and people, and its fascinating myths and legends. It was worth the long ride.