A long way to Trongsa

Tigers decorate the walls of Tronga dzong, Bhutan

We’d decided to break the long road to Trongsa into two days’ of travel by spending a night and bits of two days in the Phobjika valley. After seeing the Gangtey Goemba, we set out on the road again. It was past noon and we had a long drive ahead of us. There is a single highway between Wangdue Phodrang and Trongsa, so there is little chance of getting lost. We passed through a forest of blue pine, spruce and oak interspersed with bamboo. We passed a lot of yaks browsing and grazing by the road side (see the featured photo). Yaks are generally domesticated here, so there must have been villages nearby, although we did not pass anyone on foot.

Trongsa Dzong, Bhutan

Ten years ago there were no restaurants on the road. Now looking back at the photos I have of the afternoon, I realize that I must have been really hungry when we reached Trongsa between three and four in the afternoon. I remember climbing down the stairs of the dzong to eat in a little Tibetan restaurant and then climbing back up, but I have no photos of the village. Only after a meal did I begin to see the dzong.

Novice monks at study, Trongsa dzong, Bhutan

The approach had been circuitous. The road had nosed down to the fast flowing stream of the Mangde Chuu, and risen again steeply after a check post. I could see now that this was a very large dzong. The number of monks visible was large. I could see novice monks staring at us, but when I turned my camera on them, they went back to their books, like school children in a strict school in any part of the world. Somewhat older, teenaged, monks were not busy at this time of the day and stood in little conversational groups, curious about us. But they were polite, and did not stare at all. The Family pointed out that I was being more intrusive than them.

Monks in Trongsa dzong, Bhutan

In a courtyard near us I saw the usual organizational politics play out. The body language of the young monk, and the expression on the face of the older man, speak of a favour being asked which is not easily granted. I later found that this is inevitable. Not only is the Trongsa Dzong the home of the Wangchuks, the ruling dynasty of Bhutan, it is also the largest of Bhutan’s dzongs.

We didn’t stop for long. We had to move on. Another trip to Bhutan is needed to see the 18th century temple to the Maitreya Buddha inside this dzong. Perhaps the right time would be in January, during the tsechu (temple festival) of Trongsa.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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