Tourism in Bhutan is highly regulated and tour operators have no control over where their groups will be accommodated, which is very frustrating for organisers having plans changed without notice. Having said that we have been extremely fortunate in the places we have stayed.
I learned today that Bhutan does not accept any immigration. There are some Tibetan families here that migrated in the 1950-60s that have been granted citizenship, but that’s it.
There is a temporary exception to this rule for Indian road workers who are granted temporary entry permits to carry out the extensive roading improvements being undertaken. It is very sad to see the shanties in which but despite the most abject poverty I saw several satellite dishes on these wooden/corrugated iron/bamboo shacks and they are probably better off than in their home country.
We drove off this morning with a high degree of expectation. We were to travel over the Dochula Pass (3050m) and hoped to see a stunning panoramic view of the Himalayas. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and we only caught glimpses of the mountains through the clouds. At the top of the pass there are 108 Chorten in memorial to fallen soldiers. There is also a beautiful monastery.
We stopped at one point to have a look at some lovely rice terraces and a cute little dog came out to visit followed by 3 puppies about 4-5 weeks old. That was it – instant adoration. I would have smuggled this one home if I could. I try not to pat dogs here as quite often they have mange or some other undesirable condition but these puppies were irresistible. I think I have said before there is a huge number of stray dogs in Bhutan. Stray, but not feral. They are not housed or specifically cared for but they are fed by locals (and the occasional tourist!) and are amenable and friendly. I can personally attest that dogs do in fact, eat chilli. You see dogs lying anywhere as if dead during the day… they sleep all day so they can bark all night. And they do.
I heard a nice story today from an American I got chatting to: he said when he went up to Taktshang Monastery there were 2 dogs walking up the trail and when he had finished at the monastery he saw those same 2 dogs returning down the mountain. One of the monks told him that the dogs do that every day.
Our other big visit for the day was to the Punakha Dzong, said to be the most beautiful and possibly the largest in Bhutan. It certainly is beautiful and while unable to take photos inside we were able to walk all around and photograph as we pleased almost anywhere except the temple.
And from Chimmie’s bottomless fact file: Bhutan has 10,000+ monks; 4,000+ nuns and only 6,000 army. Monks study at the Dzong for 9 years and then go through a meditation period of 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days before going to university (for monks). During the meditation phase they only have 1 meal per day and do not cut their hair or nails.
Our accommodation for tonight is the Kichu Resort, Wangdue. It’s a beautiful rustic little lodge beside a roaring river. It is exactly like the sort of river we have at home torrent pouring through gullies of lovely big boulders. I've just been down and put my feet in it - freezing. I shall be soothed to sleep by the sound of the water which is probably only 10 feet or so from my little balcony. Unfortunately the mozzies like it here too!