!)….. climbed over the pass at Wangthang La (really!) at 14,000 feet, covered in clouds and snow so visibility was minimal (less than 100 yards) and photos impractical. Darkness fell shortly after so the descent into Bumthang we another nailbiter at an average of about 15 mph.
Walked the town. Walked through ag fields to a monastery/temple where the monk decided this was a special place a thousand years ago or so and started what has now become a bustling (compared to the other villages that we have visited) town on a floodplain that makes for very successful farming. The monastery/temple has grown from a very simple one room temple to a sprawling 3-building complex. The Bhutan architecture is beautiful, especially positioned on the mountain ridges and tops surrounded by forests.
Did our obligatory shopping and found some great treasures for the Lowecha museum. The government has some forward-thinking export laws which we are hoping that we have honored. In addition to forbidding the export of such things as animal parts (bear liver (the Red Panda), Rhino horn), they also forbid export of numerous kinds of antique religious artifacts. We have been assured that we are all right and have been given some paperwork that supposedly protects us….. we’ll see.
Did not expect to find such extensive and dense forests in Bhutan. The King has decreed that Bhutan should always be at least 60% forested. Today they say it is 72%. Here is where much of it is. Fairly young, even-age forests so I don’t know how it got to be that way. Major tree planting some 30 years or so ago? Extremely steep slopes would have made planting difficult and even dangerous……
On our way to Trongsa we crossed another pass at 12,000 feet. Clear, cloudless, skies made for some great sights and photos. Stopped at a “weaver center” specializing in textiles made from yak wool. A single weaver was at her trade (10 years she said) weaving in an upright loom unlike the awkward and back-breaking weavers that we saw previously. Some textiles and a lot of other stuff. We did our best to support the local economy…. Income redistribution at its economically most efficient level.
Trongsa has been a seat of religious and political power for millenia. Each king (there have been 10) is obligated to serve here as governor of the region as part of his training. Major religious leaders reigned for centuries. All of it shows in the monuments, civil buildings, and the astronomical fortress. See photos.
Entering central Bhutan things have changed. We are now in the more common tourist region. Not only are there more (saw maybe 20), but the roads are MUCH improved in anticipation of serving larger quantities of tourist visitors. They are now actually paved about 1/3 of the time.