Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trashigang and Trashiyangtse

Almost heaven, Trashigang,
Black mountain, Manas River,
Life is old there,
Older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains,
Blowing like a breeze.
Country roads,
take me home,
to the place I belong.
Trashigang, mountains of mine,
take me home, country roads.

The kids loved singing this favourite song from our Class 2 songbook loudly and with passion and emotion. Having enjoyed it all year, I really wanted to travel those country roads to see Trashigang for myself.

Even though we were travelling in comfort with a Prado and driver, the distances and time at the wheel were long and when we arrived in Trashigang team morale was a bit low and we were feeling exhausted. We were bound by the deadline of being back in Chumey on the 15th so we couldn't gave a rest day to'smell the roses' in Trashigang as we would have liked.

Still it turned out that the following day the balance of driving and sightseeing was in our favour and we arrived at our destination a few hours before dark for a change!

Leaving Trashigang early , we were headed for Rangjung. It seemed like the driver was keen to go there for his own reasons and I was happy too as our friends Ian and Vicky (fellow Aussies and BCF teachers in 2011, 2012 & returning for 2014) lived here and I wanted to see their home that I'd heard so much about.

Monks playing football at the monastery.

Chortens overlooking Ranjung.
Lhakang at Rangjung.

Rangjung was really different to what I expected! It is a very pleasant small town with a photogenic main street and friendly locals. Upon a hill above town proudly stands a fairly new Lhakang that was very beautiful and had lovely views all around. Here is another town I could see myself happily living in. Proximity to Trashigang was good, less than an hour drive by the river.

We were invited for tea at the house of our driver's friend and were served in an altar room decorated with many images of HH Dalai Lama, much to my friend Jana's delight.

Returning to Trashigang we visited the Dzong: the highlight was watching the boys chase pigeons in the large courtyard with an audience of amused monks. Before we arrived the monks had been huddled round a large television watching.... world championship wrestling!



Driving towards Trashiyangste in the afternoon we soon came to Gom Kora, a sacred meditation site of Guru Rinpoche. The temple complex is surrounded by a circumambulation path with hundreds of prayer wheels. Elderly pilgrims slowly circle the temple while praying and others sit quietly in the shade of bodhi trees spinning hand held prayer wheels. Many Bhutanese aspire to this life of contemplation and devotion in their later years and you get a feeling that there is something very special about the vibe at Gom Kora that attracts pious folk from all over Bhutan.


The first rain we've seen in months started to fall as we drove on to Trashiyangste, the last town on our eastern itinerary. BCF teacher Lee has lived here this year, enjoying daily hikes in the hills around and especially in the Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. Unfortunately we didn't have the time to visit the park, although from a vantage point at the Dzong Bob saw many of the famous black-necked cranes roosting in farmland which saved us a long drive on another rough farm road!

A branch of VAST art gallery in Trashiyangtse.
Hotel Karmaling.

Before dark, Bob and I went for a walk round town with Lee and caught up on the past few months. Trashiyangtse was also different to what I pictured: larger and more spread out. Many people call this town home. Grey stone buildings predominate, and the town centre seemed quiet and lacking a bit of ' hub bub' and colour as we'd seen in Rangjung earlier in the day. And it's cold! Not quite as cold as Bumthang, but chillier than Mongar.

Hotel Karmaling offered simple rooms that opened to a large but cosy common room with a bukhari and television. It was the perfect place to unwind for the evening. The familiar sound of horns and drums and cymbals woke us in the morning: a puja was taking place in the large altar room right in the hotel. Monks were busily coming and going with offerings and sprinkling blessed water around the place.

We whipped around the main sights in the morning. Bob was keen to check out the Bomdeling Visitor Centre just out of town. The boys enjoyed seeing some stuffed wild cats and a display of rocks. Unfortunately the Zorig Chusum school of traditional handicrafts had just packed up for the winter holidays so we couldn't see anything there. Lastly we visited Chorten Kora, a stupa modelled on the famous one at Boudna in Nepal. I read an alarming story in the Lonely Planet of an eight year old girl being sacrificed and enshrined here during construction to appease local demons. I later found this article online which shines a light on the unbelievable practise of burying live sacrifices underneath large construction projects. WTF!!! The barbarity of this history tainted the holy feeling of the place for me. I've since discovered that a Bhutanese movie has been made about the story and I'm going shopping today to try to find a copy (preferably with English subtitles).


As we drove off out of town, retracing our way back to Chumey, I felt glad to have made it to see and experience these far flung towns that few foreigners get the chance to visit.

In years to come I know I will sing the Trashigang version of Country Roads and think back with much nostalgia of this trip.


  1. Wow....you have discovered many wonders of Bhutan which we Bhutanese ourselves have failed to. Enjoyed going through your blog as always. Keep sharing madam..

    1. Thank you, its been a pleasure to spend a year in Bhutan and we have taken every opportunity to travel. But for now, we have left to return home. Thank you for reading my blog this year.

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