Day 6 would prove to be the longest day of the trip, as we headed back west to Wangdi a distance of nearly 270km, and which we had covered in two days heading to Bumthang.
We went for a 30 minute walk along the road overlooking the river. Next to the river was signs of construction of an airfield that is one of two new airports being built in Bhutan. This will open up Bumthang to more tourists, and allow one way travel by road with a return by plane. Another airport is being planned in the eastern city of Mongar, and will dramatically change that area as it is about a 3 to 4 day journey from Thimpu, but will likely be reachable in an hour to an hour and a half once the airport is built. Tourism in Bhutan will definitely change once these airports are up and running.
Our first stop was at the weaving centre, where we saw the traditional weaving and yarn dyeing in process. The next stop was Trongsa, where we found a Yak hair blanket, made from the “underarm hair” of the yak, which was incredibly soft. Luckily we purchased it there as we never saw anymore for the rest of the trip. We had lunch in Trongsa and found more phallic souvenirs for sale, as well as traditional hats and other costumes which Peter dutifully tried on for photographic posterity.
The highlight of this part of the journey was the sighting of three wild monkeys playing a the side of the road. I managed to get a couple of pictures that we in focus as we drove slowly along the road. We arrived at Dragon’s Nest resort in the early evening after being on the road for about 8 hours!
The following day we only had to return to Thimpu 3 hours away. We spent the morning exploring the Wangdi Dzong. The dzong built on the hill overlooking the river had a naturally prickly fence made of cactus planted as a means of defence. We walked up the road along the side of the hill to the dzong stopping along the way to photograph the cactus in bloom with either the stupas or the dzong in the background.
The dzong was being renovated; many carpenters were making the new window moldings for the buildings. After touring the temple area we headed for the market. Like the other markets that we had seen, there was a great number of different fruits and vegetables as well as handicrafts for sale. No one seemed to bothered to try and sell us anything, as this market was mainly for the locals.
We left Wangdi and headed to the Dochula Pass. This time it was shrouded in mist and had a very different feel from the clear blue skies we had seen a week earlier. We had lunch at one of the restaurants near the top of the pass, and then had our picture taken in front of a giant mandala, in order to use this image for our personalized stamps that we would make in Thimpu the next day.
One of the more interesting sights that we saw around the pass was yaks with yellow scarves around their necks/shoulders. The monks put the scarves on the yaks to prevent them from being slaughtered (although I would have thought in a Buddhist country this would be unnecessary – I never got an answer to that!).