We arrived in Bumthang in darkness, and headed to the Peling Hotel, which had indoor heating, WiFi and another all you can eat buffet – a return to civilization!
We spent the next day exploring Bumthang. There seemed to be a “tourist trail” that all the groups followed. We saw more tourists that day than we had the entire trip.
Our walk started a short drive from the hotel at the Konchogsum Lhakhang temple.
This temple, built in the 6th or 7th century, and last renovated about 15 years ago is known for its large bell, that was said to be heard all the way in Lhasa Tibet. The Tibetan Army tried to steal it. But the weight was too great, and they dropped it, cracking it. However, there was a fire recently at the complex, and two people were able to move the bell despite its weight, and get it out of harms way!
One of the more unusual cultural events that we witnessed while here was a group of monks practicing their debating skills on the lawn in front of the buildings. This lively exchange of verbal jousting made an entertaining spectacle for us to observe.
The route continued along the river valley towards the Tamshing Goemba temple. Perhaps Bhutanese are happy people because of the all the wild marijuana growing everywhere, especially in this valley, although we were told that the pigs eat it, the humans don’t indulge! We came across a traditional water driven stone mill for grinding buckwheat into flour, which the owner proudly showed off to us.
Tamshing Goemba, built in the early 1500s had a different style of chapel screened off form the main wall. Three thrones for three incarnations of Pema Lingpa (the builder of the temple and an ancestor to the present king) are displayed as well as the 8 manifestations of Guru Rinpoche.
The temple trail crossed the river to Kurjey Lhakhang temple complex. The name Kurjey means “body print” and refers to the image of Guru Rinpoche that is formed in a cave that he meditated in, which is now surrounded by the temple complex. This impressive cluster of buildings is surrounded by 108 chortens (stupas).
While visiting these temples we were approached by 4 young girls who were quite content to have us take their picture in exchange for showing to them on the back of the camera. This was a prime example of the refreshingly innocent interaction that we could have with the local people without any expectations of being given money or objects, but rather a simple gesture of contact from one person to another.
We had lunch in the town and then did some souvenir shopping in the main part of Bumthang. The downtown had been ravaged by a recent fire which saw 60 building destroyed and people made homeless. However, within a week, those people had found shelter, and the military was in the town, making clay bricks as part of the rebuilding effort. I was impressed to see this level of organization in a less developed country.
An unexpected surprise was a Swiss run bakery and creamery in Bumthang that sold cheese and apple wine! Every evening people lined up to get milk to take home to their families.