In Bhutan, there's no photo restriction except for the Royal family and the inside of temples. (as you might have observed from the photos at the immigration area)
Bhutanese enjoy free medical benefits with two hospital in each of the 20 district. Cigarettes are also 100% taxable to discourage smoking.
As for taxes, an annual income of less than five thousand USD per annum will not be taxed and anything more will be calculate from 2% onwards. The average income for a person working in the city is four to five hundred USD but rent itself is around two hundred USD!
Breakfast was in the hotel with a simple mix of toast, cereal and some fried potato patty.
Just like Thailand, Bhutanese have great respect and love for their king. You can see their photos almost everywhere; this one is found in the restaurant.
ATMs are available in the city and it is of much coincidence that we used to say that BoB stands for Bank of Buddha. :D
Weather in Bhutan changes rapidly and we were greeted with strong wind and fog at Dochula pass.
It is around an hour drive away from Thimphu, featuring 108 stupas built to commemorate the soldiers who sacrificed during the conflict with India in 2003.
They are also big on solar as it is no easy feat to transmit electricity up till 3100m above sea level. Bhutan primarily uses hydroelectricity powered by their glacial fed river.
At almost every rest point (specially setup due to tourism i guess), you will be offered tea/coffee along with some snacks. It is interesting to note that Bhutan does not have tea or coffee cultivation and all these are primarily imported from India. Same goes for the biscuits. You can probably purchase them from your very own local store as well.
The drive to Punakha takes another 2.5 hours from Dochula river. Road infrastructure is still work in progress and the goal is to connect the western and eastern parts of Bhutan. You will start experiencing bumpy rides after an hour on the unpaved road.
It is extremely sunny in Bhutan probably due to the altitude so sunglass is a must if you are planning to travel there.
We arrived at Punakha around noon and stopped for lunch break. Dessert was mango bought at the local market the day before! What a pleasant surprise and reflects good hospitality of the locals.
It is hard to present in pictures, the beautiful scenery as we made a small hike towards the temple of fertility. 70% of the population are farmers and potato and rice fields are plentiful everywhere you go.
Bhutanese houses are made using clay bricks and the Government provides up to date information of proper building techniques. This explains why destruction is minimal despite being located in an earthquake zone. It is also interesting to note that due to the small population of 700,000, officials are able to have eyes over most of the activities in each district.
Definitely seen such defense mechanism in China as well.
The main frame of doors and windows are constructed using wood and proper planning needs to be carried out before work begins.
The hike was manageable and at the top, you will be rewarded with yet more picturesque scenery and breezing wind.
We stopped by a local provision store to purchase water and at the same time check out how it's like.
You will notice a lot of brands that are available in our local store as Bhutan does not produce their own processed food. Majority are imported from their Indian counterpart.
I wonder how did this lottery thing come about and it being approved. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Betel nut is also a thing in Bhutan. It is explained that evil spirits used to harm people living in the himalaya region and chewing on betel nut gives you a terrifying look with a bright red, bloody looking mouth. Taking too much of this becomes an addiction and does no good to your oral condition.
The next stop is at Punakha Dzong that is decorated with purple flowers blooming in Spring. Dzong stands for fortress and it's built in 1600s along a male and female river that converges into one.
Fortresses are now converted for modern day use, with half occupied by Government administration and the other half for monks.
Inside, there is a small building that was built before the actual Dzong was constructed. It is said that the craftsmen slept there where a buddha statue was placed and through his dreams, he went to heaven to see the design of the Dzong. Without any blueprint, he constructed the entire Dzong through what he saw in his dreams.
The Dzong is only opened twice daily at 11am to 1pm and 3pm to 5pm. It is mandatory for locals to be dressed in their traditional costume along with a scarf that is not required for daily activities. The Royal family clads a yellow scarf and white for civilians.
(i'm fairly certain the building is slanted to the left) The middle steps are only allowable for the Royal family and high ranking monks.
This building partitions the Dzsong into half.
Along the way to the final destination for the day, we stopped halfway and walked for the road to check out the farm. We spotted being maize grown as well.
A lot of sculptures are made using clay and wireframe. The process is time consuming and patience is a key ingredient to make a good sculpture.
The Punakha suspension bridge is the longest in Bhutan but really, it's not that scary to cross from one end to another.It bridges the land separated by the river and serves as a shortcut.
On the other side of the bridge, you can use the toilet for 5 Nu per person. The locals are rather creative in upcycling their resources.
The hotel is also spacious and offers a balcony that overlooks the town.
Enjoying nature and its cooling weather before dinner.
We ended dinner with a surprise eggless cake for our friend's birthday! That yellow layer is, er, butter.