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Phobjikha valley – Bhutan’s Paradise

‘Green is the prime colour of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises’. I realised the true meaning of these words after visiting Phobjikha valley in Bhutan. Phobjikha is a scenic bowl-shaped valley located on the borders of the JigmeSingyeWangchuk National Park, situated 80km from Punakha. Phobjikha is indeed a visual treat for nature lovers. The stay at Phobjikha was the best part of my solo trip to Bhutan.

First view 

To reach Phobjikha, I first took a share taxi to Kulthang and from there took another share taxi to Wangdu. From Wangdu I travelled in a reserved taxi. The drive to Phobjikha from Wangdu is long and winding but the route is very scenic. I started at around 3.30 PM and reached Phobjikha by around 6PM.

Most parts of Bhutan that I had visited were mostly steep and covered by tall pine trees. In contrast, Phobjikha valley is wide, open, and shallow.  I was awe struck at the sight of vast grass lands spread as far as our eyes can see. It was surrounded by mountains kissed by white clouds.

View of valley from gangtey goemba

Lots of home stay options are available, which are very cheap.Taxi took me to Phub lham village Homestay where I had reserved a bed for two nights. The cost was 900 Rs/ night. It was freezing cold outside when I stepped out of the taxi. I was welcomed by Nimaz, house owner’s son. He took me inside, where his mother waited with a sweet smile.

Phub lham village home stay

By the time I changed my dress, my hostess was ready to serve Suja, the butter tea. I was moved by her hospitality when I found my taxi driver sipping tea in her kitchen. After having tea, I went back to my room to take rest. By then temperature outside had dropped to 8 degrees. Soon, I started to shiver because of the cold. My host provided me with three quilts and I just hid underneath the thick quilts. I was tired after all the adventure and so slept off immediately.

In the morning, when I woke and moved the curtains, I was really taken aback by the scenic beauty that surrounded the farm stay. I don’t have words to describe the feeling I had on seeing greenery all around combined with the morning mist. It was an out of world feeling. I stood at my window for a long time absorbing the beauty of nature. Green valley, black mountain and white clouds were enthralling to watch. I could even see few cows moving in a line to the field nearby for grazing.

View from my room window



I decided to have a look around the house. The Farm stay was a beautiful house with wooden flooring. The room given to me was so lovely that I felt like spending the rest of my life there.

Most of the Bhutanese adhered to Bhudhism. So every house had a shrine inside the house to offer prayers daily before the day began. Butter lamps were offered to deity. There were various religious hangings on the wall which were kept covered. It was unveiled only during auspicious days to offer prayers.

Prayer room
Religious hangings which are kept covered

There was a huge living room which was also beautifully decorated. There were two other guest rooms in the top floor along with a kitchen. Bathroom was a common one. The first floor was kept aside for guests. Family lived downstairs and came up only during meal times as the kitchen was located upstairs.

In front of the main door. Wooden steps lead to first floor

They used firewood to burn the stove and hence everyhouse there was a shed to store wood. I couldn’t find any iron gates in Bhutan. Gate was made with wooden planks and fence was build with wood or rocks.

 

Main gate is always kept closed. To reach inside u have to climb up and down a few steps. It is to prevent grazing cattles from entering the compound

I freshened up , had a light breakfast and set out to explore Phobjikha. My first destination was the nearby local school. The school consisted of few small buildings.

 

Local School

Right in front of the building there was a Bhudhist shrine and also the National flag. The school assembly was held in front of the shrine. The national flag was hoisted everyday during the school assembly.

The principal was a very friendly man and took great pains to explain me the education system in Bhutan. He took me around the school, introduced me to students and permitted me to distribute the pens I had taken with me from India.

With the principal

Principal even gave me a chance to engage 5th grade students for an hour. The students were curious to know about India and her culture. I had a wonderful time with the kids.

Taking a class for 5th grade

After that Nimaz took me to his grandfather’s house, located around 2.5km from  farm stay, in his car. Nimaz’s grandfather was a 90 year old man living alone in the house. Next to his house, Nimaz’s dad had a potato farm. Nimaz’s mom and relatives were pulling out weeds from the farm when I reached

People at work in potato farm

It was interesting to learn that people work in each other’s fields. The relatives who were helping out were not paid. Instead, Nimaz and his family help them in their farm. It’s very difficult to find labourers due to sparse population of Bhutan especially in rural regions. Hence most of the works in and around the houses and farms are done by family members themselves.

I had lunch at Nimaz’s grandfather’s house along with his relatives. I found the people very accommodative and friendly. Only issue was language. Most of the locals in Phobjikha can only follow Dzongha language. I had to depend on Nimaz to have a conversation with locals. After lunch I was offered beetel leaves. It is customary for Bhutanese to chew beetel leaves after each meal.

 

Meals are always taken sitting on floor. They use bowls instead of plates to take food.
On yakskin carpet that belongs to Nimaz grandfather. It has been with the family for generations.

After lunch, I decided to walk back so that I can explore the country side. Phobjikha is the best place to explore rural life in Bhutan. At a distance I could see some cows grazing. Green stretches dotted with cows gave me a feel of being in Switzerland!

Mini Switzerland

Tiny streams of water were seen crisscrossing the valley. In summer, fields are filled with beautiful flowers. It is a great time to explore the valley during summers as it becomes swampy during monsoon season.

Tiny streams that crisscross valley

There were very few houses in the entire valley. Houses were mostly two storied and decorated with wood.  Each house was surrounded by potato farm.

Roads were mostly unpaved and deserted. I came across very few locals. But, since I couldn’t communicate in their language, I had to continue walking with a smile.

Most of the roads are unpaved

I rested on roadside boulders just to enjoy nature, the silence, the peace, the serenity that was omnipresent in Phobjikha.

Resting and rusting !

At one place when I was resting, a pet dog came running from inside a house. He managed to come out of a small hole in the fence and came and sat beside me. He sat there quietly until his mistress came carrying wood from the nearby forest. I also came across a kindergarten on my way back. In the backdrop of kindergarten were majestic mountains that were awesome to watch.

Kindergarten set amidst the mountains

It was closing time and so couldn’t talk to the teacher. But I had fun with the naughty kids playing outside. By the time reached back, Nimaz was home with his car. Then we decided to visit Gangtey Goempa. 

Naughty kids

Gangtey Goempa is a majestic monastery located on a ridge in the valley. It hardly took 10 mts to reach the Goempa. Like all other monasteries in Bhutan, it was a towering structure ornately decorated with wood and surrounded by small prayer wheels. You can get a mesmerizing view of Phobjika valley when you stand adjacent to the Gangtey Goempa.

Way to GangteyGoempa
Gangtey goempa
Prayer wheels

By the time we reached back it was getting dark and very cold. So I settled down inside the kitchen which was made warm by the wood fire in the stove. After an early dinner, I retired as I couldn’t stand the cold outside and hid comfortably underneath the quilts.

Iron stove in the middle of kitchen. Stove gets heated up and helps to keep the kitchen warm.

Next day was Friday. That is the day when local bus ply up till Thimbu. Same bus leaves from Thimbu on Saturdays at 8 Am and reaches Phobjikha by 3Pm. The cost of ticket from Phobjikha to Thimbu is 160 Rs whereas taxi would cost around 3500 Rs. On days other than Friday and Saturday, local bus leaves Phobjikha in the morning and reaches Wangdu by noon and returns back to Phobjikha by evening. Taxi charges upto Wangdu is 1500Rs.

I started from my homestay at 8am. I was feeling heavy hearted to leave the comfort of the farmstay and the valley. The farmstay was one of the best that I had experienced. Nimaz dropped me at the bus stop. Bus was late by 45mts. When it did arrive , it was full. I thanked God that I reserved my ticket beforehand.

Nimaz..My sweet translator and friend !

I managed to get a front seat in the local bus.  I started at around 8.45 Am and reached Thimbu at 2.30pm. I had a wonderful time in the bus listening to music in local language and observing the picturesque nature outside. I was enthralled by the blue sky and white clouds that appeared very close all along the path. It was a ride to remember forever.

First seat 😜
Way to punakha
Roads leading to sky and clouds

‘I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order’

After the visit to Phobjikha, I felt rejuvenated both physically and mentally. If I ever return to Bhutan, I will definitely stay at Phobjikha for few days as I crave for the tranquillity that I found only in the beautiful valley of Phobjikha. Phobjikha is definitely the paradise of Bhutan.

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Relaxed and rejuvenated

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