8 Day Talo and Paro Tshechu Journey

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Festival Date: 11 April, 2014 – 14 April, 2014

Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival, Transfer to Thimphu, Farmer’s Market, o/n Thimphu
Day 2 Transfer to Punakha, Punakha Dzong, o/n Punakha
Day 3 Punakha. Talo Tshechu, Hike to Khamsum Royal Temple, o/n Punakha
Day 4 Transfer to Gangtey, Fertility Temple, o/n Gangtey
Day 5 Transfer to Thimphu. Town stroll and shopping, o/n Thimphu
Day 6 Transfer to Paro. Paro Dzong & National Museum, o/n Paro
Day 7 Paro. Tiger’s Nest Hike, o/n Paro
Day 8 International Departure

It is believed that Zhabdrung Jigme Drakpa would watch from his zimkhang window, when his gomchen (lay monk) and village women practiced for the annual Tshechu. In his last 39 appearances as a dancer in the annual Tshechu, Lhendup, who became a mask dancer from 18, said not a single dance has been performed at the Goempa courtyard without being routed from the Gangsa Pang. Every year, two weeks before the annual Talo Tshechu begins, a group of lay monks and elderly women would arrive at Gangsa Pang, offers the first sacred offering and starts the practice of mask dances and folk songs.

Program
Day 1: Arrival in Paro. Transfer to Thimphu.

On arrival at the Paro International Airport, you will be greeted by your guide upon exiting the arrival hall.
Today, we will take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude. Drive to Thimphu, check in to the hotel and lets have your first taste of Bhutanese cuisine and some light sight-seeing, like the weekend market, in Thimphu.

Attractions around Thimphu

Folk Heritage Museum – Dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past though exhibition of artifacts used in rural households.
Textile Museum – witness the art of traditional weaving.
Centenary Farmers’ Market – Every Saturday and Sunday most of the Thimphu population congregate on the banks of the river where the weekend market is held. Here villagers from the valley and other nearby places come to sell their agriculture products.

Day 2: Thimphu to Punakha

Dochula Pass – the 108 chortens was built by the present Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Indian militants and to liberate the souls of the souls lost.
Punakha Dzong – Built in 1637, the dzong continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.

Day 3: Punakha exploration – Talo Tshechu

Today is the last day of Talo Tshechu. The Thongdrel (huge religious appliqué) will be unfurled early in the morning and then the different mask dances and folk dances will take place. Talo valley itself is a very beautiful valley with lush green environment rich in both flora and fauna.
The three day Talo Tshechu is well known for its mask and Atsara dances, but an equally popular attraction which has a deep religious and historical significance is the Zhungdra by the Talo dance troupe. The Zhungdra performance particularly Mani Sum (3 songs) are very close to the heart of the Talops (people from Talo). This is because Mani Sum was composed by Meme Sonam Dhondup, the grandfather of Zhabdrung Jigme Chogyal (1862-1904), the 5th mind reincarnation of the first Zhabdrung (1594-1651).
The three songs of Mani Sum are performed at the closing item on each day of the three day of the tshechu. The three Songs, Samyi Sala(performed on the first day), Drukpa Dungey (second day) and Thowachi Gangi Tselay on the final day.
Sami Sala was composed when the Talo Sanga Choeling dzong was built which was influenced by the Samyi Monastery in Tibet. Drukpa Dungey tells the story of the Zhabdrung Lineage and Thowachi Gangi Tselay is the thanksgiving song.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten – Built by the third Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck this Chorten is a splendid example of of the Bhutanese architecture and art and is the only one of its kind in the world. It has been built over eight and a half years and its details have been drawn from religious scripture.

Day 4: Punakha to Gangtey

En route we will pay a visit to Chhimi Lhakhang – A 20 minutes walk across terraced fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. Ngawang Chogyel built the temple in 15th century after the ’Divine Madman’ Drukpa Kuenlay built a small chorten there. It is a pilgrim site for couples wanting a child.

Passing Wangdue (left), one of the major towns and district capital of Western Bhutan. Located south of Punakha, Wangdue is the last town before central Bhutan. The district is famous for its fine bamboo work and its slate and stone carving.
We will pause to view the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Built in 1638, Wangdue Dzong is dramatically perched on the spur of a hill and overlooks the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers.
The valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the Black necked crane (Grus Nigricollis). Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. The elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March.
Another significant landmark in Phobjikha is the famous Gangtey Gompa monastery. This is an old monastery that dates back to 17th century.
Drive time 2 hours

Day 5: Gangtey to Thimphu

Thimphu Dzong – the largest Dzong, is also the seat of the office of the King of Bhutan.
National Memorial Chorten – which was built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.
Paper making factory – witnesses the art of paper making.
Stroll through Thimphu town and shopping

Drive time 5 hours

Day 6: Thimphu to Paro

Today is the 2nd last day of the Paro Tshechu. Paro Tshechu is one of the most popular Tshechu in Bhutan. People from all walks of life and valleys come to Paro to witness the festival. Tshechu festivals, honors Padma Sambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche, the precious yogi and saint who is credited with having introduced Tantric Buddhism throughout the Himalayas. The festival’s masked dances are performed by monks clad in colorful brocade attire and permeated by chants and reading of Buddhist scripts. The culmination of festival constitutes the unfolding of a huge cloth thangka, a sacred scroll, depicting Padma Sambhava and imagery from Buddhist pantheon. The mere viewing of the Thongdrel (thong-see drel-liberate) is said to cleanse the viewer of sins.
Paro Valley – The beautiful valley is home to many of Bhutan’s old monasteries and temples. The country’s only Airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to mount Jomolhari (7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro.
Paro Dzong – also known as Rinpung Dzong, this 15th century massive fortress/monastery, is also the administrative center of the dzongkhag.
Ta Dzong – Built as a watch tower the Ta Dzong, it was converted into the National Museum in 1968. The museum boasts antique Thangka, textiles, weapons and armour, household objects and rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts.

Day 7: Paro exploration – Tiger’s Nest Hike

Drukgyal Dzong – A morning drive, north of Paro valley brings us to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in 1647 by the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past.
Taktshang Monastery – A hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, the Taktshang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. The four to five hour return trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor. The balance of the day can be spend browsing shops in
Kyichu Lhakhang – After a sumptuous local lunch, we will retrace our steps to visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.

Day 8: Depart Paro

After breakfast, transfer to Paro airport for international departure.

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