There is a great variety of people, architecture and scenery in central Bhutan. Because it takes a little extra time to get here, the countryside and the hotels see fewer tourists than in Thimphu, Punakha and Paro. At 129 kilometers from Wanguephodrang is a Trongsa, which host the largest Dzong (Fortress) in the country. Trongsa (‘New Village’ in local dialect) gets its name from the retreats, temples and hermit residences that soon grew up around the chapel.
The beautiful drive east to the Pele La offers access to central Bhutan and the Phobjikha valley, known for winter habitat of Black necked Cranes. From Pele La the road drops through hillsides of the strange Dwarf bamboos where you can see many Yaks and horses along the road. After an hour drive you will be in Chendebji Chorten at a lovely spot by river confluence. Built in the 19th century by Lama Shida from Tibet to cover the remains of evil spirits that was killed here, this large white Chorten (Stupa) is patterned after Syumbhunath in Kathmandu valley.
After 45 minutes from Chendebji passing few farms, hamlets and monasteries you will be at the Trongsa view point where you could glance the central Trongsa. The very viewpoint offers a good place for a picnic and a photo shoot. Riding 14 kilometers further you will be in Trongsa.
Trongsa Dzong has a rich history dating back to the 16th century. The first construction on the site of Dzong was carried away by Lam Ngagi Wangchuk. The town received a large influx of Tibetan immigrants in late 50s and early 60s, they are well assimilated into Bhutanese society that there is almost no indication of Tibetan flavor in the town.
The strategic location gave it great power over this part of the country. The only trail between eastern and western Bhutan still straight leads through Trongsa and used to run directly through the Dzong itself. This gave the Trongsa Penlop enviable control over east-west trade and the tax revenue to be derived from it.
Trongsa Dzong is the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. The first two hereditary kings ruled from this Dzong, and traditionally still dictates that the crown prince serve as Trongsa Penlop before acceding to the throne. The Trongsa Rabdey (Monastic body) migrates between winter (Trongsa) and summer (Bumthang) residences, just as the main Dratshang does between Thimphu (summer) and Punakha (winter).
The northern assembly hall is still preserved as it was before. There is painting of the court as it was then, and other paintings of the guardians of the four direction and the deity Phurba in the main hall. The main chapel to the south, the Chorten Lhakhang houses the funerary Chorten of the founder Ngagi Wangchuk.
The Five day Trongsa Tsechu is held in the northern courtyard in December or January.
This watch tower on the hill above the Dzong has been converted into a state-of-the-art museum with Austrian financed which displays Buddhist art and the history of the monarch.
Two British Soldiers are said to have been kept in the prison here for several months during Duar War. A chapel inside the tower is dedicated to the 19th century Penlop of Trongsa, Jigme Namgyel.
The winter palace of the second king, Jigme Wangchuk, is 23km south of Trongsa. It’s an interesting drive, passing below Taktse Goempa, several huge waterfalls, and the fertile rice terraces of the lower Mangde valley. It’s a good three quarter day trip from Trongsa and even could make for a fine bike trip if you arrange to be picked up at Kuenga Rabten. Traffic is light and all downhill from Trongsa.
Elite Scenic Voyage, Bhutan
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