Bhutan: Mystic Druk Yul

Bhutan is a tiny country between India and Tibet (China) which measures its progress using a “Gross National Happiness” indicator. Indeed, evidence of this harmony and happiness is visible throughout the country. I had a fabulous experience travelling here.

Travel stories from my trip to Bhutan

Bhutan is a tiny Himalayan kingdom sandwiched between Tibet to the north and India to the south that is quite off the beaten track due to numerous restrictions the country has on independent travel. It’s a land locked country and only way to get to Bhutan is through India. As a result, the country is heavily dependent and influenced by India (right from the ancient times, well before the arrival of Buddhism), and as a result, Indian citizens enjoy a special concession for mostly freely travelling in the country. Securing my travel permits, and before losing my Indian passport, I seized this opportunity to travel to Bhutan in 2008.

And boy what an awesome time I had exploring this mystical and happiest place on Earth!

Part 1: Introduction

Suggested itinerary: 2-3 weeks.

This himalayan kingdom, recently transitioned to democracy, is almost completely Buddhist. The Bhutanese call their country Druk Yul which means The Land of the Thunder Dragon. I like it already.

A cheaper way of entering Bhutan is through the land border at Phuentsholing and its sister city Jaigaon in India. The border city can be reached from Siliguri (a major transportation hub in West Bengal, also a convenient point to get to Darjeeling and Sikkim). Alternatively, Bhutan’s national airline (Druk Air) flies to Delhi, Kolkata, Dhaka, Kathmandu and Bangkok.

Mystic Druk Yul 01 – Departing
Mystic Druk Yul 02 – Bhutan Speaks
Mystic Druk Yul 03 – Highlights of Druk Yul

Part 2: Entering Bhutan

Since I had an Indian passport, the cheapest way of reaching Bhutan for me was through the land border. You’ll need to secure permits (takes few hours in the morning) and then jump on a bus to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.

Mystic Druk Yul 04 – Welcome to Bhutan
Mystic Druk Yul 05 – Into the heart of Bhutan

Part 3: Thimphu

Thimphu is a lovely little city that has a youngish charm to it. There are lots of places to see – monasteries, arts and crafts, and shopping places – but this is also the place where I had to apply for additional permits to visit the interiors of the country.

Mystic Druk Yul 06 – Thimpu at night
Mystic Druk Yul 07 – World’s biggest book
Mystic Druk Yul 08 – 13 Traditional Arts and Crafts
Mystic Druk Yul 09 – Spinning some prayer wheels
Mystic Druk Yul 10 – Views of Thimpu city

Part 4: Dochu La and Chimi Lhakhang

My first glimpse into rural Bhutan was extremely interesting, almost shocking. Mostly because I stopped on the way to visit the monastery of The Divine Madman at Chimi Lhakhang. Houses in the village are decorated with murals of huge phalluses, a symbol of fertility. … You must check this place out on your trip!

Mystic Druk Yul 11 – 108 chortens of Dochu La
Mystic Druk Yul 12 – The Divine Madman
Mystic Druk Yul 13 – Rice fields and empty lands
Mystic Druk Yul 14 – Lunch at a ‘Tourist Restaurant’

Part 5: Punakha

This fort-monastery was the former capital of Bhutan and defended the country many times from invading Tibetan forces. The monastery is well kept and very impressive, not to mention its scenic location in the valley.

Mystic Druk Yul 15 – Punakha Dzong
Mystic Druk Yul 16 – Dzong Artwork
Mystic Druk Yul 17 – Sleepless in Khuruthang
Mystic Druk Yul 18 – Early morning at a Goempa

Part 6: Wangdue

I’ve had my share of random incidents during travel, but when you encounter Bhutanese Buddhism’s most venerated monk, that has to be among the top experiences. Little while later I visited another fort-monastery perched on a hill commanding an impressive view of the valley below.

Mystic Druk Yul 19 – Blessed by Bhutan’s highest monk
Mystic Druk Yul 20 – Wangdue Dzong
Mystic Druk Yul 21 – Wandering in Wangdi village

Part 7: Paro

Bhutan’s second city (with the country’s only airport) is small but spread out over a large valley. Great base for jumping off to nearby hikes and checking out old monasteries.
Mystic Druk Yul 22 – Paro
Mystic Druk Yul 23 – Paro Dzong
Mystic Druk Yul 24 – Religion in Bhutan and some temples around Paro
Mystic Druk Yul 25 – Paro Valley

Part 8: Cheli La and Takshang Lhakhang

A visit to Bhutan is incomplete without a hike to Taktsang Lakhang, more famously known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. This temple is built on a sheer vertical rock face and, while I am quite the skeptic of these things, I have to say that I felt the immensely positive energy and the divine force that is said to reside here.

Mystic Druk Yul 26 – Hitchhiking to Cheli La
Mystic Druk Yul 27 – Hiking to Taksang Lhakhang
Mystic Druk Yul 28 – The Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Part 9: Conclusion

Visit to Bhutan was, besides hitting me with monastery-fatigue, very instrumental in boosting my spiritual energy and overall satisfaction with life. I would certainly implore everyone to visit this place and see for yourself how happiness and materialism are completely disconnected ideals.

My transformative experience continued till my last step here, as I relied upon the kindness of strangers to get me back to India.

Mystic Druk Yul 29 – Exiting Bhutan, when you run out of money
How to hitchhike in Bhutan and meet people

General articles

Archery: Bhutan’s National Sport
Bhutan Entry procedures

Author: Priyank

Traveller, musician, blogger, bureaucrat. In that order. I'm very interested in trying new things and my interests are diverse. Food, people, places, technologies - I like them all. Whatever I do, I approach life with optimism and strive to make each day happy and fruitful.

65 responses to “Bhutan: Mystic Druk Yul”

  1. […] Madman This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! Previous post: 108 Chortens at Dochu […]

  2. Seychelles says:

    Amazing story. Thank you …

  3. […] planted at the door. It is a symbol of fertility and must be respected… Bhutan: Photo gallery | Bhutan travel experiences May ’09 […]

  4. […] village This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! Previous post: Wangdue […]

  5. […] mantras chanting in the background is a feeling I can’t quite describe… Bhutan: Photo gallery | Bhutan travel stories May ’09 […]

  6. […] a Gompa This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Sleepless in Khuruthang | Next post: Blessed by Bhutan’s highest monk […]

  7. […] Dzong This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Lunch at a ‘Tourist Restaurant’ | Next post: Dzong Artwork […]

  8. […] planted at the door. It is a symbol of fertility and must be respected… Bhutan: Photo gallery | Bhutan travel experiences Mar ’09 […]

  9. […] lands This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: The Divine Madman | Next post: Lunch at a ‘Tourist Restaurant’ […]

  10. […] have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers… Bhutan: Photo gallery | Bhutan travelogue Mar ’09 […]

  11. […] City This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Spinning some prayer wheels | Next post: 108 Chortens at Dochu La […]

  12. […] wheels This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: 13 traditional arts and crafts | Next post: Views of Thimphu City […]

  13. […] crafts This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: World’s biggest book | Next post: Spinning some prayer wheels […]

  14. […] planted at the door. It is a symbol of fertility and must be respected… Bhutan: Photo gallery | Bhutan travel experiences Feb ’09 […]

  15. […] night This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Into the heart of Bhutan | Next post: World’s biggest book […]

  16. […] Bhutan This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Welcome to Bhutan | Next post: Thimphu at night […]

  17. […] planted at the door. It is a symbol of fertility and must be respected… Bhutan: Photo gallery | Bhutan travel experiences Dec ’08 […]

  18. […] This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! Previous post: Wandering in Wangdi […]

  19. […] This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! Previous post: […]

  20. […] Sport This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! Previous post: Different views of Paro […]

  21. […] Paro This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! Previous post: Archery: Bhutan’s national […]

  22. […] Bhutan Travelogue is almost nearing completion (maybe another 4-5 posts) so I have decided to start narrating about […]

  23. […] La This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Religion in […]

  24. […] Valley This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Hitchhiking to Cheli […]

  25. […] trip This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Paro […]

  26. […] Wangdue Dzong A young monk drying his robes inside the Wangdue Monastery, Bhutan. Built in 17th century on a strategic location commanding a view of the large valley, this monastery houses a number of government offices, school and even residence for young monks. Bhutan: Photo gallery | Bhutan travel: blog posts […]

  27. […] of money This post is part of Mystic Druk Yul, a series of travelogues narrating my trip to Bhutan. Here are the other posts! « Previous post: Taktsang Lhakhang: The Tiger’s Nest […]

  28. Manoj Vishwakarma says:

    Hi Priyank,
    i though i am the only one interested in visiting Bhutan….
    but you already did…..Great !!!
    I am eagerly waiting for my Passport ,which i applied in Dec,2008 and still running running between passport office and police station.
    so i can visit Bhutan…….:-)
    you may also visit my profile on orkut or facebook but you may not get any use of it…hahhah… πŸ™‚

  29. I was really impressed by your blog post…

    Anyways Bhutan has become a widely admired, high-end travel destination. Travel Magazine called it “The Last Best Place on Earth.” Bhutan follows a tourism policy based on middle path – sustainable development. By going along with this balanced path, Bhutan will remain an exclusive and sought after travel destination for a long time.

  30. […] crowded street or just sit and relax, little churches and chapels were right there. A backpacker in Bhutan will most likely get tired of visiting the monasteries over and over, just as a backpacker in Peru […]

  31. […] of them. They all started appearing the same after a while just what I faced after two weeks of Bhutan’s Buddhist monasteries and Peru’s colonial churches. Worth mentioning Orthodox churches (although not in Golden […]

  32. […] travelogue: Chapter 32 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  33. Bhutan says:

    […] travelogue: Chapter 1 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  34. […] travelogue: Chapter 2 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  35. […] travelogue: Chapter 5 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  36. […] travelogue: Chapter 6 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  37. […] travelogue: Chapter 32 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  38. […] travelogue: Chapter 9 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  39. […] travelogue: Chapter 32 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  40. […] travelogue: Chapter 32 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

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  43. […] travelogue: Chapter 32 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  44. […] travelogue: Chapter 16 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  45. […] travelogue: Chapter 17 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  46. […] travelogue: Chapter 18 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  47. […] travelogue: Chapter 19 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  48. […] travelogue: Chapter 20 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  49. […] travelogue: Chapter 21 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  50. Paro says:

    […] travelogue: Chapter 22 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  51. […] travelogue: Chapter 232 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

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  53. […] travelogue: Chapter 26 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

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  55. […] travelogue: Chapter 28 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  56. […] travelogue: Chapter 29 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  57. Paro Valley says:

    […] travelogue: Chapter 25 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  58. […] travelogue: Read other chapters – See photo […]

  59. […] travelogue: Chapter 12 | Read other chapters – See photo […]

  60. […] my visit to Bhutan few years ago, I stumbled upon a village that had houses covered in huge murals depicting penises […]

  61. […] travelogue | Read other chapters – See photo […]

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