Our day began with early morning photos of the Punakha valley…waking at 5:00AM, looking out to a fog-filled valley was quite wonderful.
We headed back toward Thimphu and made a side trip to a nunnery, Sangchen Dorji Lhundrup Choling College. When we arrived the nuns were learning grammar by singing the various rules of grammar out loud. Each nun was situated in her own spot around the campus, and each was singing a section of the grammar book. Maybe that is a great way to actually learn grammar! Who knew?
The thing that makes this nunnery interesting is the shrine room with a huge sculpture of Avalokitshevara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The sculpture shows the bodhisattva with 11 heads, 1000 arms and 1000 eyes. As the story goes, the eyes and arms are for searching for people who have fallen into hell because of their various deeds and pulling them out of hell back into the world. The eleven heads are said to come from the fact that because so many people fall into hell, the bodhisattva needed more to be able to find all of the beings thrown into the lower realms because of their deeds and karma.
In addition, the grounds of the campus include a reconstruction and replica of the great stupa in Nepal, Boudhanath.
The nunnery sits atop a hill overlooking the Punakha Chu river and can be seen for miles around the valley….in fact, you can see the stupa on the road from Thimphu to Punakha (if the clouds cooperate).
We had the chance to talk to a nun working on her art class. She was replicating the various graphic styles used to decorate the walls of the shrine room as well as practice freehand drawing the lotus flowers. She spends about two hours each day just learning about drawing and painting. Very cool.
Our ride back to Thimphu was as bouncy as before (maybe a little less muddy!) and we made it back to Thimphu. Halle and Natascha wandered around the town in the afternoon.
In the evening, we went to Cloud 9 Gourmet Burger and Milk Bar, a really wonderful bakery, restaurant, and coffee bar. The food is exceptional and the veggie burger I had (hand made in the restaurant) was excellent. Natascha and Halle had BURGERS of all things (!) and said they were great. I do think, however, the French Fries were the highlight of this visit with red chili dipping sauce.
We are headed to the Haa Valley and the Haa Valley festival today. We are checking out a local farm house converted to accommodate small groups. This spot could be a great spot to stay on a future trip.