OFFBEAT WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI: VILLAGE WALK TO KAFURA IN MUKTESHWAR .

A casual walk in the villages of Kafura, Peora, Nolikan and Sonapani in Mukteshwar treated me with more surprises than I had anticipated. Out of these, I spent most time in Kafura. As I left Leela Orchards Home Stay, Sona Pani in Mukteshwar, within minutes I arrived at a cemented path way leading to the village. Thick forests of pine trees dotted the either side of the path way. A pair of birds, which I was unable to identify, sat atop a tall tree, filling the otherwise calm looking jungle with their shrill calls. The pathways were flooded with dry cones and dry leaves of pine trees. People from plains take these back home for decoration and other such frivolities. People from the village use the dry pine cones and leaves for bonfires and fuel for cooking.

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Me amidst pine trees in Kafura village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

DO YOU KNOW THE USES OF PINE TREE?

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Extraction of resin from a pine tree. In Kafura village near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

A mysterious object on the fringes of the path-way caught my attention. It was an unpolished metallic cone, smooth from outside, coarse from inside. I picked it up, trying to understand its purpose. Nearby, I saw some cuts on a tree. “An assault by a black bear?” I asked myself. A bear has no sense of design. A bear can’t scratch a tree in faultless symmetry.  A bear won’t stick a cone under the cut, eh! Turned out, the cones were the collection bowls used to store the resin dripping from the cuts of the pine tree. The cone is not tied but inserted in the cuts, the resin binding it naturally to the tree. The resin thus collected is used in making adhesives like Fevikwik and paints. A cone typically fills up within 20-30 days. Sometimes acid is applied to the cuts to hasten the process. I picked up a discarded metallic cone from the ground as a souvenir. Perhaps, I will make it a pen holder or a tooth brush holder and remember my trip every-time I use it. I didn’t know that pine trees produced resin. Mostly the much romanticized pine trees are actually disliked by the locals.

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One of the traditional house in Kafura Village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand
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Me lying on a bed of dry pine needles. On my way to Kafura near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar.

LYING DOWN ON A BED OF PINE NEEDLES AND SAYING HELLO TO GOATS!

Moving a little ahead, I came across a bed of dry pine needles. These are slippery and can cause a fall during trekking and hikes. I made a pit stop and decided to lie down on the bed, close my eyes and put my olfactory and hearing senses to work. Expecting it to be itchy, I was surprised to feel its soft, smooth texture under my back. A brief rest later, I was greeted by a herd of goats. I sat down on a rock. A credulous calf came running to me and buried his/her nose in my palms, looking for roti.  The adult goats grazed at grass dispassionately.  “Roti maang raha hai.”, (The calf is asking for roti) the lady shepherd told me in her indecipherable speech. It was hard to communicate with her due to her speech impairment. Though verbal communication was irrelevant! The lady handed me over some roti. The adult goats abandoned their pretense and rushed towards me, competing with the calf for that small piece of cooked wheat paradise. I have never tasted grass, but I am sure roti tastes better than grass. What did they say….The Roti…err….grass is always greener on the other side.

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Breaking a roti with goats with the lady shephard. On my way to village walk in Kafura. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

The pine forests gave way to a clearing. The cemented path-way disappeared. The large open field was utilized well by a gang of boys playing cricket. I turned left and discovered visually delighting paths. Big sized white stones were half buried in mud, making it perhaps, useful in the season of monsoon. Sometimes, the path was accompanied by walls of stones placed above each other. My most favourite part was when it took a U shape. The white peach flowers, the lone traditional house in the distance, the local women sitting and chatting made it all the more atmospheric.

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The U shaped path to Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards, Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

CONNECTING WITH THE LOCALS OF KAFURA, MUKTESHWAR NEAR LEELA ORCHARDS, SONAPANI.

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Bonding with local kids in Kafura Village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani, Mukteshwar

‘Jai Shree Gorakhnath Devta’, the board at a temple read. The brown exterior of the temple was complemented by a riot of pink peach flowers. The flowers were in abundance and added drama to the already picturesque views. I am told, people from all over the village come here during jagar. Dagariye come and sing in the night. They convey people’s problems to Gods. Every village has their own.  While I was immersed in silently admiring the yellow and pink flowers, rows of houses atop a mountain in the distance, the sounds and smells of the place, three shy village kids were staring curiously at me.  They would hide and seek, giggle when our eyes locked, unaware that the backdrop of the lovely village, their home, is making them all the more charming. A casual walk in the villages of Kafura left me with more memories than I had anticipated.

The view from my #SoulWindow is PICTURE POSTCARD PERFECT!

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The picturesque temple in Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

FAQ:

  • How to Reach Kafura near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • Where to stay in Kafura, Mukteshwar near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • When to visit Kafura, Mukteshwar near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • Why is Sonapani called as Sonapani (meaning Gold Water)

Pls click here for answers to above questions:

LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOMESTAY, MUKTESHAWAR, UTTARAKHAND

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Discover the former homes of Tagore and Mahadevi Verma near Aamari Resorts

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The entry point to Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

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LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY, AT MUKTESHWAR: WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN BUDGET!

A VACATION AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY AT SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR is a perfect weekend break from Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. It is managed by the cheerful Manvendra Singh Barathokey and his mother. It was such a great last minute decision to stop at this lovely home-stay in Mukteshwar. On recommendation by a friend I stayed here for 2 days clubbed with a satisfying trip to Nainital and Ramgarh. It was drizzling when I reached. (I visited in 1st week of March.) The next day it was a pleasant sunny weather.

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The 4 rooms of Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshawar in Uttarakhand. You can view Almora and the snow capped mountains from here. If lucky then rainbow as well.

Unfortunately I have stayed in only few home stays despite having traveling to more than 150 destinations since 2008. My lovely experience at Leela Orchards Sonapani is pushing me into trying more home stays in future. This wonderful property overlooks Himalayan range. It was such a memorable evening sitting with the family, sipping tea and talking about many interesting topics as bonfire warmed us. I learnt so much after this interaction. He educated me about the interesting details of local lifestyle and the centuries old temples in the vicinity.

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The living room of my ground floor ‘suite’ at Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar (Uttarakhand)

ACTIVITIES AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY makes you lazy. The nice weather, breath taking views right from the balcony of the room and the cozy rooms make you want to just sit and laze around. On the other hand, there are so many interesting things to do near the property that you will end up extracting yourself from the cozy bed. I spent much of the time exploring the pretty villages Peora, Nolikan and Kafura. The path to these villages was gorgeous. It was easy up and down hike lined with pine trees and white, pink and red flowers of fruits. I went in the month of March and in every direction I set my eyes there was a riot of color since it’s the flowering season.  I also walked in the jungle area behind the home stay and met a brave spunky lady who lives all alone in the middle of the jungle.

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Village walk in Kafura, Poera and Nolikan is possible near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

If you choose you can cook your own food at “Heere ki khan” using firewood and chulha (Traditional mud oven). Nature walk, birdwatching is also recommended here. You don’t even need to go anywhere. Just keep your eyes peeled and you will see exotic birds right outside your room. I was amazed to see a flock of gorgeous White Crested Laughing Thrush. Himalayan Spangle, Wild cock, Grey Headed Canary Flycatcher, Blue Capped Redstart, Himalayan Bulbul, Green Backed Tit, Black headed Jay, Barn Swallow are some of the other birds I spotted.

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This was my favourite part of the rooms at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar. I would sit and eat Maggi here, looking at the misty mountains. Or read a book.

One can also visit NGO Chirag and NGO Aarohi in Peora village. If you are fit, I would recommend an 8 kms long trek from Leela Orchards Sonapani to Mukteshwar temple. Visit to ancient Kapeelshwar Temple on river bed side is also a must. It is near a primary school. You can donate money and books to the school, if you wish. Within 40 kms of range, you can visit Jageshwar Temple, Chitai Temple, Sun Temple (In Almora), Kasar Devi Temple and Binsar.

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En route my walk to Kafura and Peora Village near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

THE ROOMS AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The rooms are large and cozy. True to its genre, the rooms exude a home like warmth. I told them it is like staying at a relative’s house. The wood paneling was soothing to the eyes. There are a total of 4 rooms in the home stay. 2 rooms are on the first floor while 2 rooms are in the ground floor. I stayed in the ground floor. The moment I entered the room, I took a pause in the drawing room before rushing to see the bed room. The drawing room delights with its thoughtfully done up furniture placement. 3 large windows overlooked the verdant valley and the distant mountains of Almora and others. Cushioned seats lined the windows. I would fold my legs on the couch, pull a blanket, slurp on my Maggi Noodles and hot tea while enjoying the misty views from the comfort of my room. It sure felt like home, though in an exotic location. At other times, I would sit by the window and read one of the many travel magazines so thoughtfully kept by the owners on a writing table nearby.

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Manvendra Singh Barathokey and his mother at Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-stay, Mukteshwar. In far distance is their ancestral home. (Pic: Leela Orchards)

The attached bedroom is large. The bed is King Size and is cozy. It has large windows and wood paneling. The charging points are next to the table. There is no dearth of cupboards and almirahs in the drawing room as well as the bedroom. When I entered the door of the attached bathroom, I was dumbfounded for 2 minutes. It was so huge that I was comparing its size to my first flat in Mumbai (I stayed in Mumbai from 2008 to 2015). Manvendra told me the same, “Travelers from Mumbai often tell me my entire flat is the size of this washroom.”

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Views of Almora during my village walk/trek in Poera and Nolikan near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

When I checked out the upper rooms, I found them equally good if a bit smaller. The drawing room disappeared. The size of room and washroom was a bit smaller. But it’s still great for 2-3 people. (Extra beds are available). The washroom has a back door about which Manvendra told me, “Guests love to open this door while brushing their teeth and shaving. It offers them views of the mountains.” The reduced indoor space is compensated with even more grander views of the valley below. There is ample space in the large terrace and I am sure it serves as a perfect private space for families and friends. I also took the stairs to the rooftop in the night. Almora city was all lit. The lights made the city look like a giant glittery fish. As if the construction on hills was done to make it look like a fish.

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Manvendra at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

HOW DID SONA PANI GET ITS NAME? THE FAMILY HAS AN INTERESTING TALE TO TELL:

Leela Orchard Sonapani has an old natural spring in the middle of the property. The area is named Sona Pani (Literal meaning: Gold water) because of the perceived medicinal properties of the natural spring water. The folklore has it that during the British Raj era, some British army officers from a cantonment nearby tasted the water while crossing the ridge. Impressed with the quality of the water, during much of the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, ponies and horses were employed to supply the water from this natural spring to the British officers of the nearest army garrison which was Almora.

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Captain Kushal Singh Barathokey. He gave Sona Pani its name. (Credit: Leela Orchards

Captain Kushal Singh Barathokey was one of those officers. He was a much feted soldier of the 3rd Queen Alexandria’s Gurkha rifles. Upon his retirement, the British asked him to select land of his choice. Of all the land Captain Barathokey chose this particular land and christened it ‘Sonapani Estate’. The subsequent generations took care of the land. Manvendra sure is a deserving inheritor of the land.

Manvendra’s grandmother, a housewife was a dynamic lady. There is an old family house near the Leela Orchards Sonapani home-stay. When this house was built, Sona Pani area was a dense forest frequented by fierce tigers. While the house was being built, she used to stand at the construction site, holding the rifle for the safety of workers. She used to say to workers, “If being a lady I can stand here with a rifle, what’s making you so scared to build a house here?” She used to come all the way from Almora to Sonapani on a horse for the construction of the house.

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Great Grandmother of Manvendra from Nepal. Leela Orchards Sona Pani, Mukteshwar (Pic credit: Leela Orchards)

The dining room of Leela Orchards Sonapani is decorated with the many hats collected from India and other countries. It is the part of the collection of Manvendra’s father. Manvendra’s father Late Shri Dipendra Singh Barathokey was a businessman. The Leela Orchards was his brainchild. He may not be around but his legacy lives through the property. Manvendra’s father was born around the same time the ancestral home opposite the home-stay was built. He later named the home-stay after the name of Manvendra’s grandmother.

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Delicious Steamed Rice, Bhat Ki Dal, Saag, Badi at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand. I also ate maduwe ki roti with ghee and jaggery.

THE FOOD AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

Me along-with Manvendra, his mother and his cute cat sat together next to a bonfire in the

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How about dining al fresco, next to an earthen oven. At Leela Orchards, Sonapani, Mukteshwar

night. We talked for hours, losing track of time. Manvendra is the go to person if you want to learn about the local culture. Despite his young age, he had answers to all my questions. We sat at the canopied open area just outside the kitchen and the dining hall. The family, staff and the pet cat stay in this part of the resort. The conversations were followed by a delicious home cooked dinner including hot maduwe ki roti, smeared with ghee (Clarified butter) and jaggery. On the next day, I demanded to eat more local meals. I was served delicious bhat ki dal, mixed green leaves saag, home-made pickles, fruit chutney (I over ate) and badi in a mildly spicy curry. It was a very satisfying meal which left me begging for more. There is a large kitchen garden near the home-stay where the family grows vegetables, fruits and more. You feel the difference in the food since it is all organic. It’s enriching experiences such as these which keep me motivated to travel. The warmth of the family has made this trip special.

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My room in Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The home-stay promotes treks, long walks and communing with nature, none of which makes you guilty of adding carbon footprints. I was also delighted to see bottles of filtered water and not mineral water bottles which generate plastic. All the food that you eat is pesticide food and organic. Little initiatives like these go a long way in creating a better planet. I request that if you go there, please pack all the plastic which you generated and bring it back to the city and dispose. I myself collected all the chips and wafers packets which I brought along and stashed them in my bag. It is always good to clean your own mess.

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Late Shree Dipendra Singh Barathokey with his pet dogs at Leela Orchards, Sona Pani in Mukteshwar

BEST TIME TO VISIT LEELA ORCHARDS, SONA PANI, MUKTESHWAR:

March and April: I went in March and the entire area was a surreal landscape. It is the flowering season and I could see rows of red, pink, white, yellow flowers in whichever direction I set my eyes on.

Mid May to July: It is fruit season. Expect trees laden with peach, apricots, apples and much more.

July and August: Monsoon is a great time to explore the rich flora and fauna of the area. I was shown some monsoon pictures which made me think of planning a visit again in monsoon.
September to January: Best season to see clear views of the Himalayan range is from

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This old mansions is the ancestral property of the owners of Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

HOW TO REACH LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

  • I reached Bhatelia via bus (Rs.35) from Malla Ramgarh Bazar area. I started at 11:30 a.m. and reached 12:15 p.m. Just a little ahead of Bhatelia is Mukteshwar main market. Plenty of shared cars were available at Bhatelia.
  • I booked a reserved taxi to the home-stay on the spot for Rs. 500. If you take right just ahead of Mukteshwar Market, a check post of IVRI campus (Vet College) appears. As you drive from Bhatelia, you will arrive Sitla after 9 kms. The home-stay is 5 kms from Sitla. The Leela Orchards, Sonapani is 30 minutes away from Bhatelia by cab.
  • Landmark: Ask for Satkhol Himalayan Ashram anyone. There is a main gate to the ashram. After entering the gate, If you take the road on right hand side, you will reach the home-stay after 2 kms. It is the last construction in this direction. You can drive upto the home-stay. The roads are great through most of the journey except the last 2 kms. Tip: Public transport is available from the road outside the Ashram. The frequency is low. On return, I waited for the 2 p.m. direct bus to Bhowali which took me 2 hrs. From Bhowali, I took shared cab to Nainital and then to New Delhi. Bhowali to Nainital is 20 minutes and costs Rs.20 in shared cab. Nainital to New Delhi via Govt bus starts at 9 p.m. from Nainital bus stand and reaches 6 a.m. at Anand Vihar, New Delhi.

Alternatively, book a reserved taxi from Nainital/Haldwani/Almora/Kathgodam/Ramgarh. The home-stay also arranges pre booked taxi on demand.

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Village walk to Kafura Village near Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

WHAT IS THE COST OF ROOM AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

The pricing is reasonable and affordable since the tariff is inclusive of bed tea, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, all taxes for 2 pax. This makes it ideal for couples, family, friends and corporate trips. If you go dutch with a friend it is an even more economical option since the cost is split into two. It can’t get more affordable than this.

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Grandmother of Manvendra, Leela Orchards Sonapani home-stay, Mukteshwar is named after her by Manvendra’s father (Pic: Leela Orchards)

PLAN A VACATION. DISCOVER THESE PLACES NEAR LEELA ORCHARDS, SONA PANI, MUKTESHAWAR:

MYGRATION STORIES- WHY IS THIS BRAVE LADY LIVING ALONE IN A FOREST IN MUKTESHWAR

LUXURY WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN RAMGARH NEAR NAINITAL

The view from my #SoulWindow is full of warmth!

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“Some people have the entire flat the size of this washroom in Mumbai.” The huge wash room of Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

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The Himalayan Range as seen from Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar (Credit: Leela Orchards)

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

Quick-Guide : Must Do Things in Thimphu, Bhutan with 30 Exclusive pictures!

Of all the cities I have been to in Bhutan, Thimphu had the most modern amenities and yet it seemed like a charming small town when compared to my country India. The many gushing water streams and water falls on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway gave way to multi story apartments as we entered Thimphu. A little taken aback and disappointed to see ‘modernity’, my nerves were calmed when the guide (and now friend) Karma told me, “Only upto 5 stories are allowed in Thimphu since it is in the Himalayan Earthquake prone zone.” I was impressed that despite the frills of modernity the capital city of Bhutan has been able to preserve its culture and traditional way of living. It is always heartening to learn that how Bhutan does it right. Every single time! Here are the important sites I visited:

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Bird’s view eye of Thimphu city

Changangkha Lhakhang :

Lhakhang means a temple in local language. It is the oldest temple of Thimphu dating back to 12th century. As I climbed up the steps, a fat black dog refused to welcome me. He was a typical Bhutanese Dog, lazy, content and sleepy. I stopped and soaked in the views of the city from the top. As I entered the central courtyard, I found myself caught in a flurry of activity. Turned out some important religious ceremony was going to be held in few hours.  An ornamental empty chair addressed the many chairs in front of it. I salivated at the half eaten red rice and moved to turn the huge prayer bell at a corner. The unusual black and gold Prayer wheels at Back Kora (aka Pilgrims path) caught my attention. Most tourists miss it but I recommend it for its uniqueness and the sweeping views from the top.

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The entrance
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The courtyard (Preparation of a ceremony is on)
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Huge prayer bells

Motithang Takin Preserve:

I was excited to see the weird looking animals unique to Bhutan and Tibet. The national animal of Bhutan looks like as if the head of a goat is fixed upon the body of a cow. The animals are of no use to humans. In a way they are ‘useless’ to humans. However the government protects and respects the bizarre animal. Initially they were kept in a mini zoo but later released on ethical grounds. However, the animals strayed in the main city area. Thus, it was decided to shelter them in a large enclosure in their natural habitat. It was amusing to see them lazing around in the company of more active species such as Sambhar and barking deer.

Pic Above : Takin (Click to enlarge)

Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha:

You can see this statue from most of the places in Thimphu. Even from the suite at Taj Tashi where Indian PM Mr Narendra Modi stayed during his visit. It is one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world not for nothing. I almost felt as if the Lord Buddha was watching over the entire city of Thimphu. The 51.5 meters tall Buddha is made of bronze, gilded in gold. The (good looking) asuras surround the Buddha Statue with offerings in their hands. A board near the entrance tells me that it is adjacent to the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. Owing to its height it is too windy and one gets the best views of the Thimphu city from here.

c Sakyamuni Buddha

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(L to R – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree, Swati, me)
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The ‘asuras’ with their offerings to the Buddha!

Tashichhoe Dzong:

This massive Fort cum administrative centre exists in the most important area of Thimphu. Built near the Royal palace and the Parliament. The dzong (Fort) serves as the administrative centre as well as the spiritual hub of the city. Since many offices run in the premises, the Dzong is open for only 1 hour in the evening, i.e., 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Owing to its location, it is a high security zone. All the gadgets are screened before you are allowed in. Also one is allowed to take pictures of the Parliament from the top of stairs at the security check point. It is suggested that one reaches early so that one gets to spend maximum time inside the Dzong. Avoid wearing Shawls since you would be most probable asked to take it down. The inner courtyard houses many impressive buildings. Take time to notice the many painting and carvings on the wall.

d Tashichhoe Dzong (6)d Tashichhoe Dzong (7)d Tashichhoe Dzong (8)

Pics above (Tashichhoe Dzong)

Zilukha Nunnery:

Also known as Thangthong_Dewachen_Nunnery or Drubthob Goemba is a religious building run by nuns. An impressive chorten welcomes you. Nice place for those who like quiet a not many tourists go here. The view of the Thimphu city and the Tashichhoe Dzong are impressive from here. A stop here is a must!

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Zilukha Nunnery
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View of Thimphu from a road near Zilukha Nunnery

Memorial Chorten It attracts people from all over Thimphu and beyond. Many people, especially elderly come here to pray, meditate and socialize. Some even bring along tiffin since they stay here all day. It’s great for people watching or even join the pilgrims as they circumambulate around the impressive chorten. Bhutan doesn’t have beggers. However, you will meet some Buddhists who beg for alms! Do contribute if you can. It was walking distance from my hotel. I passed by the Indian military hospital and as I approach the memorial, the first thing that strikes me was its golden spires. This Tibetan style stupa was built in 1974 in the memory of third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. As you walk in, the huge prayer wheels on the left vie for the attention and so does the impressive white Stupa buzzing with religious activities. I recommend that you walk into the room where hundreds of butter lamps are lighted daily.

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The butter lamps and the devotees at Memorial Chorten
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Memorial Chorten is great for people watching
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The grandma trying to convince the grumpy kid of Bhutan’s happiness quotient!!

The National Folk Heritage Museum: It is a great place to sample authentic Bhutanese cuisine. You can try the alcoholic drink ara here. The meal starts here with Bhooja (Much like the Indian version) and crunchy cornflakes. I recommend you order buckwheat pancakes (goes with a very spicy salad they make), Ema Datshi and a spinach saag I loved eating there. The place also houses a model of traditional Bhutanese home with each section explaining what that particular room is used for. In many rural areas in Bhutan such homes are still the norm.

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The hostess at National Folk Heritage Museum serving us ‘ara’, a local alcohol. It had a strong flavour.
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The dining area at national Folk Heritage Museum. Authentic style! In case you can’t sit on floor there is a sit out area in the garden too!

The Royal Textile Academy: You will be ushered to view a brief documentary on the sartorial traditions of Bhutan. Watch if you have time. Next you can head to the museum to understand the textiles of Bhutan well. The museum houses many variations of gho and kira, traditional dresses for men and women, respectively, in Bhutan. You can also buy many hand made garments/wallets/knick knacks or watch the women weave in a separate room on the ground floor, just across the courtyard.

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Weavers at work in Royal Textile Academy
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Inside Royal Textile Academy

GPO: Visit the GPO in case the idea of a personal postage stamp excites you. You can turn a picture of yours into a postage stamp and send it back home on a postcard.

Norzin Lam: The most vibrant lane of Thimphu. A walk here is a must. Evening time, just before the sunset is the best. You can shop for knick knacks, eat at fancy restaurants, loiter around the Clock Tower (If you are lucky you might catch an al fresco music concert here). A late night stroll promises equal fun. The nightlife of Thimphu is vibrant. If you are teetotaler a thick hot Thukpa soup (Nu 20) wil warm your cockles. Many vendors sell it by the roadside. Alcohol lovers can go on pub hopping trail or visit the secret dance bars called Drayangs for an authentic local experience. READ ABOUT DRAYANGS HERE. Try to time your Thimphu visit on a weekend. The mood is more upbeat on Saturday and Sundays. The handicraft market sandwiched between Norzin Lam and Taj Tashi is a must visit.

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Buy interesting souvenirs from the handicraft market, yes a phallus too!
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Handicrafts market!

Pub Trail: I visited 2 pubs and was impressed by the nightlife of Thimphu. The city which appeared calm in the day light revealed its wild side to me. The youngsters ditch the traditional costumes for western outfits, groove to western and Bollywood numbers with abandon and guzzle their beer unapologetically. The cigarettes, which is banned in public areas in Bhutan also show up in discreet corners. I enjoyed dancing away the night at Viva City. There is a live bar here and open air sit outs where I enjoyed conversations as it drizzled lightly. Walking distance from here is Mojo Park where I and my friends glued ourselves to the sofas as the local band belted one chartbuster after the another. Someone told me that a member of the Royal Family of Bhutan was sitting close to us.

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The locals join us 5 at the Mojo Park
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Live performances at Mojo Park

Disclaimer: My trip was sponsored and all the logistics were taken care of by Bhutan Bookings. Click here to plan your vacation in Bhutan with them.

I was accompanied by travel bloggers – Dipanshu, Manjulika, Parnashree and Swati in the fun company of Sonam Karma and Dipanjan from Bhutan Bookings. Click on their names to read their stories from Bhutan.

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The official buildings near Tashichhoe Dzong!

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Tashichhoe Dzong : A bird’s eye view!

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

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A local man contemplating at a shopping complex opposite GPO. You read it right! A Shopping Complex!