Monasteries, Nunneries & Darts in Bhutan

After an interesting first day in Punakha, Bhutan, we started our second day with a trip to the weekend farmers market. We tip-toed our way through colourful local produce including fiery chills, overflowing sacks of red rice and prickly bitter gourd. Our amazing guide Tharchu from Happiness Journey Bhutan explained some of the more unusual items to us and how the locals would cook them.

The second stop was back into the mountains to visit the Nalanda Buddhist Institute.  Perched at the edge of a crumbling mountain road, we had this monastic school to ourselves as seemingly most of the monks were off playing football.  

It is not uncommon for poor families in Bhutan to send their children to monastic school as here they will receive a free education, lodging and food.  Inside one of the temples, we watched as the young monks were carving butter sculptures that would be later presented as offerings.

Lunch that day was another glorious Bhutanese feast of red rice, curry, noodles, vegetable/cheese stew and fried aubergines.  All to set us up for a beautiful hike up the Punakha valley to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten.  

It was built by Queen Mother and dedicated to the King and for the well-being of Bhutanese. The uphill walk takes 45 minutes and the views from the top of the temple over the fields, farmhouses and river are incredible.

Driving back to our hotel, our guide Tharchu asked if we’d like to see locals playing darts, another national sports. Picturing a typical British pub scene of pint in hand, throwing a dart to a board a few meters away, we agreed (wondering just how interesting this could be). Transpires Bhutanese darts (khuru) is AWESOME.  These guys hurl metal projectiles over 20 meters away with mad skills.  Team mates stand nonchalantly next to the tiny target, watching as the opposition chuck the darts their way.  Eventually tearing ourselves away, we also got the chance to see some locals partaking in archery along the banks of the river. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan, with the distance to the target a whopping 145m away.

Tharchu asked if we had room for one more visit in us, this time to the Sangchhen Dorji nunnery, close to our hotel.  We were lucky enough to visit this tranquil spot during late afternoon prayer times. Watching the young nuns chanting was incredibly moving and serene.

That night we dined again at our hotel, the Dhensa and watched another fun performance of local Bhutanese dancing.  We barely made it to 9pm, lulled to sleep by memories of nuns chanting, football playing monks and insane dart throwing.


For more on our Bhutan travel adventure check out:

Paddy Fields & Phalluses in Punakha

Visiting the nation’s capital, Thimphu in Bhutan

Flying to Bhutan

Planning a trip to Bhutan

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