Bhutan Tour

Bhutan – Land of the Thunder Dragon  April 1-13, 2016

“The diminutive Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is a spiritual sanctuary, enriched by the thoughts and actions of generations of Buddhist practitioners and their enduring intensity of faith; an ecological enclave, where geographical circumstance and human humility have united to preserve an abundant, multi-layered, undistracted environment; a secluded land, occupying a precarious niche in a fast encroaching modern world.” – John Jigme

Join Sheena Singh on her first visit to the last remaining Tibetan Buddhist Kingdom – Bhutan. On our travels we explore sacred temples and monasteries and enjoy active day hikes with Sheena.

 

Days 1 & 2
U.S. TO DELHI, India Depart your home city for Asia. International airfare and en route stopovers are not included in your trip price. This trip begins with the flight to Bhutan from Delhi.
Most airline schedules necessitate an overnight en route to Bhutan. If your schedule permits, you may appreciate an extra night or two in downtown Delhi to recuperate from your long travels. Reconnection Journeys is happy to assist you with booking your hotel stays en route.
This trip begins with the flight to Bhutan from Delhi.

Bhutan monks

 Day 3
ARRIVAL IN PARO (7,400 feet)
Today early in the morning we fly to Paro, Bhutan on Druk Air from Delhi. If the weather is clear for the flight, we may see Kangchenjunga, Mt. Everest, and Chomolhari, Bhutan’s sacred mountain. On arrival in Paro, pass through customs and immigration to meet our Trip Leader and staff directly outside the Customs Hall. Our first stop is Ta Dzong, a circular fortress that once protected this valley from Tibetan invasion. The impressive watchtower sits above Paro Rimpung Dzong commanding sweeping views of the valley. Bhutan’s dzongs originally served three purposes: as a fortress, an administrative center of local government, and a residence and focus for the monks’ religious activity.  The watchtower now houses a National Museum featuring costumes from different regions of Bhutan and  a wonderful collection of thangkas (thangka loosely translates as “something that can be rolled up”),  religion paintings depicting buddhas, bodhisattvas, or aspects of the Buddhist wheel of life.

 The afternoon is free for individual exploration of Paro. Enjoy the opportunity to stretch your legs and explore before enjoying a festive welcome dinner.

Paro

 Day 4
PUNAKHA   After a leisurely morning, we continue our drive west towards the market town of Wangdiphodrang. A 5-6 hour drive brings us to the green terraced fields of Punakha. Our first stop is the impressive dzong. Punakha is the ancient capital of Bhutan. Its massive dzong sits at the confluence of the Po (male) and Mo (female) rivers. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built it in 1647and it is the winter home of the Central Monk Body. The monks move from Thimphu to Punakha for winter as the lower elevation creates more temperate climes.

Bumthang

 

Time permitting, enjoy a pleasant hike to Chimi Lhakhang, a small temple dedicated to one of Bhutan’s favorite saints, the “divine mad monk” Drukpa Kinley. Nearly 500 years ago, this region was the stomping ground of the unconventional monk who taught Buddhist dharma by employing shocking and ribald humor. The landscape is dotted with evidence of his abiding influence, and legends of his exploits are still told by local villagers.

 Day 5
BUMTHANG   

We have two full days to enjoy the Bumthang Valley, noted as one of the most beautiful and sacred in Bhutan. The history of this valley is replete with the visits of Padmasambhava as he brought the Buddha’s message to Bhutan. He meditated in many local caves that now have temples and shrines associated with them.

This morning we will begin our walking circumambulation of the valley, visiting the most important temples and holy sites. Kurje Lhakhang, a 17th-century temple, now features a spectacular new monastery built in traditional style. From Kurje, we begin our rambles through the countryside, crossing a footbridge over rushing Chamkhar Chu and wending our way through the ripening paddy fields to Tamshing. Tamshing was founded in 1501 by one of Bhutan’s most famous saints, Pemalingpa, “the treasure discoverer.”  We end our walk with a visit to the Swiss Project – a cottage industry producing cheese, beer, apple juice,  and honey.

 Day 6
BUMTHANG Today we visit Membartsho, the “burning lake” – a sacred place associated with Pemalingpa. Membartsho is not actually a lake but rather a water-worn defile in a granite streambed where the water moves slowly. Legend has it that Pemalingpa had a vision in which Padmasambhava instructed him to retrieve a ter, or hidden treasure, from this spot. He dove into the water holding a lamp (a lamp that miraculously stayed lit) and returned with texts and treasures of the Guru. Ters are an important aspect of Mahayana Buddhism as they provide a continual stream of teaching and revelation to future generations. Pemalingpa was one of the greatest tertons (treasure finders).

Near Membartsho, we stop at Pemacholing, a wonderful new nunnery that offers local women a chance to study Buddhism. We spend at least half a day here with the nuns and their pupils hearing about their lives and spiritual aspirations.

 Day 7
PHOBJIKHA Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and views of the valley from our lodge. Our first stop today is to explore the Gangteng Gompa. The monastery is under complete renovation. Its golden roof  has been removed for this purpose. Artisans and woodworkers, the very best of their schools, are hard at work on the facades of the new monastery. We stop to visit magnificent gompa and spend time with the resident monks. We will have a private tour with head lama Ganteng Tulku  Rinpoche, who is the ninth incarnation of the body of Pema Lingpa, and certainly hear  all the details of the gompa restoration work that has been taking place here for years!

Phobjikha

The lineage of Pema Lingpa dates back to the 9th century, to the time when Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche, first brought Vajrayana Buddhism from India to the lands of Tibet and Bhutan. Guru Rinpoche’s vast activities there were of mythic proportion, and were the basis for the wheel of secret mantra to be turned. Though able to subdue pervasive negative forces–both cultural and mystical–in order for the doctrine to take hold, Guru Rinpoche could foresee obstacles that would hinder the Dharma in coming generations, when the teachings would become confused and  separated from their essential instructions. To mitigate this, he blessed the region with termas (hidden treasure-teachings) to be revealed in the future for the benefit of sentient beings. The most profound and subtle of these were the teachings on Atiyoga, or dzogchen.

Born amidst auspicious signs in 1450, in Bhutan’s Bumthang Valley, Pema Lingpa was a descendent of tantric practitioners of the Nyingma Lineage. As a child he had a commanding demeanor and chose his course early. Learning was effortless, whether reading and writing or ironwork and carpentry. His formal religious training was not extensive, but from his early adult years onward his dreams and visions became the source from which he received instructions to ex tract 108 great treasures–texts and relics—throughout Bhutan and parts of Tibet and India. However, due to the karmic disposition of beings at that time, Pema Lingpa revealed only 32 of the prophesized treasures. The revealed treasures of Pema Lingpa contain the essence of all 108 treasures, which are summarized in the cycles of the three heart practices transmitted to Princess Pemasel by Guru Rinpoche (Lama Jewel Ocean, Samantabhadra’s Intentions, and the Great  Compassionate One).

One of Pema Lingpa’s most renowned revelations happened in Bhutan at Mebartso (Burning Lake), where, with a large crowd gathered, Pema Lingpa leaped into the deep water with a burning butter lamp in his hand, later emerging with a terma in one hand and the still burning butter lamp in the other. His profuse and enlightened activities magnetized a following of ordinary folk as well as many significant political and spiritual figures of his time.  Today Pema Lingpa’s lineage is carried on through three lines of Body, Speech, and Mind emanations:  the Gangteng, Sungtrul, and Tukse Rinpoches, all of whom currently reside in Bhutan. Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche, the founder of Yeshe Khorlo and Abbott of Gangteng Monastery, is the ninth Body incarnation of Pema Lingpa.

 Day 8
PHOBJIKHA
Free day.

 Day 9
PHOBJIKHA/THIMPHU (7,700 feet) After breakfast we return to the capital. The drive takes approximately 3-4 hours. As Bhutan’s largest city, with a current population of approximately 70,000 Thimphu is Bhutan’s “Big Apple”! It is the seat of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the home of the Royal Family and the main center for most international aid organizations. As the only true “city” in Bhutan, it is a unique mix of Himalayan and Western sensibilities.

We begin our exploration with a visit to the Bhutan Heritage Museum. This wonderful museum provides an opportunity to step inside a typical Bhutanese household and experience first hand the intimacy of daily life in Bhutan. It features utensils used in farming to those used in cooking, religious ritual and everyday life. Next we stop at the new Textile Museum.  Cultures around the world have developed ways of producing cloth, and Bhutan’s textiles are unique for their diversity and sophistication. The Textile Museum explores this dynamic craft in depth. The ground floor introduces the skills of spinning and coloring fibers, preparing a loom, and the everyday uses of textiles for such things as clothing, ceremony, blankets and other utilitarian functions.  The upper floor illustrates the diversity of Bhutan’s textile arts, and contains special exhibits featuring regional garments, as well as masterpieces produced by local weavers.  The upper floor illustrates the diversity of Bhutan’s textile arts, and contains special exhibits featuring  regional garments, as well as masterpieces produced by local weavers.

Nest

 Day 10
THIMPHU / HIKE TO TAKTSANG After an early hearty breakfast, we depart for the drive back to Paro to make a pilgrimage to one of the most important religious sites in the Himalaya: Taktsang Lhakhang.  Also known as The Tiger’s Nest, this magical monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. The legend of Taktsang dates back to 747 AD when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) is believed to have arrived at this site on the back of a tiger to subdue the evil spirits in the region.  We drive to the trailhead and begin  hiking up the mountain for a closer  view of the temple. In approximately one hour we reach a small tea house with wonderful panoramic view of the temple. For those interested, you may hike another hour (each direction) to reach the small chorten directly across from the temple. Those not interested may relax at the tea house and enjoy the view.

 Day 11
EXPLORING PARO We have a full day to enjoy the sites of Paro. This morning we visit Kyichu Lhakhang (lhakhang means “temple”). Kyichu is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan (the other being Jambey Lhakhang in Bumthang) built circa 750 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. The king pledged to build l08 temples to the Buddha during his lifetime and Kyichu is believed to hold down the left foot of an ogress whose body covers Bhutan and most of eastern Tibet.

 Day 12
PARO   This morning we visit the massive Tashichho Dzong, the “fortress of the glorious religion”. This vast building, constructed totally by hand and without a single nail, is home to government offices, the King’s audience chambers, the Je Khempo – head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Mahayana Buddhism in Bhutan, the National Assembly, a multitude of temples and many, many monks.
Depending on group interests (and time available), we may also visit:

    >The Royal Silver and Goldsmiths and the handmade paper factory
    >Game enclosure overlooking Thimphu to view takins
    >The Archery grounds (where you might catch an archery match
    A farewell dinner with our drivers, guides and fellow group members.

 Day 13
DEPART BHUTAN Today depart the Land of the Thunder Dragon for  Delhi.

 Land Price:  $2700
Single supplement  $1690
Druk Air: Delhi – Paro – Delhi $605. (Not Included)
Visa $40.00
 
Cost Includes:
 Airport meeting and assistance upon arrival and departure
>Accommodation at all hotels on twin sharing basis and internal flights
>Meals as outlined in the itinerary as (B) Buffet breakfast, (L) Lunch and (D) Dinner.
>Taxes and service charges at hotels
>All transfers to or from hotels, excursions by large coach
>Entrance fees to monuments
>Accompanied by tour organizer Sheena Singh AND a tour escort/guide.  There will be local guides at some of the places.
All tips, gratuities, portage. Tip extra for the tour escort/guide.

 Not included items:
 Airline ticket – International
Individual airport meeting, assistance and transfer 
Trip Cancellation Insurance – highly recommended