A large population of Bhutanese society still reside in rural regions and to truly experience the traditional culture and the wonderful nature that this country is blessed with, a travel to rural Bhutan is a must.
Like so many other visitors with limited time to venture out far north or maybe do a Jomolhari trek, the best option for those on a one week in Bhutan trip like me is the scenic Phobjikha Valley or popularly known as Gangtey, after Gangtey Goempa, a monastery that sits on the ridge of the valley.
Located in Wangdue Phodrang District, Gangtey Goempa is an old monastery built in the 17th century, situated in a prime location- sitting atop of a hill, overlooking the surrounding valley and the small village below.
The monastery complex consists of prayer halls, monk’s quarters and meditation centers, with white-washed walls and elaborately decorated and colorful wooden windows and doors, Gangtey Goempa is the location of one of the best Tsechu (festival) in Bhutan, the Black-Crane Festival, which marks the migration of the black-necked crane birds from the Tibetan plateau during the winter months of November to March.
I wanted to see the elegant black-necked crane which can only be found in this part of the world and it is one of the primary reason why I decided to go to Gangtey despite being warned of possible delay and roadblocks due to on-going road works going to the valley .
It is hard to spot the crane from afar, so it would be best to come with a good binoculars. While for those who are arriving off-season, the Black-Necked Crane Information Centre is the best place to learn more about the birds, their migration and various ways to help on their conservation.
Taking on the easy two hour trek known as the Gangtey Nature Trail is the best way to see Phobjikha Valley, a vast u-shaped valley surrounded by irregularly formed Himalayan mountain range carved by glacial activity.
The nature trail starts at from the Gangtey Goempa and ends in Khwe Lhakhang, passing by grass planes, farm houses and dense forest of pine trees, then finally reaching a vast open space of the wide and flat valley.
Walking along Phobjikha Valley is a humbling experience, for it is one of those rare places that has a power to lift you up, to make you truly aware of your existence and to appreciate all over again the grandness of nature.
The next day I woke up earlier than the usual, I decided to walk outside and to see the valley once again.
This is one of the many images of Bhutan that will stay with me and one of the many that I will seek in my memory, whenever I needed some reminder of the beautiful world out there.