SOUND OF SI­LENCE

Malaysia Tatler - - LIFE -

Be gen­tle on my curves—read a sign along the wind­ing, moun­tain­side road as we made our way to our next stop, Pu­nakha. It is one of many creative (and of­ten rhyming) pro­nounce­ments of safety that you will find on the drive be­tween val­leys, a nec­es­sary jour­ney that holds sur­prises at ev­ery turn. The Dochula pass, in par­tic­u­lar, was a rev­e­la­tion. From the van­tage point of 3,000m high, you will en­counter a ma­jes­tic panorama of the snow-capped Hi­malayas. You will be hard-pressed to stop tak­ing pic­tures but it is worth savour­ing the feel­ing of be­ing hugged by moun­tains and breath­ing in the fresh­est air (one of the many things I wished I could take home). On our visit, we were also treated to an­other sur­prise—a chance to par­tic­i­pate in the lo­cal Druk Wangyel fes­ti­val where we got to meet and speak with Princess Ashi Sonam Dechen Wangchuck. The scenic drive was the ideal lead-up for the bu­colic Pu­nakha Val­ley, best known for its beau­ti­fully pre­served dzong—the sec­ond oldest and sec­ond largest in Bhutan—and the charm­ing river that runs through it. At just over 1,000m above sea level, a few days in Pu­nakha helps one ac­cli­ma­tise to the alti­tude as well as em­brace the coun­try’s lan­guid pace. Amankora’s lodge sits close to the banks of the Mochu river; in fact, one has to cross a foot­bridge lined with prayer flags to get to it. The day we ar­rived we en­joyed an in­ti­mate river­side pic­nic lunch against the nat­u­ral sound­track of wind rustling through leaves, chirp­ing birds perched on trees, and the placid flow of the wa­ter be­low. With the sun shin­ing above and a spread of fresh sal­ads and grilled dishes in front of us, it was the epit­ome of the per­fect pic­nic and one of the meals I trea­sure most dur­ing my visit to Bhutan. While the lodge sits on ex­pan­sive grounds, the struc­ture it­self is no­tably smaller than Paro and Thim­phu. It is, how­ever, more ex­posed to the el­e­ments—res­i­dent dog Chungku and the vil­lage cows seemed to

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