Bhutan Day 3: The Day We Met the King
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
THIMPHU - DOCHULA - PUNAKHA
We were leaving the capital, Thimphu for Punakha today. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955. With slightly more than 70 km between the old and new capitals, our journey would take 3 hours easily through bumpy roads that were carved through mountains and valleys. Definitely not the easiest or most comfortable journey to look forward to.
Our next stop was none other than the renowned and majestic Punakha Dzong. It is the administrative centre for Punakha district. It was also the venue for the wedding of the current King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and his fiancée, Jetsun Pema in 2011.
Completed in 1638, it is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan. With its grand scale, beautiful proportions, and spectacular details, the Punakha Dzong was indeed a sight to behold.
Meeting the Dragon King
To our pleasant surprise, the charismatic and well-loved King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was visiting Punakha Dzong when we were there! We had been hoping to meet the beautiful royal couple and it was a dream come true! Well, it was half the dream as the Queen wasn't with him, unfortunately.
Moments before the King's arrival, the royal security had prohibited anyone from leaving. Everyone had to line up along two sides of the square courtyard as seen in the photo below, and we were standing on the side where photo was taken. Strictly, no photos were allowed and this was a quick-snap while we were waiting for the Dragon King's arrival.
We were amazed by how friendly the King was! To our surprise, after he had entered the courtyard, he started walking away from his entourage and bodyguards alone towards all of us and started asking where we had came from. Humorously, he made a comment that he couldn't tell who was a local and who wasn't due to the Gho and Kira many tourists were wearing. And he parted with a smile and polite greeting, "Very nice meeting you all here", followed by prayer-like hand greeting to his face.
As he turned his back on us, fluttering his bright saffron Kabney in the Himalayan breeze and started walking into the building, we could still hear our heartbeats and everyone was speechless for a moment. It was a moment of disbelief that we came this far with a ridiculous hope to meet the King and it did happen on our third day!
This fabulous day would not be complete without some local beer to celebrate our chance encounter with the Dragon King. Everyone was still in a state of awe and disbelief that we had indeed met the King on this very day! Long live to His Majesty! Cheers!