A day with the Goh and How Family: Visiting Phobjikha Valley


Last Sunday, at around 4 pm, the Goh and the How family arrived in Bhutan. Along with the guide and the driver, I received them. I was excited and nervous as it was my first time traveling with Little Bhutan, and I had had a hefty meal of Sikam. When the family arrived, the guide hadn’t returned from the washroom, so it was the driver, Deepak, and I who disorientedly welcomed them by offering khadar, a welcome scarf. When the guide returned, our journey started.

First Stop

On the way to Thimphu, we stopped at Tamchu Lhakhang, which is a fifteen-minute drive from the airport. The guide, whom I call Au (brother) Sonam, said that it would be good for the guests to stretch after a long flight, even though their flight was not more than five hours. After getting out of the car, we crossed the river via a suspension bridge, made partly from the materials of the original 600-year-old bridge located next to the new bridge. The bridge was built by Bhutan’s leading lama Thangtong Gyalpo.


In Thimphu, the guests stayed at the Seven Suites hotel in Olakha. There wasn’t much talking during the journey. However, on the way to Thimphu, one of the guests asked if the entire ride was going to be this way, referring to the meandering roads. The grandmother had motion sickness, and keeping that in mind, the driver drove slowly. The ride seemed awfully long. My lunch still felt intact, and it didn’t help that I had used a belt to wrap my kira.


I joined the family on Tuesday after a day of hiatus. We headed to Punakha, where we spent the night, and then to Wangdue Phodrang, and finally to Phobjikha. In Phobjikha, we spent the day hiking and visiting the famous Gangtey Goenpa Monastery. Gangtey Goenpa stands at the center of Phobjikha Valley. On the day of our visit, people from the valley had gathered for boom recitation, which includes Buddha’s teachings from the Kanjur and Tenjur texts. As we walked towards the main building, a raven appeared. It started to trill, prompting one of the guests to ask why. I was glad that someone wanted to talk about it. I explained that the bird was speaking to the people gathered there, to the monastery, asking for food.

We then hiked towards our hotel, crossing farm roads and potato fields with views of the misty surrounding valleys and the valley bottom–the winter home of the cranes. The grandmother opted out of the hike and would meet us at the road. When we reached the hotel, she appeared dumbfounded, unsure if this was another sightseeing spot or the hotel. Her granddaughter then told her that this was the hotel, which she then slowly began to process.

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