Eastern Bhutan welcomes travelers into a world of unexplored trekking, historical and cultural escapades, great scenery, textiles highlights and natural wonders. The districts of Mongar, Lhuntse, Tashi Yangtse, Tashigang and Samdrup Jongkhar include the eastern circuits. Tourism is picking up well in Bhutan and Pema Gatsel will wake up to the call soon. Of culture we offer your lots of spiritual festivals that include some of the rare animist rituals as you explore the hub of the country’s unexplored destination. For the first few years, this unique destination is offered to adventure spirited tourists. Only those who like to experience the Spartan accommodation and tented or farmhouse stays, will enjoy these least visited regions.
The best know cultural interests in eastern Bhutan are the indigenous ways of farming life. Another highlight is the textiles: from the legendary village of Khomo (Lhuntse) to Radhi (Trashigang) one may be enthralled by the art and intricacies of Bhutanese textiles. Lhuntse areas are best explored if you can adjust few nights in tents or take the hospitality of the Kurtoe farmhouses. If you are a hotel person then take detours from Mongar. Kurtoe is the home of Bhutan’s Royal Family and many surprises await you as one of the least visited regions. Numerous indigenous festivals are also great cultural highlight. Explore and be one of the few to rediscover the secrets of animist traditions hidden in these Himalayan regions. There are great stories of hidden valleys, such as Khenpajong, that might delight your explorer’s instincts. Experience the wilds of the eastern and mix your trip with a festival as listed in the box. The ruins of the old Zhongar Dzong hold many queer stories and one may want to stop for a while as you drive into Mongar. Talking about ruins, the Dongla ruins in Trashiyangtse might be a great anthological interest. Explore the deep forests of Dongla, you may even encounter the Yeti.
MONGAR - Arriving Mongar is a welcome respite from the seemingly endless turns of the journey over the pass. The tourist hotel has a lawn and balcony where travelers can take a well-earned break. The town is small with a sprinkling of shops. Mongar, like Trashigang further east, is built on the side of a hill instead of next to the river on the valley floor like other towns in the kingdom. A secondary school is located above the Dzong and is worthwhile visiting. Resembling the large public schools in northern India it also offers a splendid view over the surrounding valley. The present Dzong is modern compared to others in the kingdom. The Kurichu hydroelectric project will change the industrial emphasis of the Mongar soon.
Mongar Dzong - was built in the 1930s as one of Bhutan’s newest dzongs, it is constructed in the same way as the 17th century dzongs, without plans or nails. A visit to Mongar Dzong shows one how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries.
Zhongar Dzong – On the east west highway, when we come across the valleys of Truethangbi village, the view of Zhongar Dzong ruins is visible. Covering a total area of about 8 acres, it once represented the power house of eastern Bhutan. For many years this ruins laid as a forbidden spirit infested area. The locals are very superstitious and an atmosphere of fear looms in the vicinity of the ruins. Stories of the presence of certain malevolent spirits and a gigantic snake guarding a treasure of gold and silver are only whispered. Beyond piles of stones and mud, it echoes past life to connect us to the future. Embedded inside is a life frozen in time, a wealth of history that can be still recounted orally by those who also heard it from their grandparents. Come, take a stroll through this, once thought as haunted, and experience the remains of the ancient stone works.
LHUENTSE – The drive is 77 km. from Mongar (3 hrs) and is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan. The landscape is spectacular, with stark cliff s towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. The Kurtoe region of Lhuentse is the ancestral home of the monarchy.
Due to lack of tourist class hotels there, day excursion is advisable and for those daring to enjoy tented nights, we could explore the scared valleys.
Lhundrub Rinchhentse Dzong - The construction of the Dzong is surrounded in many legends. One of them is associated with subjugation of evil spirits that inhabited the entire area. The Dzong has two divisions known as Dzong Thogma and Dzong Wogma. The Thogma or the upper part belongs exclusively to the monk body, while the Dzongkhag district administration occupies the Wogma. The dzong is set on a hill top and is very graceful. There is an old song that memorizes the glory of this dzong. You guide will probably sing for you.
TRASHIGANG - lies in the far east of Bhutan, and is the country’s largest district. Trashigang town, on the hillside above the Gamri Chhu (river), was once the center for a busy trade with Tibet. Today it is the junction of the east-west highway, with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and then into the Indian state of Assam. This town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakten, whose way of dress is unique in states that when the Tibetan troops descended from the Muktangkhar mountains on the other side of the Dzong they saw the Dzong below and said “Trashigang Dzong is not a sky Dzong but a ground Dzong”, but when reaching the bank of Dangmechu they looked up and seeing the impenetrable Dzong aloft they agreed that it is really a “sky Dzong” after all and fled.
Gom Kora – is 24 km from Trashigang, the temple of Gom Kora is set on a small alluvial plateau overlooking the river. Surrounded by rice fields and clumps of bananas, it looks like an oasis in an arid landscape. It is one of the famous places where Guru Rinpoche meditated in order to subdue a demon which dwelt in a huge black rock. Do not miss Gom Kora festival.
TRASHIYANGTSE - is a rapidly growing town and it is also believed that Yangtse was one of the six Dzongs constructed by the 3rd Desi, Chhogyal Minjur Tmnpa. The Dzong has three stories, ground,
middle and top floor. More than half of the top floor is Chuchizhey Lhakhang. The ground floors were used as stores, then offices and at present monks reside there. During the Dungkhag administration the first floor was used as offices and now monks and teachers reside there. On the second floor, there is Chuchizhey Lhakhang, Goenkhang and Torzheng room, where the monks make Torma during rituals and ceremonies.
Chorten Kora - This dazzling white stupa is situated on the riverbank below the town. Constructed in 1740 by Lama Ngawang Loday, it is built in the same style as Bodnath Stupa in Nepal, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. During the second month of the lunar calendar there is an interesting celebration here, known as ‘Kora’. Legend has it that the main relic of this monument was a young girl from across the border. Hence many people from Tawang (North East India) come to witness the Chorten Kora festival.
Bomdeling - A pleasant walk of about three hours from Chorten Kora, Bomdeling is an annual migration place for Black-necked cranes, which fly over from nearby Tibet to roost the winter months in a warmer climate. It will be fascinating if you camp out a night here. This will enable you to have more time to explore the area. The administrative center for this district. Situated in a small river valley, it is a lovely spot from which to take walks in the surrounding countryside. The dzong overlooking the town was built in the late 1990s when the new district was created. Trashiyangtse is famous for its wooden containers and bowls, which make inexpensive, attractive and useful mementos of a visit to this remote region. The Institute for Zorig Chusum, where students study the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan, is also worth a visit.
Trashi Yangtse Dzong – is accessible by road and is only 4km away from the main town stands the Dzong of Trashi Yangtse. Some believe that it was Gongkar Gyalpo, son of Lhasey Tshangma who built the Dzong but the Tibetan invasion made the people of Donglum flee and the Dzong fell into ruins. It was Tertoen Pema Lingpa who built the Dzong in the 14th century and named it as Trashi Yangtse Dzong.
SAMDRUP JONGKHAR - The road from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar, completed in the 1960s, enables the eastern half of the country to access and benefit from trade with the south as well as across the Indian border. There is little to see in this area, other than the busy market which straddles the border. Samdrup Jongkhar is a convenient exit town for tourists who have arranged to visit the neighboring Indian state of Assam.