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Review: Jakar


Jakar, Bhutan

Jakar Valley

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2374 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • Nov 2009
  • Husband

96 people found this review helpful

The road climbed out of the Trongsa valley to the pass at Yotong La at 3435m. The only settlement was isolated roadmen’s houses. At first the road went through deciduous forest which was beginning to change colour. As we climbed the deciduous trees were replaced by open coniferous forest with bamboo. Much of the bamboo was dead or dying from disease and a pale brown/grey colour. We were getting up into the cloud and it felt and looked very atmospheric.

Once over the pass we dropped down out of the cloud and it became clearer and cooler. The road dropped down through a yak grazing area and then deciduous forest before reaching the Chume Valley. There were square fields of buckwheat (harvested) surrounded by open weave bamboo panels.

We stopped and walked through Gaytsa Village along a narrow stony lane between tall stone walls and unpainted wooden houses.

The road followed the Chhume valley to Chhume Village with lots of wooden cowsheds on the edge of the village. We had a brief stop at the Craft Centre at Zugney, renowned for their hand weavers, but they had finished work for the day.

The road climbed to Kiki La, at 'only' 2900m but no view as there were too many trees before dropping down through the trees into Jakar. This is the main trading centre for the area and the main street was lined with small wooden houses with shops on the ground floor. There are plans to move the settlement further up the valley. Work has begun on building a new town but is slow and people don't want to move. There were a lot of big new hotels being built. We wonder whether there will be enough tourists to fill them…

JAKAR DZONG dominates the valley and is reached by a steep climb up steps from the road. A huge wooden doorway leads into the administration courtyard. This is long and narrow with steps up into the Monks' courtyard. The defensive wall was lined with buildings with the monks quarters on the top floors. The original building was 15thC but there have been recent restorations and repainting. The monks were taking musical instruments – drums and horns – into the courtyard as they were needed for use in a service outside the Dzong.

WANGDICHOLIN PALACE was the Summer Palace of the first and second kings. It was a large wooden house inside a walled enclosure with granaries and servants quarters built against the side wall. It was given to the monk body by the fourth King’s sister as the family no longer needed the building.

There was a feeling of decayed grandeur as paint work was faded and peeling. Thirty small monks with a Head Monk study and sleep here. Out in the garden, several small boys were playing cricket with a make shift bat and stumps. They were full of enthusiasm but not very good. One missed the ball completely and his bat flew off in our direction.

We drove up the valley to JAMPA LHAKHANG which is one of the oldest in Bhutan. The original foundation was 7thC. The present building is 15thC with later additions. The golden roofs and temple area were surrounded by a wall with small prayer wheels.

There were great preparations for the Naked Monk Dance festival which began at midnight the following day. The courtyard was being cleared of weeds using knives. Stalls were being set up outside. Old people were walking round clockwise with hand held prayer wheels and prayer beads. The Naked Monk Dance is basically a fertility rite begun by Guru Rinpoche and danced by the local monks. Women who were unable to conceive or give birth came and believed if they could touch one of the monks they would conceive within the year. It is still popular with the locals who travel for miles to the event and also attracts many tourists.

We walked along a track through the fields to KURJE LHAKHANG. This is an important temple complex at the end of the paved road. There are three large Lhakhangs set on the hillside facing south, surrounded by a 108 chorten wall. It is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche meditated here and left an imprint of his body on a rock in a cave inside the 17thC temple. A second temple was built by the first King in 1900 and a third temple by the Queen mother 1984.

From Kurjke Lhakhang we dropped down the path to the river for lunch. The river here is very wide and a deep turquoise colour with lots big rocks. The village dogs soon appeared looking hungry and hopeful. They demolished the remains of our lunch – chilies and all.

We went across the suspension bridge and followed the path along the river to TAMSHING GOMPA. Parts are early 16thC and were built by Perma Lingpa who was responsible for the paintings on the walls in the corridor around the main temple. Butter lamps are left burning on a shelf around the walls and offerings left. These are probably the oldest paintings in Bhutan. The present Head Monk is the 11th reincarnation of Perma Lingpa although he is not normally here. His picture is left on his chair in the temple.

We were booked into Mepham Guest House on the hillside above Jakar.

It was very quiet and for most of the time we were the only people there. Our room looked across the valley to the Dzong. It was an average size room basically furnished and beginning to show its age. There was a very effective wood burning stove with a good supply of wood and fir cones. The secret is to light the fir cones using a candle and gradually add the wood. What it may have lacked in facilities was more than made up for by the staff who were delightful and very keen to please.

Our pictures begin here to the end of the gallery  and also here.  

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