Lhuentse is blessed not only with spiritual attractions like healing hot springs but also with arts and crafts
Waga Pangtsho Lake
In Jarey gewog, a lake called Waga Pangtsho is situated atop a mountain. The lake has no visible sources or outlets, but the amount of water is constant all year long. Walking uphill takes about five hours from Ladrong village. The local legend has it the lake moved to its current location after being chased away by the residents of Tokari village in Tsamang, Mongar. The lake was polluted with human waste and animal carcasses because it drew too many affluent individuals, making it difficult for the locals to do their tasks. When the lake’s goddess (mermaid) arrived at the location, she asked a neighboring farmer for permission to spend the night in his home. Instead, the farmer offered his barren paddy field. The deity had left the farmer a milk churner the following morning as a sign of appreciation for his hospitality.
Other hot stone bathing sites
Hot stone bath is deemed as a perfect way to relax and wind down after a long day of exploration, and is also believed to have numerous health benefits. The hot stone bathing sites in Lhuentse has rest sheds, footpaths, and stone bathing tubs (naturally formed tubs at Kurichhu river bank).
Khenpajong, Yonten Kuenjung, Pasalum Tshachu
Historical roots, spiritual significance and various health benefits of Baeyul Khenpajong holy water blessed by Guru Rinpoche are located at a one-day walk either from Ney village under Gangzur Gewog or Jasebi village under Kurtoed Gewog. One of the Buddhist documents points out that the revealer of Baeyul Khenpajong Neys, its hidden treasures and tshachu was prophesized by Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal to Terton Pema Lingpa. Later it was revealed by Terton Pema Lingpa and it has three pools namely: Guru tshachu, Tshepamay tshachu and Khadro tshachu. Knowing the health benefits of the tsachu, people across the country visit the sites every year.
Yonten Kuenjung tshachu is located 5 hours walk from Khenpajong tshachu. Therapeutic values Yonten Kuenjung means ‘source of all wisdom’. The name originated from the achievement of Guru Rinpoche while he was dripping in the tshachu. There are two pools. The local people believed that Guru Rinpoche gained the knowledge and techniques to conquer the resident demon Khykha Rathoe. Khykha Rotoe arrived there while exiled by his father, Thrisong Duetsen to Khenpajong/Khambalung. The waterfall on the other side of the river is believed to be the saliva of Guru while playing a flute. When the demon and his people were lost in the melody of the flute, Guru brought them under control.
Pasalum tshachu is located 2 days walk from Yonten Kenjong tshachu. The tshachu is also believed to be blessed by Guru Rinpoche. It is said anyone visiting there will be blessed with longevity. Some also believed that one reaching there will be not reborn in the three realms: hell, hungry ghosts, and animals.
Rodungla trekking route
The Rodungla trekking route is one of the ancient highways that connects Bumthang in central Bhutan to Lhuentse in Eastern. The route was an important trade road in the past. With the introduction of a modern road in the country and climate change, it has been neglected for centuries. We can still witness the age-old walls and steps, which alternatively make us feel blessed to walk through the ancient highway, where many spiritual lamas once walked through. It gives us an awe of its original unbridled form of flora and fauna with not much human interference. It’s not just for international tourists, who love birdwatching and trekking but it is also very exciting and rejuvenating for domestic tourists, who loves nature hike. Another trail that Dzongkhag can explore is Dongla, which connects Lhuentse with Trashiyangtse.
Textiles and handicrafts
Khoma and Kishuthara
Most women in Lhuentse are experts at weaving kishuthara textile. Kishuthara is one of the most expensive and attractive handicraft products in the country. It is beautifully hand-woven with a mixture of sweat, patience, and skills of women.
While taking the tour in the textile village, one can experience weaving with comfortable Village Homestay (VHS). Khoma has 11 Village Homestays. The best way of exploring and getting an authentic cultural understanding of Lhuentse is by opting to stay in one of the farmhouses. They offer fresh local dishes including arra (spirit distilled from grains). Khoma also has a weaving center with women working back-strap looms. Moreover, spending a night or two at a farmhouse offers an authentic experience of the traditional Bhutanese way of life.
One can hike to Sangwa Dhadrug, where Guru Rinpoche and his consort meditated for six months secretly. It is a one-hour uphill hike from Khoma village. Sangay Lodruk temple has many sacred relics related to Guru Rinpoche, where devotees’ wishes and prayers can be fulfilled. Another hiking site is about a one-hour climb from Sangay Lodru, it is known as Zepadur. One can witness an outcrop of rocks on which paddy grows every year. It is called Matapai Lotho-meaning crops that grow without sowing. Other places, one can visit while staying at Khoma are Goenpa Karp, Kharphu temple, Ngelamdung, Timula, and many more sacred temples.
Another craft that has stood the test of time and is still in use today is pottery. Some potters live in Gangzur village, which is about two kilometers from Lhuentse town. A small number of people are still attempting to maintain the profession even though there are fewer people practicing the craft now. With cooperation from government agencies, women in Gangzur create earthen pots.
The stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), which is widely distributed throughout Bhutan, is a plant whose fiber is utilized to make lovely homemade textiles. The custom is widespread in Ney Village, Gangzur Gewog, and Lhuentse, where the traditional craft continues to be practiced now. Cutting the nettle plant, which grows readily in cool and temperate climates, releases fiber from its bark. The fibers are then dried before it is turned into yarn. In the past, nettle fiber was spun into yarn and used to construct ropes, mats, bags, and blankets. Traditional bowstrings were also made using it. With support from the government and civil society organizations, nettle weavers today produce beautifully handmade table mats, kiras, and other common household textiles that are much sought after in the local market and among tourists.
All these attractions comprise to make Lhuentse a district of a unique and wholesome experience for all travelers.
Article contributed by
Tshewang Zangmo, Asst. EDO, Lhuentse Dzongkhag.
This series is sponsored by Ecotourism Project “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Tourism Sector in Bhutan” funded by GEF-UNDP through Tourism Council of Bhutan, RGoB.