Choki Wangmo 

The eighth edition of the Rhododendron Festival held after three years at the Royal Botanical Garden at Lam Pelri had everything, except the rhododendrons in full bloom.

Of the 41 species including the 29 native species found in the garden, only three species — Rhododendron falconeri, Rhododendron thomsonii, and Rhododendron grande — are in full bloom today.

There are only a few visitors who took to the trails to watch the nature around. Most of the local visitors were engaged in the cultural programmes, food, and entertainment. The boating on the lake is one of the popular activities among children.

The three-day festival organised by Toebisa gewog administration in collaboration with Dechentsemo Central School in Thinleygang, Punakha saw about 2,500 visitors. In a day, there were more than 400 local visitors  and 280 tourists.

More than 2,500 visitors attended the three-day Rhododendron Festival at Lamperi Park in Punakha organised by Toebisa Gewog Administration and Dechentsemo Central School in Thinleygang. The festival ended yesterday.

Toebisa Gup Tshering Penjor said: “We wanted local communities to earn from this festival. The focus is on the international tourists.”

He said that the species would be displayed at the visible range of the garden in the next festival. “Most visitors ask us about the flowers. There are a few species in bloom along the trails.”

The vendors from Punakha said that there were not many buyers at the festival. There were 27 stalls selling various items ranging from handicrafts to fruit juices. They pay a stall fee of Nu 500 a day.

“There are no customers,” said a food vendor.

A woman from Sephu came to the festival with wool products. It was her first time attending the festival. “There are no buyers,” she said.

Sangay Pelmo from Punakha came to sell cordyceps products.

The visitors can also donate money which is divided at a ratio of 60:40 between the school and the gewog administration. The 60 percent of the income earned from the festival goes to the gewog. 

A visitor who came from Thimphu to see the flowers returned home disappointed. “There is nothing unique about the festival,” she said.

The Department of Tourism provided a financial support of Nu 600,000.

The festival was instituted in 2013 to celebrate rhododendron species– an indigenous flower to the country.

Bhutan has recorded about 46 species of rhododendron in its ecoregions ranging from subtropical forests to temperate coniferous forests.

Experts say that the flowers bloom at different seasons according to their natural elevations. Scientifically, the peak blooming season is June.