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Bhutan – Buddha Dordenma: Marvel at one of the largest Buddha statues in the world

Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe Buddha Dordenma is an iconic monument sitting atop a forest hill overlooking Bhutan’s capital city of Thimphu. Viewable from any part of the city, the massive statue of Shakyamuni is sited amidst Kuensel Phodrang where the palace of Sherab Wangchuck (the thirteenth Desi Druk who ruled the country from 1744 to 1763) once stood. It is one of the largest Buddha Rupas (or statues) in the world measuring at a height of 51.5 metres.  Made of bronze and gilded in gold, the statue alone cost USD$47 million. Manufactured in China, the statue was cut into pieces and then transported to site through Phuentsholing (imagine the awe of wide-eyed Bhutanese villagers seeing the gigantic head of Buddha at the back of a moving lorry, priceless).Bhutan - Buddha Dordenma
This is part of a greater whole, which includes the Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park, a 943-acre nature park inaugurated in 2011 to preserve the forests surrounding the statue. The entire project, which took about 10 years to complete on 25 September 2015, cost over USD$100 million. Locals and tourists alike embrace the park, which is popular for weekend family outings and its biking, hiking and nature trails. The park also hosted the Peling Tsechu, a three-day festival held in May 2016 to commemorate the birth of His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe three-storey base houses a large chapel, while the body itself is filled with 125,000 gold statues of Buddha. The statue is expected to be a major pilgrimage centre and a focal point for Buddhists all over the world to converge, practice, meditate, and retreat.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaApart from commemorating the 60th birth anniversary of Bhutan’s fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck, it fulfills two prophecies. In the twentieth century, the renowned yogi Sonam Zangpo prophesied that a large statue of either Padmasambhava, Buddha or of a phurba would be built in the region to bestow blessings, peace and happiness to the entire world. The statue itself is mentioned in an ancient terma of Guru Padmasambhava himself, said to date from approximately the 8th century, and recovered some 800 years ago by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer).Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaFor me, I am just happy to be blessed with such an amazing view.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThe Buddha Dordenma overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley, and visitors can enjoy a vantage view of Thimphu nestled in the valley below.Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaThimphu being the capital city is the most developed and densely populated area in Bhutan, so this sight of closely-packed buildings is not the norm in other parts of the country which are mostly mountains, forests and farmlands. With urbanization, Bhutanese youths are increasingly migrating to Thimphu in search of white-collar jobs and a better life. I wonder how many dreams these buildings hold?Bhutan - Buddha DordenmaBhutan - Buddha DordenmaOne thing I know for sure, Bhutan is not ready to give up their unique cultural identity for modernization, and the little kingdom is gingerly treading the waters of urbanization, step by step, without compromising on the values which they have held closely for centuries. If there is a country left in the world who can find a delicate balance between culture and economic progress, it would be Bhutan.

Buddha Dordenma

Opening Hours: 9:00AM to 5:00PM daily
Website: www.buddhadordenma.org
More of my travel adventures in Bhutan

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Bhutan’s got my Stamp of Approval

Making stamps in Bhutan
One of the most interesting things that you can do in Bhutan, is to get your own personalised stamps at the National Post Office in Thimphu. Costing about USD4 for 12 stamps (including the value of the stamp), imagine your friends’ and family’s pleasant surprise when you send home a postcard with your face on the stamp :) Making stamps in BhutanThimphu’s Post Office is right in the city centre.
Source: Wikicommons (cos’ I was too excited, I forgot to take a photo, bleah) 

Making stamps in BhutanYou can have your photo taken on the spot by the friendly post office staff, or bring your own (glamour) photos in a thumbdrive. It takes less than ten minutes to make your very own stamps. Now that’s what I call exclusive edition.Making stamps in BhutanWhile you are there, visit the Bhutan Postal Museum that was recently opened in November 2015 celebrate the 60th Birth Anniversary of Fourth Druk Gyalpo His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It’s not huge, but the five galleries are full of interesting facts related to Bhutan’s postal history as well as the country’s progress and development told through stamps.

What you see is a statue of their legendary postal runner (known as a garp) who was able to walk from Punakha to Trongsa and back in one day, crossing torrential rivers and dense forests (according to Google Maps, the distance is 135.8km per way and it would take 39 hours to walk. I think they have a real good chance of winning marathons!).

Garps were selected by the King or regional chieftains based on qualities such as speed, power of memory (messages often being verbal), clarity of speech, and being trustworthy. Modern telecommunication was only introduced in Bhutan on 17 November 1991, so these postal runners were an important part of the social system for a long time.Making stamps in BhutanThe modern postal network in Bhutan started in 1962 with the opening of the first post office in Phuentsholing, in addition to Paro and Thimphu in the same year. Making stamps in BhutanBhutan is also known as the Land of Beautiful Stamps – the county has some of the most intricately designed stamps in the world, including the world’s first scented stamps, first steel foil stamps, first silk stamps, first 3-D stamps and first talking stamps(!). For the reclusive country, stamps were regarded as “little ambassadors of their country”. Bhutanese stamps are also popular as gifts for friends and family back home, with some tourists buying hundreds of dollars worth from the post office.Making stamps in BhutanStamps are often released to feature the sights and culture of Bhutan, celebrate festivals, anniversaries, the royal family wedding or anything worth remembering. Have a look at some of the stamps here.Making stamps in BhutanCommemorative stamps for royal birthday, royal visits and diplomatic relationsMaking stamps in Bhutan
Wildlife in Bhutan (yes, even dinosaurs)Making stamps in BhutanThe annual Chinese zodiac animal stampsMaking stamps in Bhutan
Buddhism is an integral part of the Bhutanese culture. Bhutan is a Buddhist country and people often refer to it as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Making stamps in BhutanForms of postal transportation. I would love to get a ride in the red jeep.

If I could post a message to Bhutan, I would say “I am in love with you, and I want to go back!” If you were to send a message to someone, who would that be and what would you tell him/her? In these modern times where Wechat, Whatsapp and Facebook permeate our daily lives, we have taken personal communication for granted. Try sending a handwritten note to a loved one, and I am pretty sure he/she will be pleasantly surprised. :)

 

Bhutan Postal Museum
Opening Hours: Daily from 9:00AM – 5:00PM in summer (April-October); 9:00AM – 4:00PM in winter (November – March)Admission fee: Tourists – Nu. 250 (approx. USD3.70); SAARC Tourists – Nu. 150; Locals – Nu. 50

 

Photos of Bhutan Postal Museum courtesy of Tharchu from Happiness Journey Bhutan (thanks pal!)
Photos of Bhutan stamps from Bhutan Postal Corporation Ltd.
More of my travel adventures in Bhutan