Trashigang, “The Jewel of the East”, spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600 m to over 4000 m.
Bhutan’s largest river, DangmeChhu, flows through this district. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade centre for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Today, it is the junction of the East-West highway with road connections to SamdrupJongkhar and the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dressing stands out from the ordinary Bhutanese Gho and Kira.
Trashigang is home to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, one of ten protected areas of Bhutan, was created in part to protect the migoi, a type of yeti, in whose existence most Bhutanese believe. The sanctuary covers the eastern third of the district (the gewogs of Merak and Sakteng), and is connected via biological corridor to Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary in SamdrupJongkhar District to the south.
Trashigang contains one of the most reputed colleges in the country, the Sherubtse College. Sherubtse College was the first accredited college in Bhutan, founded in 1966 by a group of Jesuits under the leadership of William Mackey. As of 2003 it became part of the newly created Royal University of Bhutan system that comprises all public post-secondary schools in Bhutan. The college is located below the Yonphula domestic airport.
PLACES OF ATTRACTIONS
1. TRASHI GANG DZONG
TrashigangDzong or ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’ was built in 1659 to defend against Tibetan invasions. This imposing fortress is strategically situated high atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu River.
According to legend, it is said that upon seeing the Dzong, invading Tibetan armies remarked that the Dzong was “not on the ground. It is a Sky Dzong” before retreating. It has been the political stronghold of Eastern Bhutan for over 300 years.
Mount Meru is the site of the palace of the DrukChhoglayNamgyal, which translates to “Victory of Bhutanese over enemies in all directions”. It is accessible only from the north, via a narrow road, paved by blasting through the cliff-side. Due to its location ,TrashigangDzong is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong was enlarged by DzongponDopola in 1936.
2. RADHI VILLAGE
Radhi village is famous for two things, its rice fields and the skill of its weavers. It is often known as the ‘Rice Bowl of the East’ because of its verdant rice fields that supply most of the grain to eastern parts of the country.
The village has around 200 households, all of which the people make living from fine raw silk or bura textiles during the off-agricultural seasons. All textiles produced in Radhi are made using the traditional back-strap loom and traditional dyes. As a result, Radhi village produces some of the most authentic high quality raw silk textiles to be found anywhere in Bhutan.
3. MERAK AND SAKTENG
Sakteng is an isolated valley of Brokpa people, located north of Merak. It is a wide valley located at around 3000m, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Sakteng literally means bamboo field. The inhabitants of Sakteng are similar to those of Merak in their language, dress, lifestyle and spiritual afflictions. It comprises of around 250 household with three main villages, Sakteng, Tengma and BorangTse but generally known as Sakteng, and the people are known as Saktengpa. To the people living in the lowlands they are known as Brokpas. Sakteng valley or Brokpas in general have lots of stories of the mythical Yeti, or Bigfoot, which said to be seen frequently roaming in the valley. People here live a semi nomadic life style, depending mainly on yaks. Dresses are woven out of Yak hair and sheep wool. The most distinctive is the black yak hair hat with five fringes worn by Brokpas. Brokpa men wear red wool jackets tight around the waist with the belt. The men are tall, well built with high cheek bone features. Unlike traditional Bhutanese women, Brokpa women keep long hair tied up in plaits with colourful ribbons. They produce excellent textiles from yak wool and raw silk. Every winter, Brokpas take on Drukkor or grain journey to the lowland village, where they have their regular host family, with whom they have close trading and social relationship. They live together as one family for weeks and barter their Yak products with maize and grains.
To get to Sakteng, drive about 1.5hr. fromTrashingang to Phongmey village, where you begin 2 day trek (one night camp en-route). From Merak, the trek is across 4153m Nachungla pass to Miksateng and another 5hr walk next day to Sakteng.
4. RANGJUNG YOSEL CHOELING MONESTARY.
RangjungWoeselChoeling Monastery is located in Eastern Bhutan under Trashigang district at Rangjung. The monastery was founded by His Eminence DungseyGarabDorje Rinpoche in the year 1989 with few monks and nuns. The objective of monastery is to provide a conducive haven for the study of Buddha dharma as expounded in the Dudjom New Treasure Lineage and carry out dharma activities for the benefit of the Buddhist community in and abroad the country. It has a flourishing community with branches monasteries and retreat centers.
RangjungWoeselChoeling Monastery traces its roots to the GelongGonpa which was established by Rinpoche and H.H. DungseThinleyNorbu Rinpoche. GelongGompa is situated in a mountainous region which takes a day to reach it either on foot or on horseback. It has always been the aspiration of the Bhutanese to have Dudjom’s family lead the dharma practice.
After H.H. DungseThinleyNorbu Rinpoche departed from Bhutan, the Bhutanese fervently requested Rinpoche to remain and turn the dharma wheel of Dudjom New Treasure Lineage in the monastery. Rinpoche, realizing the deep faith and genuine devotion of the Bhutanese, accepted the heavy responsibility to continue the dharma activities and welfare services for the Buddhist fraternity living in and around the monastery.
During the time of the establishment of RangjungWoeselChoeling Monastery, Rinpoche was still pursuing his studies in H.H. Penor Rinpoche’s and Mindroling Monasteries in India. For four years, rinpoche spent all his winter holidays working incessantly, carrying out dharma activities for the monastery. At that time, there were only a handful of ordained monks and nuns in the monastery. Owing to the limited access to transportation in the monastery, a piece of strategic land was offered to Rinpoche. Nevertheless, due to financial constraints encountered at the initial stage, only bamboo huts were built and the monks and nuns survived on alms.
A few years later in 1993, the number of nuns increased to the extent that a separate nunnery had to be established in Radhi, Pakaling which is a few kilometers away from the monk’s monastery. Thereafter, Rinpoche has been exploring for sponsors from abroad. With the blessings of the Buddha and the kind assistance and contribution from donors and supporters, Rinpoche successfully constructed a larger monastery to cater to the needs of the monks and nuns.
The neighborhood of the monastery is poor yet religious. Many wish to send their children for monastic education in India and Nepal but they cannot afford to do so. Due to poverty and lack of support from the family, they often request enrollment for their sons at the monastery. However, with the exponential growth of the number of monks and nuns, rinpoche has started to control the admission of monks and nuns. This is due to the inadequacy of hostels, classrooms, teachers and the ever increasing expenditure.
In 1993, the number of nuns increased to the extent that a separate nunnery had to be established in Radhi, Pakaling which is 12 kilometers away from the Rangjung monastery. Thereafter, Rinpoche has been exploring for sponsors from abroad. With the blessings of the Buddha and the kind assistance and contribution from donors and supporters, Rinpoche successfully constructed a larger monastery to cater to the needs of the monks and nuns. At present there are over 300 monks and nuns studying in the monasteries.
5. Thekchog Kunzang Chodon Nunnery
Few years later in 1993, the number of nuns increased to the extent that a seperate nunnery had to be established in Radhi, Pakaling, East Bhutan.Thereafer, Rinpoche has been exploring for sponsors from abroad. With the blessings of the Buddha and the kind assistance and contribution from the donors and supporters, Rinpoche has successfully constructed the ThegchogKunzangChodon Nunnery to cater to the needs of the nuns.
6. PHONGMEY VILLAGE
Phongmey gewog has 28 villages with 824 households. It is one of the rice producing areas with large paddy fields. The main products are paddy, wheat, soya-bean and walnut. Butter, cheese and egg form the main livestock products.