Blessed with incredibly rich biodiversity, Zhemgang district lies in south-central region of Bhutan and is a part of wildlife corridor encompassing the famous Royal Manas National Park, the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and Phrumshingla National Park. The districts lush forests are home to 22 endangered animal species including Golden Langur. Much of the district has warm and humid climatic conditions but its northern regions have moderately cool temperatures.
Aside Buddhism, Zhemgang is also notable for being one of the last regions where ancient Bon (Animist) religious practices are still carried out. The inhabitants of Zhemgang are known for their rich culture heritage, particularly their folk songs and dances. They are also famed for their skill at crafting various goods out of bamboo such as Bangchungs (matted bamboo bowls), Palangs (alcohol containers), Balaks (hats), mats and boxes. They are also adept potters, and their earthenware products were highly prized throughout the country.
One of the main highlights of touring Zhemgang is the Royal Manas National Park, the oldest and biologically most diverse nature reserve and protected area in the country.
Places of Interest in and around Zhemgang
Royal Manas National Park
Truly an unparalleled biological treasure in the Eastern Himalayas, Royal Manas National Park represents the largest example of tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems in Bhutan. With hundreds of wildlife, birds and plant species, several globally endangered, Royal Manas is not only the most diverse protected area in the Kingdom but also one of the world’s biologically outstanding conservation sites. The Park is the fourth largest national park in Bhutan with an area of 1057 km2 and its area begins from the plains of Manas River in Bhramaputra basin at 108 meters and extends up to 2600 meters above sea level. After being maintained as a forest reserve by the Royal Government of Bhutan for many years, Royal Manas was notified as a wildlife sanctuary in 1964, making this park, the nation’s oldest protected area. In 1993 the area was upgraded to a national park.
Panbang is a settlement in south-central region of Bhutan located adjacent (12km) to Bhutan's first national park, Royal Manas National Park. This small, picturesque town is an interesting destination to explore Khengpa customs & traditions, unbeaten hiking trails, river rafting and jungle safari. The nature friendly villagers here still practice shamanism and many of them live in houses with a thatched banana / grass roof.
Tingtibi town in Zhemgang district is in narrow valley by the side of Mangde Chhu river and a prominent birding hotspot in Bhutan. This sub-tropical satellite town in central Bhutan is situated at an altitude of 600metres above sea-level and located along Gelephu – Trongsa highway. The name of the town derived from two local syllables, Ting meaning ‘depth’ and Bi meaning ‘a piece of flat land’ and the region is partly covered by two wildlife corridors viz., Royal Manas National Park and the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Zhemgang district is home to more than 500 species of birds and much sought after by bird watchers from around the world and most of these birds can be spotted in Tingtibi area.
Standing on top of a ridge that rises from Mangde Chhu river, facing the village of Trong and Zhemgang town, the dzong was initially established by Lama Zhang Dorje Drakpa in 12th century as a small hermitage. In 1655, where he had built the hermitage, a small dzong was constructed to symbolize the unification of three Kheng divisions. In 1963, when Zhemgang became a separate district, the dzong was renovated under the Third King while the monastic body was established in 1966. The dzong as medium size three-storey fortress houses residential complex of the district monk body and also district’s administrative centre.
Trong Heritage Village
Situated adjacent to Zhemgang main town, Trong is an array of over 20 traditional stone masonry houses clustered neatly on a tiny hillock overlooking the imposing Zhemgang dzong. These special, unique and beautiful village houses are a treasure-trove of Bhutanese architecture. While little is known or documented on the origin of Trong and its vintage traditional houses, the settlement in and around the village can be linked with construction of Zhemgang Dzong dating back to 1655. The most striking feature of these picturesque village houses is its resistance to earthquakes despite being built on rock, without a proper foundation.
Located next to Gomphu – Panbang highway (7 km from Panbang towards Pantang), twin waterfall is magnificent site to behold and admire nature’s creation. Amidst captivating natural grandeur, it is a perfect picnic spot.
Bjoka Gewog (village block) lies in the south-east part of the Zhemgang District Administration and Khoche is the name of a nobility. Some historians say that the dynasty had descended, from Lhasey Tsangma, like the other Khoche families which spread in Khengrig Namsum, and in such case case it can be estimated that the Bjoka Khoche ruled between the 9th and 17th centuries AD. Even today, people in Bjoka village narrate, with pride, that the Khoche once ruled the Assamese provinces of Kokabari, Rangapani and Gohali. The castle of Bjoka Khoche, which stands today, has two different parts. The Bhutanese built the first half (with larger stones) while the other half (using smaller stones due to shortage of stones in the plains) was built by the Assamese taxpayers.
(Images credit: Zhemgang Dzongkhag)