Gangtey (Phobjikha) valley
Gangtey & Phobjikha (alt. 3000m/9845ft)
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valley’s are tightly enclosed.
A few kilometers beyond the Gangtey Monastery, on the valley floor lies the village of Phobjikha. This place is the winter home of black necked cranes that migrate from the arid plains in the north to pass winter in milder and lower climate. Phobjikha, at an altitude of 2900 m, falls under the district of Wangduephodrang and lies on the periphery of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley boasts two beautiful meandering rivers, Nakay Chhu (Chhu Naap-black water) and Gay Chhu (Chhu Karp-white water).
According to a local legend, the two rivers actually represent a snake and a boar. The two animals once raced each other with an agreement that if the snake (Nakay Chhu) won, Phobjikha valley would be able to grow rice, but if the boar won, then rice could never be cultivated in the area. The snake lost since it had to meander all the way during its journey. Rice cannot be cultivated in the valley even today.
Places of interest in and around Gangtey & Phobjikha Valley
Gangtey was founded by Pema Trinley, the grand son of Pema Lingpa, the famous Nyingmapa saint of Bhutan. In 1613, Pema Trinley establish the monastery and became the first Gangtey Tulku. The religious traditions of Pema Lingpa still taught there. The second Tulku, Tenzin Legpa Dondrup (1645 to 1726), enhanced the size of Gangtey while keeping up good relations with Drukpas, and rebuilt the monastery in the form of a Dzong.
Black Necked Crane Information Centre
On the main floor there is statue of ‘Sangay Menla’, the Medicine Buddha. The Bhutanese people believe that when they suffer from an illness, they pray to the Medicine Buddha and chant his mantra prior to taking traditional medicine. They believe the Medicine Buddha will bless them and they will recover from their illness. Climbing up the traditional Bhutanese staircase (steep wooden ladder) to the second floor, you visit statues of ‘Duesum Sangay’ and the temple of ‘Goenkhang’. ‘Duesum Sangay’ represents the Buddha of the past (Amitabha), the Buddha of the present (Sakyamuni) and the Buddha of the future (Maitreya).’Goenkhang’ is the temple of the protective female deity called Sipey Gyelmo. The deity is a friendly spirit, looking after the local people. Females are not allowed to enter the ‘Goenkhang’ temple. On the 29th day of the eight month of the Bhutanese calendar, Kumbu Lhakang performs a special ritual known as ‘Kumbu Tsham Choe’, to commemorate the death of Lama Tsenden Dawa who built the Kumbu temple. It is about one hour walk from Gangtey village to Kumbu Lhakhang.