Bhutan | Gangtey

Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay Gangtey

Embrace Bhutan Cultural Tour

Gangtey | Bhutan

11 Nov 2019 | Mon

Day 05 of 13

  • Drive – Punakha to Gangtey
  • Tea at Hotel Kuenphen Norbuding Restaurant
  • Lawa La Pass
  • Picnic Lunch Near Gangtey Monastery
  • Gangtey Nature Trail – Black Neck Cranes
  • Black-Necked Crane Visitor Centre
  • Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay Gangtey

Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay Gangtey

After an awesome day of traveling from Punakha (crossing over Lawa Pass), having a tasty picnic with incredible views (near Gangtey Monastery), hiking on the beautiful Gangtey Nature Trail (overlooking Phobjikha Valley), seeing Black-Necked Cranes, and visiting the Black-Necked Crane Education Center, it was time to visit our overnight accommodations – Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay in Gangtey.

Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay (left) and Hot Stone Bathhouse (right)

Homestay Grounds and Hot Stone Bathhouse

When we arrived late in the afternoon, we were warmly greeted by the family who owns and runs Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay. While our guides started unloading our bags we got our bearings and took a brief walk around the homestay grounds. We first thing that got our attention was some of the family preparing a large wood fire near their hot stone bathhouse (something that many of us tried later in the evening).

Fire Roasting Stones Area Next To Hot Stone Bathhouse
Inside Hot Stone Bathhouse

The homestay is located in a beautiful rural valley, west of the area where we spent most of the day (visiting Gangtey Monastery, Gangtey Nature Trail, and Black-Necked Crane Visitor Centre). Off in the distance, you can see Gangtey Monastery and Phobjikha Valley.

Views of Gangtey Monastery (center, elevated) and Phobjikha Valley (right) in the Distance

When we walked around the front of the homestay, there was a large open grass field with a few small tents set up. We later found out these were for our guides – more on this later.

Gathering Room & Masks

The homestay had recently had a two-story section added on, on one side. This is where we enter the home, using a set of what I call “Bhutanese Stairs”, which is more like a steep ladder with rails. We walked through a few narrow turns, passing the multi bathroom area (on left), and then entered into a large gathering/sitting room (painted in two-toned light and dark blue).

Group Enjoying the Warm Fire in the Awesome Gathering/Sitting Room

On one side has a small area where meals can be prepared (with a small refrigerator, diner, silverware, etc.). Around the perimeter of the room were several chairs, pictures of the royal family, and Bhutanese spiritual masks). There was one large Bhutanese-styled fabric wall decoration at the back of the room. The floor was made of beautiful extra-wide plank wooden floors. In the center was the showpiece – a warm and cozy Bhutanese woodstove. The room was spectacular and where the group would be spending most of the time while at the homestay.

One of Many Unique Bhutanese Spiritual Masks on Display Around the Room
Warm and Cozy Wood Stove in the Center of the Room

Homestay Rooms, Chosham, and Bathrooms

The homestay has 6 rooms (two downstairs & four upstairs) and five bathrooms (two downstairs & three upstairs). Each room could accommodate two people (two single beds) which was a perfect fit for our group of 12. The upstairs room located in the northeast corner had a beautiful Bhutanese Chosham (Bhutanese Shrine Room).

Chösham (མཆོད་བཤམ་) generally refers to the shrine room in a Bhutanese household, and more specifically, to the shrine built to house the holy objects. It is a space dedicated to the divine beings and objects of worship known as the tensum (རྟེན་གསུམ་), or three supports or body, speech, and mind. Statues, which are representations of the enlightened body, holy books, which represent enlightened speech, and stūpas, which symbolize the Buddha’s enlightened mind, are kept and venerated. The chösham is an essential part of Bhutanese domestic life and while every Buddhist household possesses a chösham, the size and quality of said chösham may vary from family to family.

The chösham is often located on the top floor of the house. Given the deep regard Bhutanese show to religion and spirituality, the shrine room is usually the best room in the house, being spacious, organized, clean and also located in the best/most auspicious part of the house.

– University of Virginia, Mandala Library Chösham: Domestic Shrine Rooms

Our Room

Our room was on the north side of the house and was accessed through the large gathering/sitting room (the sliding wood door was covered by a decorated fabric door drapery).

Our Room – Two Single Beds with a Window On the North Side
Our Room’s Sliding Wooden Door

We had two single beds and one window looking out to the north. Other than the single wood stove in the gathering/sitting room, the homestay did not have any other type of heat but we had plenty of blankets that kept us warm.

Cooking Outdoors and Wonderful Evening Meal

Matching the same wonderful meal we had earlier in the day, the Wangchuk Dema family prepared another outstanding meal for our evening’s dinner. As it happens sometimes, it completely slipped our minds to take pictures of what they had cooked for us but take our word, it was an awesome meal!

All of the meals prepared for us were cooked in a single green tent located behind the homestay.

Homestay’s Cooking Tent

After the family and guides had finished taking care of our group’s evening meal it was time for them to take a break and enjoy dinner for themselves. They did this outside in the cold while sitting on a large series of blankets. I didn’t want to disturb this moment of peace and relaxation but I did manage to sneak this one photo (looking from above over the Bhutanese stairs).

Wangchuk Dema Family and Embrace Bhutan Guides Enjoying an Evening Meal Outdoors

Tour Guides Tents

As I had previously mentioned, our guides had to sleep outside in tents. When asked about it, they seemed to be okay with it and I think they have previous experience staying in such tents when leading some of their multi-day trekking excursions.

Guides Sleeping Tents Under the Stars

Morning Walkabout and Saying Our Goodbyes

After a great night’s rest, we were an early riser – waking up before most of the others. This allowed us to take our showers, get our bags packed, and get situated for the day ahead (a travel day). Getting up early also gave us some time to get in an early morning walkabout around the homestay. This is covered in its own post Morning Walkabout – Wangchuk Dem Village Gangtey

Beautiful Morning at Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay

The morning was beautiful, with clear blue skies with a slight misty fog rising in the distance. After breakfast, it was time to say offer our thanks to the family and say our goodbyes.

Offering Our Thanks to the Wangchuk Dem Family
Saying Our Goodbyes and Awesome Group Photo!
I end with the Family Dog Watching the World Go By

A Wonderful Experience… We Loved It Here!

Our head guide Tashi was a bit worried that some in the group may not like the very rural nature and basic accommodations of this homestay. We loved it at first sight! It’s a beautiful home built in the traditional Bhutanese style and design. Yes, some may find that it’s a bit rough around the edges but that is exactly why we liked it. We felt it was a true representation of what it is like to live in a Bhutanese home in a rural country setting.

Looking back – staying here was one of the top highlights of our trip! Thank you, Tashi!

Map – Wangchuk Dem Village Homestay Gangtey

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