Shops, restaurants and offices in richly carved traditional buildings line the main street of Paro, a couple of hours’ drive from Thimpu, where two of eastern Bhutan’s main rivers meet. Approached by a spectacular flight path, which only a handful of Bhutanese pilots are qualified to undertake, the town’s airport is Bhutan’s principal arrival point for foreign travellers, but locals know it above all for the splendid Rinpung Dzong, reached via a covered cantilever bridge.
The fortress-monastery’s most valuable possession is a giant embroidered tapestry, or thondrol (thangka), depicting the founding father of the dzong, Guru Rinpoche; the treasure is unrolled only once a year on the morning of the annual tshechu (festival), attended by thousands of locals in colourful traditional dress. On the hill behind rests the National Museum in a beautifully restored watchtower, the Ta Dzong, built in the 1650s to guard Paro’s dzong.
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