the center of Bhutan four hours by road from Wangduephodrang, Tongsa offers
a welcome rest to travelers. The approach to the involves a frustrating 14-kilometer
trip around Tongsa Valley. A vantage point from the opposite side of the valley,
still 14 kilometers from Tongsa, provides a welcome view of the Dzong and the
town. Like almost all towns in the kingdom, the secular and religious center,
the Dzong, dominates the horizon, dwarfing the surrounding buildings.
The Royal Familys ancestral home is Tongsa. Both His Majeasty King Ugyen
Wangchuck, the Penlop of Tongsa, who was elected the countrys first hereditary
monarch, and his successor, king Jigme Wangchuck, ruled the country from Tongsas
ancient Dzong. The Crown Prince of Bhutan normally holds the position of the
Tongsa Penlop Prior to ascending the throne, including the present King who
was appointed Penlop in 1972, shortly before his succession to the throne.
Protected from invaders by an impenertrable valley, Tongsa Dzong is an impregnable
fortress. The Dzongitself is a labyrinth of temples, corriedors and offices
holding court over the local community. It is built on many levels into the
side of the hill and can be seen from every approach to Tongsa heralding its
strength as a defensive stronghold. Above the Dzong, a watchtower, Ta Dzong,
used to administer its defence.
Although a temple originally stood on the spot, the Dzong was built in earnest
by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who midway though the 17th Century, recognised
how Tongsas strategic location could help him in his long and successful
quest to unify the country.
Tongsa is one of quaintest of all Bhutanese towns. The towns vista is
traditional in appearance as the wooden slatted houses line up together on the
side of the hill. A number of hotels and cafes provide accommodation and refreshments
to travelers who are crossing the country.
Tongsa can also be a good shopping stop. The local population weaves its own
textiles from hand-dyed wool and the Tibetans sell them at more competitive
price than those found in Thimpu.
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