NABJI – KORPHU Community Tourism

NABJI – KORPHU Community Tourism

Rich in cultural heritage and ecological resources, the Himalayan Kingdom of
Bhutan attracts tourists from all over the world. As the last Mahayana Buddhist Kingdom, Bhutan celebrates religious festivals throughout the year, and traditional customs are still very much alive. Nature enthusiasts visit the country to see its ecosystems that are home to a variety of species that have almost become extinct in other parts of the Himalaya. Both the cultural and ecological resources are prised by Bhutan's government, which helps protect them through a cautious approach towards tourism that favours low volume with high yields. Even with just over 9,000 international tourist visits in 2004, Bhutan has become a model for sustainable tourism development.
NABJI / KORPHU TRAIL offers the tourist and Nature lovers an opportunity to explore and interact with the communities of one of the poorest distrct of Bhutan.The trail falls under under the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk Wildlife National park and represents natural ecosystems with richest warm broad-leaved forest inside the park. It has primary and secondary forest with the full range of habitats and species represented. Trail is also rich in beautiful orchid species and flowering plants. The trail is crucially important to sustain big cats population, especially the tiger and leopard which are evident due to presence of varied prey species like sambar deer, goral,
serow, muntjac, etc. Important populations of Golden langur, Sloth bear and globally threatened Rufousnecked hornbill are also sustained by the mature broadleaf habitat represented along the trail.
COMMUNITIES:
The lifestyle of people is another very interesting facet of the village that enroutes by the trail. Nimshong, Nabji and Korphu communities speak dialect similar to Khengkha that is spoken by people in Zhemgang Dzongkhag while people of Kuda, Phrumzur and Jangbi speak their primitive language called Mon kha and they are thus called Monpas who are recognized as first inhabitants of Bhutan. The monpas are expert cane weavers and bamboo crafters who appear to leave a life of contentment in close interaction with the spirit and natural world.The major features of subsistence of the communities include livestock and agriculture production. People practice shifting cultivation and free grazing of the cattle. Source of income generation is mainly from the daily labour wages during the construction work funded by government, porter and pack pony charges while sale of livestock and agriculture product is very occasional . the monpas, they earn through sale of cane and bamboo articles produced in very small scale.

COMMUNITY BENEFITS FROM TOURISM
Village Development Fund (VDF) was established in every village - Nimshong, Nabji, Korphu, Kuda/Phrumzur and Jangbi with seed money of Nu. 15000.00 contributed by the Association of Bhutanese tour Operators (ABTO) to help open the bank account in Bank of Bhutan, Trongsa. It is aimed to help execute communal activities in benefit of respective village towards achieving the principle goal of Community based
Ecotourism.Village Tourism Management Committee is formed in every campsite inorder to manage and function tourism very smoothly. VTMC comprises 4-5 members (male & female) including a Chairman and a Treasurer; For individual benefit, a household member from the village can apply to the Village Tourism Management Committee (VTMC) for a loan and remit with certain % of interest.
Source of remittance for the VDF
1. 100% of the campsite fee;
2. 10% of all kinds of other income generated from the tourism will be remitted;
3. Generous donation/ contribution by visitors/local residents, etc.

DAY 01 ARRIVAL AT PARO
Upon arrival at Paro Airport you will be received by our guide from Medieval Bhutan tours and transfer to the hotel. After refreshment and lunch we will visit National Museum, Ta Dzong (watch Tower). The museum has the very interesting assortment costumes and other ancient artifacts, that dates back to the 6th century. Visit Paro Dzong (Fort), Headquarter of Paro District and walk down to the cantilever bridge over the Pa-chu River. Paro altitude: 2250 meters. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 02 PARO - Excursion to Tiger's Nest
Today we start early for a Hike to Taktsang Monastery view point. Taktsang, meaning "Tiger's nest," is built around a cave in which Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhawa) mediated, clings seemingly impossible to a cliff of rock at 3,000 feet above the valley floor. For the local people it is a place of pilgrimage, but for a tourist, a hike up to the view point opposite the monastery is exhausting, thrilling and mystical. The legend has it that Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress from Tibet and meditated in the cave there for three months. Afternoon, you will have the opportunity to visit and see some of the natural culture of the country including Drugyel Dzong, a ruin fort, once strategically important to Bhutan's defense against Tibet. Mount Jhomolhari can be viewed beyond the ruined fort on a clear day.

DAY 03 : PARO/ THIMPHU - Sightseeing in Thimphu
Morning drive to Thimphu. Upon arrival visit the Textile Museum, National Library - a tall stately building in the traditional Bhutanese style that is a repository of precious historical and religious manuscripts written in gold. Next you will visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum - a painting school where the traditional style of Thangka Painting is passed on to the next generation. You will then visit the Traditional Paper factory. Lunch in restaurant in town. After lunch you will visit Kuenselphodrang top where the Giant statue of Buddha is built. You will have nice Birdseye view of Thimphu. Later visit Memorial Chorten built in memory of the Late Third King. Evening visit Trashichho Dzong. Overnight in Thimphu.

DAY 04 : THIMPHU / PUNAKHA - Sightseeing in Punakha
After breakfast drive to Punakha - the ancient capital of Bhutan. The drive takes you across Dochula Pass (3100 m) which is marked by a large Bhutanese style Chorten, 108 small choetens and prayer flags. If weather is clear you will have an opportunity to enjoy the most spectacular views of the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas. The road to Punakha descends from the pass through the magnificent pine and rhododendron forests and wanders through some of Bhutan's most spectacular countryside. Check in and lunch at the hotel. Afternoon lunch hike to Chimi Lhakhang - temple dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenlay. It's an easy hike through the rice paddies and Yuwakha village. The hike is 30 minutes one way. Evening visit a private temple built by Lama Serpo (96 years old now) and time permitting you will have a brief audience with this extra-ordinary lama. Depending on the schedule of the Lama, we will also arrange a long-life blessing for our group at his temple. This will be a special treat since no other foreign visitors have excess to this temple other than our guests. Overnight in Punakha.

DAY 05 : PUNAKHA / TRONGSA
Early breakfast and start your journey to Trongsa. En route you will visit the Wangdiphodrang Dzong built in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The location of the Dzong is remarkable as it completely covers the spur and commands an impressive view over both the north-south and east-west. Lunch on route at Chendebji Restaurant. After lunch you will resume your journey to Trongsa. Evening at leisure.

DAY 06 TONGTONGPHEY / JANGBI VILLAGE (Trek starts)
(Total distance: 7-9.5 kms, 3-4 hours, altitude range 1,000m - 1,350m)
After an early breakfast at your hotel, you could afford some time to strut around the Trongsa town, combining it with a visit to the Dzong and also the Ta Dzong. The Ta Dzong here in Trongsa will also definitely captivate a visitor with its myriad collections. A 2 hours drive from the town along the Zhemgang highway brings you to the start of the Trek, Tongtongphey. You could also augment your itinerary along the way, with a visit to Kuenga Rabten palace, an important heritage in Bhutanese history. After furnishing yourself with ample information about the trek from the information booth, the village guide steers you down to the Mangdi river where you cross a suspension bridge. Unless you have a strong proclivity for ants and other ground creatures, it is almost impossible to miss out on Golden Langurs that are bountiful on this stretch. The first day brings you in contact with the Monpas who are believed to be the first inhabitants of Bhutan. A glimpse on their lifestyle further validates their ethnicity, coupled by mythical legends about their origins. The campsite in Jangbi stands on the valley sill, which offers a resplendent view of the Mangdi valley. If you still have some energy for locomotion, you could audience yourself to a local cultural program, or better, partake in it.

DAY 07: JANGBI VILLAGE / KUDRA VILLAGE
(Total distance: 13-14.5 kms, circa 6 hours, altitude range - 1,350m - 1,500m)
The morning allows you to further interact with the Monpas. Before you proceed, you could also pay a visit to the orchid garden that fences about 75 different kinds of orchids till your thirst for botanical photography gets satiated. The hike to Kudra provides a nuance of jovial atmosphere because this part of the trail meanders along stone imprints of Guru Rinpoche's footprints, dagger and phallus, festooned by stories that espouse Guru's praxis. Lunch is served just before you arrive at Phrumzur, one of the villages of the Monpa communities, off the trail. You could also visit the village Lhakhang in Phrumzur and then proceed to the campsite in Kudra. En route, you traverse another small Monpa village called Lekpogang, after which, the campsite in Kudra is just an hour's walk. The campsite offers a bird's-eye-view of Nyimshong village and also the Zhemgang town.

DAY 08: KUDRA VILLAGE / NABJI VILLAGE
(Total distance: 11-14 kms, circa 5-7 hours, altitude range - 1,500m - 1,300m)
You wake up with the distant call of the Rufous-necked hornbill. This part of the trek is a collage of streams, waterfalls and thick forests that will give you an invigorating feeling of being out in the wild. The Great Himalayan Squirrel, Rhesus Mecaques, and small snakes are often spotted along the trail. Unseen but present, are Himalayan black bear, Red pandas, tigers, Clouded leopards etc. Upon arrival at the holy tree in Nabji, the people will give you a heartwarming reception. Nabji is a beautiful village where paddy fields seem to circumambulate the clustered houses. You could also hike to the community school and indulge yourself in game of football or volleyball, where children rejoice the presence of outsider athletes.

DAY 09: NABJI VILLAGE / KORPHU VILLAGE
(Total distance: 9.5-13km, 2-3 hours, altitude range - 1300m - 1500m)
En route to Korphu, the Nabji temple is located in the middle of the paddy fields. Inside, there remains a stone pillar on which Guru Rinpoche, while traveling through Bhutan in the 8th century, brought consensus between the warring kings: King sindha Gyelp of Bumthang, and King Noeche, by imprinting their thumbs on each side of the stone. A unique festival is celebrated sometime in early January at the temple grounds. Korphu is situated on a mountaintop at an altitude of 1,500m. The most striking thing about Korphu is that the people exemplify hospitality almost treating you like 'A King on accession to throne'. You have the option of being welcomed with a traditional 'Chipdrel' procession and a 'Marchang' ceremony, singing traditional songs of praise and wellbeing for new visitors. They also perform the traditional 'Tashi Labey' dance to bid you farewell. If you are interested, the villagers can explain and demonstrate and even allow you to participate in the quintessential Bhutanese games of 'Khuru', 'Dego', 'Sok-sum', and 'Gee-dum', all on the brink of disappearance. You could also pay a visit to the village temple that houses the sacred relics of Pema Lingpa, the famous 'Treasure revealer' of Bhutan. A local lunch could be provided in the village campsite which also provides a spectacular bird's-eye view of Nabji and other surrounding areas.
DAY 10: KORPHU VILLAGE / NYMSHONG VILLAGE
(Total distance: 11-12 km, circa 4-6 hours, altitude range - 1,500m - 1,300m)
The hike from Korphu to Nyimshong is the pleasant and arguably the best birding spot which can boast a bird list of more than 395 species. The elusive Rufous Necked Hornbill has its nesting holes adjacent to the trail. The walk is mixed with waterfalls and, streams and cantilever bridges. The evening brings you to Nyimshong, a village with its reticent architecture and lifestyle. The campsite is equipped with an amphitheatre. The women of Nyimshong have a penchant for singing and dancing and a cultural show would be ideal to express certain euphoria to end your trek. Of course this is optional.

DAY 11: NYMSHONG VILLAGE / TRONGSA (Trek ends)
(Total distance: 5-6km, circa 2 hours, altitude range - 1,300m - 1,000m)
If you are lucky, the Golden Langurs will lead you to the exit. You descend down to the Mangdi river again to see some Herons and River-lapwings. An hour's steep ascend to the road and your driver will drive you back to Trongsa.

DAY 12: TRONGSA / BUMTHANG
After Breakfast in Tongsa, we will proceed to Bumthang crossing the Yotongla Pass and then into the first valley of Bumthang known as Chumey. We will make a stop at Chumey village, where we will observe the weavers weaving the famous Traditional Bumthang fabric known as Yathra made from sheeps wool.
After Hotel check in, we will visit Jambay Lhakhang, which is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, built in 7th century, Kurjey Lhakhang, which is named after the body print of Guru Rinpoche which is preserved in a cave inside the oldest of the three buildings, Tamshing Lhakhang - which was established by Terton Pema Lingpa in 1501 and is the most important Nyingma Goenba in the country. Afternoon we will visit Membartsho (Burning Lake) - This is a very scared place for Bhutanese people. Terton Pema Lingpa discovered several of Guru Rinpoche's hidden religious treasures from here. Evening at leisure. Overnight in Bumthang.

DAY 13: BUMTHANG / PHOBJIKHA
After the breakfast, we will drive to Gangtay, Phobjikha. The drive will take about 4hours. Lunch will be at Phobjikha After lunch we will walk around the Phobjikha valley, it is a glacial valley and is the winter home of the black necked cranes. This valley is a designated conservation area and borders Black Mountain National Park. Overnight at farmhouse or hotel in Phobjikha.

DAY 14: PHOBJIKHA / THIMPHU
After breakfast visit Gangtey Monastery and then drive towards Thimphu. On reaching Thimphu, you can have the time of your own for shopping souvenirs. Overnight in Thimphu.

DAY 15: DEPARTURE
Drive to Paro Airport for your onward destination.