Punakha Tshechu Festival in Punakha, Bhutan

After an unbelievable first day in Bhutan, I was ready to do it all again on day two! Come along with me as I try more chili loaded Bhutanese food and go back to the Punakha Tshechu Festival for more adventures in Punakha, Bhutan!

My morning began at the Drubchhu Resort in Punakha, where I enjoyed a spicy breakfast of egg curry, a chili salsa called ezay, and fried rice. Then, I’d head over to Punakha Dzor fortress to experience more of the multi-day Punakha festival and have lunch afterward. But first, it was time for breakfast!

Breakfast at Drubchhu Resort

Bhutan’s cuisine is characterized by spice! Nearly everything contains chilies. I started with the egg curry, which contains a hard-boiled egg that has been soaking in the red curry. The curry was light, like a watered-down soup-like curry, but it was full of flavor! It wasn’t too hot, though.

The fried red rice (which also contained chilies) was amazing with the curry. The ezay was unreal. It was like a spicy veggie salad with cheese. I added more curry over the rice, which was amazing. It doesn’t get more traditional than this here in Bhutan! I could taste the influences from both India and China in the Bhutanese food in Punakha, Bhutan.

In terms of spice level, this meal was maybe a 6 out of 10. It was nowhere near as hot as the ezay I’d had yesterday, which was a 15! Then, I also got some suja, which is salty butter tea. It contains a lot of butter! I’m more of a coffee guy, so I had to have some black coffee with no sugar. I knew I wouldn’t eat for a while, so I filled up on egg curry, ezay, and fried rice!

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Punakha Tshechu Festival, Day 2

Then, I met up with Tsheten and Nidup from MyBhutan to head to the festival! I learned that the Punakha Tshechu Festival is six days long. I saw the end of it yesterday, where there were easily 2,000 people there. There were only maybe two dozen tourists then, but it gets even bigger as it goes on.

We passed through the area, where we saw some rice paddy fields, donkeys, horses, and farmland. On the way, I got out of the car to get an amazing view of the two rivers of Punakha (Pho Chu and Mo Chu) meeting in the foreground, with the fortress behind them and the mountains in the backdrop. It was beautiful!

Then, we continued on to the fortress, whose full name is Punakha Dzong Pungthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong.  Its name translates to “the palace of the great happiness.” Before we got there, we briefly stopped at a mini-market.

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They close the doors of to the Punakha Tshechu Festival at 10 a.m. and don’t re-open them for a few hours. Inside, I got to see several traditional music and dance performances where the performers wore beautiful, colorful costumes and masks. There were about 3,000-4,000 people there. There was a section for tourists to watch from, and the rest of the fortress was for locals.

Check out my Western Bhutan Road Trip Guide: What to See and Eat

Exploring Punakha Fortress

Tsheten took me to the fortress’ monastic area, which is mainly for the monks. There are about 400-500 monks living there. There is a room inside that only 3 people are allowed in: the former king, the current king, and the current head of the religion. The architecture was stunning and extremely colorful.

There were vibrant depictions of dragons, snow lions, and more carved everywhere, as well as script in Sanskrit. There’s a shrine and a temple on the opposite side of the complex from the residential area. There are also golden doors, through which they coronated Bhutan’s first king in December of 1907.

Inside the main shrine is a statue of the Buddha and the unifier who unified Bhutan, who was a Tibetan scholar. After seeing it, we returned to the festival.

The Opera at the Punakha Tshechu Festival

The performances at the Punakha Festival showed the founding of the fortress in 1637 through song and dance. It’s like an opera.

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The story will probably be a little hard to follow if you’re not a local, but I still suggest being front and center for it! I highly recommend getting to the Punakha Tshechu Festival early to get in front of the rest of the tourists. There’s tons of people and it’s hard to get a good shot of anything with lots of people in front of you. Then, we headed off to get some lunch!

Lunchtime Picnic

We were going to have a picnic by the river, but because of the Punakha Festival, most of the people who cater picnics were closed. Instead, we went back to the hotel to eat. We passed by more rice fields on the way.

Lunch consisted of dried beef with chilies and rice noodles, an ema datshi made from red chilies, cauliflower with cheese, and white rice from India. The broth from the ema datshi was super spicy! It was the perfect way to kick off my spicy Bhutanese lunch!

Check out my VIDEO: Hellishly Spicy Bhutanese Food + Famous Punakha Festival | Punakha, Bhutan

The dried beef with noodles looked really hot and was super chewy but full of flavor. It was also really fatty. The ema datshi was really good as well. The red chilies weren’t as hot as the green ones I’d had the previous day. I also loved the cauliflower. The cheese was almost completely liquid, so it wasn’t gooey at all.

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I also mixed some of the ema dashti with the rice, which was so good! I also went back for more beef with noodles, which was way more tender than my first bite. Mixing the liquid, cheesy sauce from the ema dashti with everything was so good as well. These chilies aren’t hot right away. They sneak up on you and make your lips tingle! The green chilies are way too hot, though!

I also loved that Bhutanese cuisine contained a lot of vegetables. The cauliflower was my favorite. The ema dashti was better than yesterday’s because it wasn’t nearly as hot. The dried beef was good, but it was a little too tough and rubbery for me. If you love veg and spice, this is the country for you!

I hope you enjoyed coming with me to try red-hot Bhutanese food and to the Punakha Tshechu Festival in Punakha, Bhutan! If you did, please give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment below. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss any of my travel/food adventures around the world!

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