Trashigang (Auspicious Mountain) is one of Bhutan's more interesting towns and a good base for excursions to Trashi Yangtse, Khaling, Radi, Phongme and elsewhere in eastern Bhutan. The picturesque town is at the foot of a steep wooded valley with the tiny Mithidang Chhu channelled through it. Trashigang's focal point is a tiny plaza that becomes crammed with parked cars.
The Mongar district is the northern portion of the ancient region of Khyeng. Shongar Dzong, Mongar's original dzong, is in ruins, and the new dzong in Mongar town is not as architecturally spectacular or historically significant as others in the region. Drametse Goemba, in the eastern part of the district, is an important Nyingma monastery, perched high above the valley.
Trashi Yangtse Dzongkhag
Previously a drungkhag (subdistrict) of Trashigang, Trashi Yangtse became a fully fledged dzongkhag (district) in 1993. It borders the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and there is some cross-border trade. The old trade route between east and west Bhutan from Trashi Yangtse, over the mountains to Lhuentse and then over Rodang La (4200m) to Bumthang, is now a trek route.
Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag
The only reason to make the tortuous drive into southeastern Bhutan is to leave it, at the border crossing with India at Samdrup Jongkhar. Entering the country at this border crossing offers quick access to the east from India's Assam state, though political tensions and strikes in that state made transport options uncertain at the time of writing.
The orderly settlement of Trashi Yangtse rises just above the Chorten Kora, 3km from the old dzong. The new dzong and town occupies a large bowl in one of the furthest corners of the kingdom, 550km from Thimphu. The road enters from the south passing the large Chorten Kora before it enters a subdued bazaar area with an elaborately decorated Bhutanese-style chorten.
The highway enters the town from the north, passing the small modern dzong with its goemba and traditional-style courthouse. The main road passes the Bank of Bhutan and crosses a bridge then turns left into the compact bazaar area, where you'll find hotels, shops and restaurants. If you go straight instead of turning left, you will hit the border.
Mongar to Trashigang
The Mongar to Trashigang stretch is easier and shorter than the journey from Jakar to Mongar, but you still need about 3½ hours to cover the 91km between the two towns, plus an extra two hours if you detour to Drametse Goemba. The road crosses one low pass, then follows a river valley before making a final climb to Trashigang.
There is little to see in Lhuentse and there's no actual village here, but the dzong is one of the most picturesque in Bhutan. Just above the dzong is a new dratshang (college) built to house the monastic community, while the hillsides are dotted with new quarters for government officials who have been posted to this remote area where housing is scarce.
Formerly known as Kurtoe, the isolated district of Lhuentse is the ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family. Although geographically in the east, it was culturally identified with central Bhutan, and the high route over Rodang La was a major trade route until the road to Mongar was completed.
Trashigang to Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary
The paved road east from Trashigang travels up the valley of the Gamri Chhu to Rangjung, and then continues as a gravel road and dirt track to Radi and Phongme. Most people headed this way are trekking to Merak and Sakteng. If you're short on time, you won't miss much by skipping this route.
Hidden in a side valley high above Trashi Yangtse town is this delightful and little-known pilgrimage site. The current chapel dates from the 18th century and is built around the kurjey (body print) of Guru Rinpoche. Pilgrims lift one of two stones in front of the print to increase their chances of getting a boy or girl.
Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary
Bomdeling is a 40-minute drive north of Trashi Yangtse, across the traditional bridge at the north end of town. It is the winter (November to early March) roosting place of around 100 black-necked cranes, though numbers have been dropping in recent years. The sanctuary is also home to black-capped langurs, red pandas, tigers and snow leopards.
Trashigang to Trashi Yangtse
The drive from Trashigang to Trashi Yangtse takes about 1¾ hours' driving time, but you should budget extra time to visit Gom Kora on the way. There's lots to see en route and it's a great day trip from Trashigang. Even if you don't have time to drive all the way to Chorten Kora, do make the effort to make the short trip to Gom Kora.