Explore Panbang- The heart of the least developed district in Bhutan​

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Background of Panbang

Panbang is located in the south of Bhutan. It falls under Zhemgang Dzongkhag, the least developed district of Bhutan and it is located 13km away from the Indian Border.

Little was known about Panbang and beyond two decades ago. However, with the completion of the Gomphu-Panbang highway, electricity and good communication , handful of tourist are now travelling to the Panbang and beyond.

With the arrival of guests in a remote village, the local stakeholders are now opening their home to visitors and young entrepreneurs are taking up community-based business and services.

Panbang Today

Situated in one of the remotest parts of Bhutan, despite modernization, the life of the villagers has remained authentic and very simple. They practice shamanism and depend on nature for food.

Bamboo House

Even today people there live in a house with a thatched banana/grass roof. A typical khengpa house uses bamboo as the main material.  The people there are very nature-friendly.

If I was to compare diverse Bhutanese people depending on their lifestyle, I find similarities between khengpa people and Lhop people. From the thatched banana house roof design to the simple lifestyle of drinking ‘tongba’.

These people are very content with what they have, a roof to sleep and food to eat.  Be it delving in local khengpa custom or tradition or exploring unbeaten hiking trails and virgin river rafting and safari, Panbang awaits you.

Things to do in Panbang

Royal Manas National Park

Royal Manas Park is the oldest national park of Bhutan situated in southern foothills of Bhutan with the total area of 1057 km. sq.  If you are travelling to Panbang Via India, from the Manas National park of India it is 22 km drive to Royal Manas National Park.

While entering the gate of Manas National park of India, we need to pay Rs.300 as the entry fee however if you are driving down from Panbang it takes 12 km to the Park.

To go to other side of the park, one needs to take a boat ride that costs Nu. 10. The park is home to varieties of fauna and flora. RMNP is home to over 86 different mammal, 365 bird and 900 plant species. Asian elephant, tiger, golden langur, clouded leopard, and gaur are some notable wildlife you can find in Manas.’

There are also several hiking trails within the park. If you enjoy bathing elephants, Manas Park offers your elephant safari.  The pristine rich forests, diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes lend a unique charm to the rich wilderness area. Whatever the season of your visit, the Royal Manas National Park offers opportunities to enjoy, explore, learn and recreate in one of our nations unspoiled wonders.

Visit Bamboo Craft Center

Community Liason Cane & Bamboo Centre by OGOP & APIC, the centre exhibits artistic bamboo handicrafts like bamboo baskets, hats, holders, carpets and many more.

Local souvenirs Made in Panbang

The products are handmade and are woven by local people. Both man and woman engage in weaving bamboo handicraft products. Although Bjoka villagers are well known for weaving bamboo souvenirs, people from Kheng region are born with bamboo weaving skills.

Bamboo hat

If you want to buy bamboo products contact the manager of center @  17150568

Magnificent Twin Waterfall

One of the most beautiful twin waterfalls that you will ever see in en route Pantang-Panbang highway. The twin waterfall is followed by a green emerald shore. This makes waterfall the most beautiful traveller because when it travels it becomes a path in itself

Twin waterfall en route Panbang

The twin waterfall has become centre hotspot to stop for lunch for comfy break. Numerous benches and tables are constructed as the resting area for commuters and travelers.  The place is a great picnic spot !

River Rafting

Kheng is not only rich in wildlife, but also home to Bhutan’s largest river basins, the Mangde Chhu and Drangme Chhu basins. As Bhutan becomes a coveted destination for nature tourism river rafting has become of the ‘must do’ activity in any travel itinerary.

Rafting (Pc PaddeBhutan)

Rafting in the Panbang river can be absolutely thrilling adventurous because the rafting company have different rafting packages.

If you would like to go for river rafting you can contact eco lodge Mr L Dukpa 17511151 to arrange your day itinerary.

Swimming & Fly Fishing

Panbang comes abundance with green emerald river and riverbank. Because of its tropical climate, outdoor swimming has become one of the leisure activities of local folks. Travellers must try the outdoor swimming throughout the year except during monsoon season.

If you are would like to go for fishing you will require permit for fishing from forestry department however you could do fly fishing. Be mindful of the restricted or protected area.

Hiking trail from Jerang to Nakar Village

If you are looking forward to delving into local Panbang beyond the road go for a hike from Jerang to Nakar Village. The 2 hours hiking trail starts from somewhere near Eco-Lodge and it ends at Gerang village.

The hike will take you into the wilderness of Panbang, trail you to remote valleys and eventually get you closer to khengpa people lifestyle.

Stop at Panbang Bridge

Two bridges diagonally stretch from Panbang to Bjokha/Nganglam highway. Panbang Bridge was inaugurated in 2014 while the suspension bridge existed since ages. When I was in Panbang (1995-98) I remember crossing the suspension bridge.

Panbang Bridge

The commuters did not only use the bridge but also by the mules with luggage. Back then the local people had to walk for days and days to reach to Zhemgang dzongkhag & to Gelephu.

However, with the construction of the Gomphu-Panbang highway, life has become so easier for all the people living in Kheng region.

Visit Panbang Primary School

As a traveller, I believe to learn about the place we should befriend local people. The different individual has his or her own stories and listening to youths (students) makes me the happiest.

If you want to learn khengpa dialect you should definitely get the hold on to a few students & talk to them. Panbang primary school is home to students from four villages.  

Must Try ‘Tongba’

Kengpa practised slash and burn agriculture and moved around the slopes in search of fertile and new land to grow crops such as maize and millet.

Tongba

If you would like to explore khengpa culinary and gastronomy experience, you must try ‘Tongba’ the local made alcoholic beverage made from millet. Some local says ‘Tongba’ supplements coffee or morning tea for local khengpas.

Where to stay

Panbang Eco Lodge

Eco Lodge

Panbang Ecolodge is located by the bank of Mangde Chhu, a few kilometres from Panbang downtown. I spent a night at the lodge with my family and it was a very comfy stay. The toilets are inside the lodge. If you are more of an outdoor person, they have tent facilities.  A room charge is Nu 750/- per night.

Family getaway

The staffs are friendly and they guide the guest with day itinerary. If you wish to stay at Eco-lodge contact Mr. L Dupka @ 17511151 .

Pantang Eco Lodge

Pantang Eco-lodge located en route Pantang. The lodge provides standardized room facilities. The rooms are built in a typical Kheng style with a little modern touch.

For Local Bhutanese a room cost Nu 450/-  while they charge double for tourists.

Khamzang Lodge

khamzang Lodge Pantang

Across the Pantang Bridge, you will come across the house with thatched banana leaves and a small kitchen garden around the house. Do not mistake it as the house but its, in fact, a lodge named as Khamzang Lodge. The room rate is NU 350/- per night.

To experience typical kheng roof  hospitiality contact Mr Rinchen @ 17740725

How to get there

There are several routes to travel to Panbang;  

  1. Gelephu-Barbeta-Panbang (Via India)
  2. Gelephu-Tingtibi-Pantang-Panbang (Gomphu-Panbang Highway)
  3. Thimphu-Trongsa-Zhemgang-Tingtibi-Panbang

With Gomphu-Panbang highway, traveling to Panbang has become so much easier. Before the construction of road, the commuters use to take road via India.

If you are traveling from Gelephu, there is daily bus (except on Saturday) going to Panbang that cost Nu 235/-

Travel tip

B-Mobile network is accessible en route Panbang

No network Connection at Royal Manas  National Park

20 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Denka,

    There is a big difference between Zhemgang and Kheng. While Zhemgang is certainly an old name it was popularised only in the 20th century. On the other hand, the term Kheng is an incredibly broad term for it constitutes many villages spanning from lower Trongsa (Kungarabten) to lower Kheng such as Bjoka and Pangbang. While the term kheng gained currency during the feudal period, many things occurred since then. For instance, many kheng people migrated to Dagana, Tashiyangtse and Tsahigang during the feudal period probably to escape heavy taxes. Hence, the term kheng does not represent Zhemgang for we find many khengpas in the modern-day Trnongsa, Dangana and eastern Bhutan. Also, the house that you mentioned as typical of kheng is typical of lower ZHemgang because most of the houses in upper Zhemgang are made from stone and wood.

    • Thank you for broadening my knowledge regarding Khenpas. Since Panbang is home for khengpa I unhesitantly used the term. It’s like we address people from east sharshopa irrespective of the district they come from. Regarding the house, it is located in Pantang which still makes authentic local attraction.
      Cheers

  2. Hi Denkar,

    It’s great that you realized the wintry beauty and hospitality of this laid-back yet beautiful part of Zhemgang. If you are on a trail of exploring of Kheng region, keep Kheng Buli as your next destination. BTW nice write up. Couldn’t expect more. Keep exploring and sharing lady.

    • It means a lot coming from you dear Sherab. My bad I couldn’t explore Bjoka during my trip to Panbang.
      Buli is on my list. As always thank you for showing me the path and recommending places to explore.
      Much Gratitude.
      Cheers

  3. Hi,
    I’m jenny from asia lady, I really want to know the life and culture of Bhutan, It is possible that my next life will life there😄 (๑•́ ₃ •̀๑)

  4. I was in Manas a month back on New Years 2019. Took the Indian Highway from Pling to Barpeta in Assam and then to Panbhang. I have visited Panbhang earlier when there was no road from Shemgang. It took us 2 days to trek to Panbhang. You mentioned about the suspension bridge, it was built by the late Dasho. Nishioka and he was the man to create Sonamthang village above Panbhang town.

    • The last time I was in Panbang was in 1995, thus I can totally relate to your journey. life was very remote and hard back then. With Modernization, Panbang has developed a lot compared to two decades.
      Thank you for the additional information.

  5. wonderful experience expressed on various component of adventure.
    I see lot of changes at panbang from those day ( late 1990).
    most of all I liked the eco trail experience which connect to life of rural people and I believe tourism benefit are extended to them.
    eco lodge are wonderful experience setting to tourist. from my childhood days as a cowboy there I know panbang is rich to orchids and wild flowers, in pictures I see eco lodge being decorated by exotic flower which looks modernly wild. I feel decoration of eco lodge with native flowers( orchids and wild flower) will showcase rich diversity of panbang.

    • Panbang has changed a lot in the last few decades.
      I hope locals preserve the age-old tradition and culture despite modernization.
      From places I have travelled to Panbang is by far the best example of ecotourist spot.

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