Trashigang, "The Jewel of the East", spans the easternmost corners of the kingdom, skirting up to the edge of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It is the country’s largest district, with an altitude ranging from 600m to over 4000m.
Bhutan’s largest river, Dangme Chhu, flows through this district. Trashigang town is set on a scenic hillside and was once a bustling trade centre for merchants looking to barter their goods in Tibet. Today, it is the junction of the East-West highway with road connections to Samdrup Jongkhar and the Indian state of Assam. Trashigang town is also the principle market place for the semi-nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose unique way of dressing stands out from the ordinary Bhutanese Gho and Kira.
Trashigang is home to the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, one of ten protected areas of Bhutan, was created in part to protect the migoi, a type of yeti, in whose existence most Bhutanese believe. The sanctuary covers the eastern third of the district (the gewogs of Merak and Sakteng), and is connected via biological corridor to Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary in Samdrup Jongkhar District to the south.
With its wealth of natural, historical and cultural resources, Trashiyangtse is a destination that visitors to Bhutan will never forget.
At an elevation of 1750-1880m, Trashiyangtse is an ethnically and culturally diverse district and the inhabitants include Yangtseps, the regions indigenous dwellers, Tshanglas, Bramis from Tawang, Khengpas from Zhemgang and Kurtoeps from Lhuentse. This rich cultural tapestry has resulted in an interesting mix of languages and cultural practices in the region. Three major languages are spoken in Trashiyangtse. In the north, including Bumdeling and Toetsho Gewogs, inhabitants speak Dzala. In the south, Tshangla (Sharchopkha), the lingua franca of eastern Bhutan, is spoken in Jamkhar, Khamdang, and Ramjar Gewogs. In Tomzhangtshen Gewog, residents speak Chocangacakha.
The people of the region have developed incredible skill at woodworking and paper making. The items they produce such as traditional wooden bowls are prized throughout the country. It contains a major art school, the School of Traditional Arts, which is a sister school of the School of Traditional Arts in Thimphu and teaches six forms of art; painting, pottery, wood sculpture, wood-turning, lacquer-work and embroidery.
The road approaching Mongar is one of the most spectacular journeys in the country. It passes over sheer cliffs and through beautiful fir forests and green pastures. Travelers passing this route will have the opportunity to visit the Rhododendron garden. There are countless varieties of rhododendrons here and on clear days you can even catch a glimpse of Gangkhar Puensum (7541m), a strong candidate for the world’s highest unclimbed mountain.
Mongar district covers an area of 1,954 sq. km with elevations ranging from 400m to 4,000m and has a population of about 38,000. The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs and deep gorges set amidst dense conifer forests. The fastest-developing dzongkhag in eastern Bhutan, this region is known for its weavers and textiles, and fabrics produced here are considered some of the best in the country.
Mongar is also noted for its lemon grass, a plant that can be used to produce an essential oil.
In the northeastern corner of Bhutan lies the ancient region of Kurtoe or Lhuntse as it is known today. It is the ancestral home of our Kings and hosts several of the sacred sites of pilgrimage in the country. It is located 77km from Mongar (3 hours’ drive) and is one of the most isolated districts in Bhutan.
The landscape is spectacular with stark cliffs towering above river gorges and dense coniferous forests. The region is famous for its weavers and their distinctive textiles are generally considered to be the best in the country. Kurtoep women are especially adept at weaving a textile called Kishuthara. Eastern Bhutanese culture is distinctive in its high alcohol consumption in relation to other parts of Bhutan. Ara, the traditional alcohol of Bhutan, is most often home made from rice or maize, either fermented or distilled. It may only be legally produced and consumed privately.
Some of the attractions in the region include the Lhuntse Dzong, Khoma village (famous for weaving), Singye Dzong, the beyul Khenpajong and the Phunying Pass. The textile products of Khoma village in Lhuntse are stated to be the best in the country. The weaving handicraft looms are common sight in almost every household.