Thimphu, Oct 14: Bhutan's newly married Royal Couple waded through a sea of people during their 13-hour journey today from the ancient city of Punakha to capital Thimphu, covering most of the 71 km distance by foot, as thousands lined up along the road to give them a rousing reception.
The 31-year-old Oxford-educated Wangchuck and his Queen Pema, who did her higher secondary schooling in Himachal Pradesh's Sanawar, skipped their lunch as they accepted greetings, congratulatory messages and simple gifts from people all along their journey that began as early as 7.30 AM.
The Royal Couple got down from their car almost every five minutes, walked along with commoners, patiently signed autographs and even let them plant a kiss on their cheeks as people waited for hours together braving cold conditions to get a glimpse of the newly-wed couple.
The 71-km distance, which usually takes 3 hours by car, took 13 hours for the Royal Convoy to reach the capital as over 25,000 people queued across this picturesque city alone to welcome the Royal Couple to the capital.
The couple was scheduled to arrive here by 2 PM, but it was 8 PM when they reached the Druk Shopping Complex in the centre of the city.
When the convoy came near to them, the Bhutanese cheered and welcomed the King and the Queen with folded hands. Once the Royal Couple reciprocated their gestures, the people jostled with each other to present a white scarf, considered as a mark of respect, to the Royal Couple.
“Many a times, the King got down from his vehicle and walked along with the people. He likes spending time with people,” Kinley Dorji, Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication, told PTI.
“Most of the journey is being covered by foot. People are lined up across the way. He did not want to drive past them. That is why he took so much of time,” he said.
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, a personal friend of the Bhutan King, arrived here this afternoon and will grace the national celebrations at the Changlingmithang Grounds, which wears a festive look.
In Thimphu, near the Druk Shopping Complex, the Royal Couple shook hands with school children, who patiently waited for their arrival, gave autographs, accepted gifts and even kissed some of them.
“Thank you very much. Thank you very much,” Wangchuck, who attended the National Defence College in New Delhi, told the huge foreign media with folded hands as photographers jostled with each other to click pictures.
When a small girl expressed her desire to kiss him, he readily accepted and let her gave a peck on his cheek. The Royal Couple accepted white scarfs given as a mark of respect in Bhutan.
Authorities said the convoy stopped every five minutes as people could be seen as long as one eyes could sight and the King got down from the car with the Queen to accept the greetings of the people.
This is not the first time that King Wangchuck is being accorded a rousing reception by the people. A similar kind of frenzy was witnessed during his journey from the capital to Punakha after Wangchuck was coronated as the fifth king of the tiny Himalayan Kingdom in November, 2008.
The Wangchuck dynasty, which has been ruling Bhutan for the past 100 years, is much revered by the people of the Kingdom.