29 October 2019
Today we leave the peaceful Haa Valley. As we climb the steep road towards the Chelela Pass again we stop to take a picture of Haa with its 3 mountains that represent compassion, wisdom and power. We have a short break at the pass and even though the weather is again fantastic, only a few photos are taken. Chenga tells us more about the 4 pillars of happiness (first two were caring for the environment and preserving national culture). The other 2 are good governance and social equity. We can certainly appreciate the different stable governance makes when we compare Bhutan with Nepal that hasn’t had stability for decades. Social equity is also obvious here: the rich are not very rich and the poor are not very poor; there is free healthcare and education; and we certainly see gender equality (in the form of women doing more manual labour but we see very few female guides for example).
As we start down the other side towards Paro, we take a side road that leads up to a nunnery perched on the hillside at almost the same altitude as the pass at 3800m. We can only take the bus so far and then we have to walk up – telling ourselves it is good acclimatisation for tomorrow’s hike. Only about 20 nuns live up here but they have solar power. We walk up to the temple and then a nun asks if we would like to try butter tea – as none of us had yet tried it, we said yes. She did then bring out milk tea but served it with more of the roasted rice (not sure this will take off at home) and some biscuits.
We then head down to Paro and quickly check into our hotel as it is on the way (and directly opposite the airport). We drive a bit further up the valley for our lunch at a local farmhouse (that also does homestays). We are greeted by our lovely hostess and invited inside their 2 storey home (removing shoes first of course). Up a very steep ladder staircase we are shown into quite a large living area where we sit on squabs around the walls. I am allowed to take a few photos around the other upstairs rooms: kitchen, guest bedroom, bathroom and private temple.
Her daughters serve us a delicious meal, including butter tea and some homemade Ara (rice or wheat wine). After lunch her son shows some of the group how to play their archery in the garden. Once we are replete we head back into Paro to visit the Paro Dzong.
As with other Dzongs we have visited we cross a wooden bridge across the river before climbing a steep flight of stairs to enter the courtyard where there is a 5 storey tower in the centre and a temple/assembly hall at the rear. We are a bit surprised to see a rooster strutting around in the courtyard. We can also see Ta Dzong perched up on the hillside above us – this was the original watchtower but now houses the National Museum.
We don’t get to visit the National Museum but there is a Buddhist Art Centre that we are able to look around and see them painting both religious paintings as well as some lovely pictures of scenes such as the Tigers Nest that we will visit tomorrow.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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