Dochu La & Chele La – Bhutan’s sacred mountain passes!

Hello! Welcome to the third and final post on my Bhutan tour experiences. If you haven’t already read the previous two posts, please read them here at

Bhutan’s Thimpu and Bhutan’s Paro.

In this post, I am going to brief about our trip to Bhutan’s sacred mountain passes, Dochu La and Chele La.

When mountains call you, there are no excuses. There is a reason behind it, a purpose behind it. And what do the mountains tell us? To stand still and strong against the blustering winds. Mountains are unyielding protectors, they show us the righteous way of life. They inspire us with their patience and perseverance. They are unconquerable, but they leave the passes for us, humans to go closer to them, and reach them for the fillip. I witnessed the same kind of spirit going closer to the holy Himalayas during our Bhutan trip! We visited Dochu La and Chele La, the two mountains passes in the Himalayas of Bhutan.

Dochu La Pass

Located at an elevation of 3,100 metres, Dochu La is located on the road from Thimpu to Punakha. To the east of the pass, the snow clad mountain peaks of the Himalayas are seen prominently and among them is the Mt. Masanggang at 7,158 metres (23,484 ft) which is the highest peak in Bhutan, known in local language as the Mt. Gangkar Puensum. The road further runs into the scenic Punakha valley.

img_8017

img_8038
Druk Wangyal Lhakhang
img_8052
Druk Wangyal Chortens

The environment is calm and religious, with 108 memorial chortens called the Druk Wangyal Chortens built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. There is a monastery called the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple), built in honor of the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Also, there is the country’s first Royal Botanical Park located adjacent to the chortens. While this whole scene on the pass is a colorful feast to the eyes, the backdrop is often claded with a moving blanket of fog obscuring and revealing the Himalayas along with the near-by verdant greens leaving your mind and soul in tranquility.

It is an indelible experience for me to meditate inside and outside the Lhakhang overlooking the Himalayas.

img_8079

Chele La Pass

Chele La Pass is one of the highest motorable passes in Bhutan. It is the highest point with an altitude of 3988 metres. The road to Chele La is flanked by dense forests, and the trip to reach the pass takes you on a non-stop jaunt. Chele La, unlike Dochu La is very jagged and is surrounded by hilly terrains covered with vegetation that changes colors with seasons. The pass roughened by the cold gusts signifies a different side of Mother nature. Colorful prayer flags can be seen fluttering on the rough slopes making the view bright and pleasant. On a clear day, there are spectacular views of Mt. Jumolhari, Jichu Drake and adjoining peaks to the North West, as well as the view of the beautiful Haa and Paro valley.

img_8430img_8476img_8485img_8488

‘The best dreams happen when you are awake’! And yes, my dream to feel closer to the Himalayas came true this way. I will await to witness this heavenly experience once again in my lifetime.

So, did the mountains ever call you? If yes, please leave a comment and tell me all about it. I would love to connect with like-minds. 

Thank you for reading. More on our interactions and conversations with folks in Bhutan, and why I think Bhutan qualifies for a happy country in the upcoming posts. Stay tuned, and stay connected. See you later!

Advertisements

Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness. (Part 2) In and around Paro!

Welcome back!

I hope you have read about our Bhutan travel experiences in my previous blog here. Now, I am going to share with you more details of our itinerary.

After spending in and around the charming Capital city of Bhutan, Thimpu, we moved to Paro for a two day tour. Along with being a picturesque city, Paro is a historic town with structures with traditional architecture. It is also home for Bhutan’s only international airport, Paro Airport.

The main attractions in the city tour of Paro are Rinpung Dzong, Paro Taktsang, Kyichu Lhakhang, National Museum of Bhutan, Paro Airport bird’s eye view and the shopping streets of Paro.

Rinpung Dzong

With history beginning in the 15th century, Rinpung Dzong is a large Buddhist Monastery and a fortress that now has various administrative offices of Paro within it. Outside of the Dzong is the Deyangkha Temple and inside are fourteen shrines and chapels. It is quite interesting to go around the Dzong and to soak in all the historical and cultural significance. Below are a few photographs taken in the Dzong.

img_8294img_8300img_8307-jpgimg_8316img_8323

Paro Taktsang/Tiger’s Nest

Paro Taktsang, the very famous Himalayan sacred monastery is perched on the cliffs of upper Paro Valley. It can be reached either through a trek, or a horseback ride. Guru Padmasambhava who brought Buddhism to Bhutan is believed to have meditated there for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. The monastery has a rich and very significant history related to Bhutan and Buddhism. Read more about the world famous heritage site here.

img_8385

Kyichu Lhakhang

The Jowo Temple of Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsän Gampo. Read more about it on wiki here.

National Museum of Bhutan

The museum of Bhutan documents the cultural dances, flora and fauna, and other historical facts of Bhutan. There is a video played in the museum showcasing the different Bhutanese dances and festivals and their significance. It is quite fascinating to go round the museum. Aerial view of Paro valley from the museum offers breath-taking vistas. Photograph below.

img_8284

Paro Airport bird’s eye view

Paro Airport is undoubtedly one of the world’s very scenic airports. Nestled in a gorgeous panorama and in a deep valley is the airport adjacent to the banks of River Paro Chhu. The whole scene is fabulous and it stays with you forever.

img_8253

Last but not the least, shopping! What fun is it when you do world travel and not collect souvenirs? Here is my Bhutan travel haul. I bought most of these things on the street bazaar of Paro. They are going to keep all the memories alive to me.

14718742_10155328129216679_8981157284297233151_n

So far, I have covered Thimpu and Paro cities in my blogs. They are two fascinating places with a blend of cultural significance and nature’s heavenly beauty, thus making travel experience ethereal and memorable. I will be continuing on the sacred mountain passes of Chele La and Dochu La in my last and third blog. I hope you will await it. See you later! 🙂

Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness (Part 1). In and around Thimpu!

A few years ago, the topics during a tea-time confab were Gross Happiness Index, Bhutan, Himalayas and Taktsang Monastery. Like a seed planted grows into a tree, this discussion intrigued me a lot and my fascination to witness the Bhutanese way of living increased by the day. All the enthralling aspects of Bhutan and my all time obsession with nature, and mountains in particular, I added Bhutan travel to my bucket list.

Come 2016, life showed a direction towards pursuing my travel dream. And yes, I visited Bhutan, the Kingdom of Happiness.

Pristine landscapes, spectacular views, amicable people and their spiritual way of life, rich heritage, comforting food, and everything else so heavenly qualify Bhutan for a Utopia. Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is full of never-ending range of hills, verdant plains, meandering perennial rivers, meditative sounds of the Buddhist chants and colorful prayer flags tied everywhere reminding us that nature and spirituality are inseparable.

img_8540

Though the pictures don’t do justice to the real beauty of this paradise, and my words can’t describe the magical experience, I shall try my best to give a brief of how and what it was. Our tour was of four days covering the two major cities of Bhutan, Thimpu and Paro. A further long stay will give you much time and opportunity to explore the country better.

First two days in Thimpu

img_7681

The Memorial Chorten

img_7686

The Memorial Chorten or Memorial Stupa was built in the honor of the third King of Bhutan Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It does not contain human remains, but just a photograph of the King. It is circumambulated in clockwise direction like other religious structures. We spent about an hour in the Chorten witnessing the annual recitation of ‘Seven Line Prayer’ to Guru Rinpochhe. The whole milieu was sacred and ingenuous.

img_7694
Buddhists chanting peace mantras. Prayer wheels with “Om Mani Padme Hum” written on them

We later visited the Great Buddha Dordenma, a 169ft gigantic Buddha statue and the Takin Preserve. Takin is the national animal of Bhutan.

Rest of city tour had viewing gorgeous vistas and visiting the important places of interest like Changlimithing multi-purpose national stadium, National Institute for Zorig Chusum (Arts and Crafts school), Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar, National Library of Bhutan etc.

IMG_7821.JPG

IMG_7839.JPG

img_7845img_7889img_7900

National Institute for Zorig Chusum trains the Bhutanese youth in 13 native and traditional Bhutanese arts like wood carving, statue-making, painting, weaving, tailoring, embroidery etc. Some of the finished products are also sold for good prices.

img_8127

Authentic Bhutanese Arts and Crafts Bazaar, Thimpu

The shops had a unique collection of handcrafted house decors, clothes, book marks, key chains, Bhutanese masks, Bhutanese musical instruments, hand bags, jewelry and many more. The place was a kaleidoscope of colors.

Tashichho Dzong

Tashichhoedzong build by the first Dharma Raja, is a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the banks of Wang Chu River. There are thirty temples, chapels and shrines within it. It is the office of Bhutan’s civil government and Kingship together. A few kms near the Dzong is the King’s palace, the Dechencholing Palace. The photograph below is an aerial view of the Dzong and its surroundings.

img_7825

Bhutanese Cuisine

Coming to cuisine, red rice and buckwheat are Bhutan’s two main foods. Red rice in Bhutan has an earthy flavor. The Bhutanese make soups and stews out of various vegetables and meats (yak meat being a specialty).  Ema datshi, which is their national dish, is spicy made with large, green chili peppers in a cheesy sauce. It is one of their major comforting and widely made dishes. Momos (dumplings) are also quite famous. Butter Tea (also called Suja) is made of the Bhutanese Tea Leaves, Water, Butter and salt. The Bhutanese also include various spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric, caraway etc in their cooking.

Dha/Archery and Traditional Dresses Gho & Kira

The National game of Bhutan is Dha or Archery. We made sure we wore the traditional dresses of Bhutan (Gho for men and Kira for women) and played archery amidst the serene hilly terrains.

img_8370
The Kira
img_8376
Playing Dha or Archery wearing a Gho
img_8380
Making of the arrows

Bhutanese Architecture

Traditional Architecture remains prevalent in Bhutan. Throughout its history, Bhutan has mainly followed the Tibetan tradition of Buddhist architecture. Any new structure construction is supposed to abide the rules. Read more on the Architecture of Bhutan in wiki here.

img_7834

Touring Bhutan is not only a way to escape in the tranquility of nature, but also a fun trip getting to know their unique culture and tradition. It opens your heart to simplicity, variety and spirituality.

Revive your body and awaken your soul, go visit this magical Kingdom.

More on the remaining itinerary in next blogs. I will take through our Paro city tour and the sacred mountainous passes.

So..have you ever been to Bhutan? Please share your experiences, and blog links. Thanks for reading. 🙂