The Paro Valley lies in the NE of the country. Bhutan’s only international airport is in the valley and is serviced by Druk Air and from October 2013 by a second, and private airline. The valley has a population of around 20,000.
The Paro Valley is bordered on both sides by mountain ranges. The valley floor is full of rich alluvial soil which is ideal for growing the red rice favoured by the Bhutanese. Heavy, flooding rains occurred the week before we arrived and considerable damage was done to the already harvested and still standing crops.
Looking down the valley, the rice crop was in various stages of readiness for harvest. Generally, nothing is built on the valley floor as the land is too valuable for agriculture. Dwellings are built on the surrounding slopes. The red rice favoured by the Bhutanese has been grown in the Paro Valley for thousands of years. It is well suited to the 2438m (8000ft) elevation of the valley. It is irrigated with glacial water rich in potassium and magnesium. The rice has a russet colour and possesses a complex nutty and earthy flavour.
The harvested rice is laid down in rows and left to dry before threshing. Some residual water from the flooding a week before our visit can be seen in the lower left of the photo. The rice in this field will probably be ruined as a result of drying too slowly. A black fungus will spoil the rice as it takes advantage of the wet conditions.
On our return to Paro we stayed in Villa 19 at the Uma Paro Hotel.
It was quite some villa. Inside the front door, this spacious scene greeted us.
The wood-burning heater and passageway leading to the two bedrooms.
Painted murals are a common feature of both inside and outside walls in Bhutan.
The main bedroom.
Apart from this room there was another smaller room with a bed and massage table. It also had a wood-burning heater. Another small room belonged to the butler! It had a ¾ size fridge, sink and a range of glasses, plates and cutlery. We were able to use these facilities, and did, when we invited our fellow passengers for pre-dinner drinks one evening.
Small, stout horses are a favourite means of transporting goods
over the various trails and roads which link villages to the larger towns.
Rice ready to be harvested. It was high summer and the drainage ditches should have been dry, but were wet as a result of the recent rain associated with Very Severe Cyclone Phailin which caused considerable damage in eastern India in October 2013. Phailin was the second strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in India. An estimated 12 million people were effected with 550,000 people being evacuated to safer locations.
The Paro Valley is surrounded by the Himalaya.
These are the mountains Druk Air pilots have to negotiate to land safely in this valley.
The colourful, low-rise buildings of the city of Paro.
The rice fields are irrigated by water from the Paro Chhu which flows along the valley floor.
Ta Dzong, built between 1649 and 1651, stands on a hill above the Rinpung fortress-monastery. It overlooks the valley and was used to watch for invading Tibetans. In 1968 it was opened as the National Museum. It has in its possession over 3000 works of art covering more than 1500 years of Bhutanese cultural heritage. At present it is closed to the public for repairs after major structural damage occurred during an earthquake in 2011. New stone work can be seen at the top left of the photo. A nearby temporary building now houses some of the treasures of Bhutan. Restoration of the old building is expected to be completed by 2015.
When the National Museum re-opens in 2015, it will be equipped with modern facilities such as CCTV and metal detectors.
The Ta Dzong is an art work in itself. More new stone restoration work can be seen.
A gap in the clouds let a shaft of sunlight beam down into the Paro Valley in the late afternoon.
The Paro Valley, bathed in late afternoon sunlight.
Golden yellow rice crops ready to be harvested.
The green roof in the centre left of the photo belongs to one of the hangers at Paro airport.
Typical, traditional Bhutanese houses in the Paro Valley.
Already harvested rice was laid out in neat rows.
Surface water can be seen which will most probably render this rice unusable.
Traditional buildings line Paro’s main street. Rinpung Dzong is in the background. The National Museum is just out of sight, up and behind the Dzong.
A quick peek inside a shop reveals that Bhutan is rocketting into the developed world –
note the Coca Cola!
Khuru darts for sale in a shop in Paro. These large heavy darts are thrown in an outdoor game.
The target is between 20 to 30 metres from the thrower.
After a day’s sightseeing we went back to Villa 19 at Uma Paro Hotel. Dinner followed shortly afterwards.
The Dinner Menu offering a selection of Bhutanese dishes. Western tastes were catered for as well.
‘Jasha dhang yesey pega hentsey’ or Grilled chicken curry with coriander & mustard greens. Yum – more please!
In the circular dining room at Uma Paro Hotel, a central wood burning stove keeps diners warm on chilly nights and mornings. As is typical with most traditional buildings in Bhutan, varnished timber and stone predominate as building materials. Dinner here, was a great way to finish a good day in the Paro and Haa Valleys.
Photography copyright © DY of jtdytravels
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