Bhutan # 17 : The Haa Valley


Here, in the upper reaches of the Paro Valley, the rice paddies climb further up the adjoining slopes.  A lot of water can be seen in some paddies as these have yet to drain after heavy rain associated with cyclone Phailin.


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P1000931 © DY of jtdytravels

Terraced rice paddies are easy to flood but being so level, are slow to drain.


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P1000932 © DY of jtdytravels

Beautiful patterns are created as the harvested rice is laid out in lines.

Some attempt has been made to cover some of the crop with blue tarpaulins.


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P1000927 © DY of jtdytravels

What a wonderful face.


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P1000940 © DY of jtdytravels

The highest point, 3988m (13,084ft), on the Paro-Dantak road.

The road leads to the Haa Valley


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P1000941 © DY of jtdytravels

108 is an auspicious number for Bhutanese Buddhists.  For those who can afford the expense, 108 prayer flags are erected on a high pass to commemorate the death of a family member.  Prayer flags have mantras printed on them and come in a vertical format (above) or square.  These vertical flags are called darchor.  The square flags, which usually come in a string of five colours, are called lung ta.  A wooden block is used to print the prayers.


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P1000970 © DY of jtdytravels

The view back down into the Paro Valley.


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P1000971 © DY of jtdytravels

In general, high passes are favoured places to erect prayer flags.  Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.  It is believed that the mantras will be blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion into all pervading space, bringing benefit to all.  It is further believed that these thoughts become a permanent part of the universe and as the images and words fade from exposure to the elements, this represents the cycle of life – the old being replaced by the new. Therefore new flags will be erected alongside old ones.  These flags must always be treated with respect and never placed on the ground.  Old flags should be burned.  It is believed by some that if the flags are hung on what is deemed to be an inauspicious day, they may bring bad results for as long as they are flying.  A sunny, windy morning is the best time to put up new flags.


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P1000972 © DY of jtdytravels

The Chele La (pass) was covered with flags of five different colours.  The colours are arranged in a specific order from left to right.  Blue symbolises the sky and space, white – air and wind, red – fire, green – water, and yellow – earth.


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P1000975 © DY of jtdytravels

A popular Buddhist tradition is to enshrine portion of a person’s ashes in a small reliquary known as a tsa-tsa.  The ashes are combined with some clay, dried, sometimes painted, and left at a place of power such as near a river, stupa or in a cave.


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P1000992 © DY of jtdytravels

The Haa Valley is a steep-sided narrow valley in the far west of Bhutan.  Wheat and barley are the main crops grown in the valley however some rice is grown in the lower parts.  Apples, potatoes and chillis are cash crops grown on the terraced lower hillsides.  Census statistics indicate that every household owns some animals, mostly yaks, cattle, and some chickens, pigs and horses.  The flat area to the centre left contains a helipad and was the place we stopped to have our packed lunch.  The valley was only opened to foreign tourism in 2002.  Facilities are still scant.


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P1000994 © DY of jtdytravels

Traditional farmhouses dot the valley.


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P1000995 © DY of jtdytravels

The Haa Dzong is a military installation.  We were told that there is some agitation to have the army vacate the dzong and return it to the people.  The base is maintained in the valley to guard against incursions from China.


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P1010009 © DY of jtdytravels

Our boxed lunches were laid out on tarpaulins on the ground.


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P1010010 © DY of jtdytravels

Each box was labelled with its contents.  Salmon, chargrilled vegetables (my yummy choice), roast beef, garden salad, hogay salad etc.  There were boiled eggs, pieces of fruit cake and fruit as well.


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P1010011 © DY of jtdytravels

Forestry is very important to the local economy with 78% of the district being covered in forest.  A substantial part of the NE half of the Haa District is defined as the Torsa Strict Native Reserve.  There is no human habitation in this reserve.


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P1010016 © DY of jtdytravels

These happy school kids are wearing a school uniform that is not traditional.

 I don’t know why.


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P1010017 © DY of jtdytravels

This interesting sign refers to the proper dress that must be worn when a Bhutanese visits a Dzong or other administrative centres.  A “kapni”, usually spelt “kabney”, is a long scarf that is hung over the left shoulder and loosely tied on the right side at about knee level.  The colour of the Kabney varies with rank.  Yellow is reserved for the King and Head Abbot, orange is worn by Ministers, green by Judges, red with a narrow white stripe is worn by a District Administrator.  Commoners wear white kabneys.  Women wear a similar scarf, called a rachu, although colour has no significance.  These are usually woven out of raw silk and richly embroidered.


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P1010018 © DY of jtdytravls

A string of chillies drying on an ornately decorated window in the Haa Valley.


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P1010021 © DY of jtdytravels

A traditional, ornate wooden window under construction.  Local soft-wood is invariably used.  The heavy construction matches the solid building techniques used to construct the rest of the building.


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P1010024 © DY of jtdytravels

These bricks have come from India,”Bharat” being an Indian brick manufacturer.


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P1010027 © DY of jtdytravels

The Haa Valley is home to two important temples.

The Black Temple and the White Temple were built at the same time in the 7th Century.


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P1010028 © DY of jtdytravels

A string of freshly hung chillies being dried for later use in the winter.


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P1010030 © DY of jtdytravels

The White temple being renovated and restored.


More anon


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