Monday, November 04, 2013

Bhutan trip day 6 - Tue, 10 Sep 2013 - Journey to Haa Day 1

Other than Gelephu and Bumthang, Haa was another place that I first time visited in Bhutan during my second trip there. We departed from Motithang at 9am by car. Riku's best friend, Pema, with his friend, Dago, came and fetched us. Four of us went together. It was nice Tuesday morning, when Thimphu Dromche was held.

View of Tashichho Dzong from Zilukha Road

Actually, we could visit the Tashichho Dzong at the midnight before, but Riku and I had an evening walk to Zilukha Road all the way up to the Kissing Point and returned back home tiredly, plus I was trying Special Courier mixed with apple juice (the way how Bhutanese usually mixed their whiskey with).

Trying Special Courier whiskey with Apple Juice :)

I only heard about it from Riku before and found it weird because usually we mixed whiskey with Coca Cola, Pokka Green Tea, or plain whiskey with ice cube here. So. whenever he said he mixed it with apple juice, I was wondering how the taste would be. And since I was there, why not try it right? ;) Here I went! It turned out that the whiskey was quite strong for me. I drank only two glasses and fell asleep right after that. So, forget about the Dromche... Lolx!!!
Lower and higher town of Haa, Bhutan - Pema, Chencho, me and Riku

Haa Dzongkhag was located at the western side of Bhutan, south west part of Paro. It was the smallest Dzongkhag in the country. Although small, it was one of the most beautiful places in the Kingdom, rich with pristine alpine forests and tranquil mountain peaks. Haa was also known as "Hidden-Land Rice Valley". It had the second least population Dzongkhag after Gaza in Bhutan.

Unlike Gelephu in southern Bhutan, which was located near India border, Haa was located nearer to China border. Wow, I only realized now how near I was with these two neighbor countries hehe... No wonder, when I was in Haa, I could see many shops selling Chinese goods. Wow!!!

Before going there, I did a little research about what place to visit. I copied and pasted from travel agent's itinerary and had it as guidelines. I only knew that Riku told me that one of his best friends staying and living there and we had a possibility to go there to meet his friend and stay there for a night or two. This round we were planning to visit for a night, while Pema and Dago drove back to Thimphu at evening time as they had to work during midnight. So both of them were helping and accompanying us on our journey to Haa. Thank you Pema and Dago for your time and effort! :)
Roadside seller - selling mostly apples, cucumber, chili, and some other local vegetables
It's common to see roadside seller like this in Bhutan. Some was with roof provided, while some was using big umbrella to hide themselves from the heat of the sun. It was helpful whenever you felt hungry and needed some bites on apple or cucumber, also to refresh yourself after long-drive.

We passed through mountains, mountains, and more mountains. It was all greenery, filled up my hunger of woods and nature beauties :) Sometimes we stopped at roadside to pee. What I loved about Bhutan, you won't find any difficulty in finding place to release your nature calls. Hehe... It was available almost everywhere. What you need was a place to hide, behind trees and bushes or even stones, and Voila!! There you were!!! You didn't even need an umbrella. Just like that!! Haha... Loving it!! At the same time we helped and contributed to fertilize the soil naturally hehe...

Dogar Dobji Dzong
At an altitude of 6600 feet, we passed by Dogar Dobji Dzong, which was believed to be the first model of a Dzong in Bhutan. Built in year 1531 by Ngawang Chhogyal, the brother of Buddhist Saint, Drukpa Kunley (known as Divine Madman). Later on the Dzong and all its surroundings were destroyed in an earthquake of great magnitude; with the exception of the centre tower which by popular belief, survived, because of a sacred Terma (the statue of Guru Langdarchen), housed in the top floor of the Dzong. Riku asked me to capture the Dzong photo as he said that there was a Bhutanese movie made in this Dzong, but I forgot the title of the movie that he mentioned.

While Dago was driving, I took a look at outside view through the car window, enjoyed the view non-stop and felt the breeze of fresh air from the outside. Sometimes I could smell doma too from inside the car hahaha... It's typical smell in Bhutan no?? In between we were having different type of snacks inside the car, such as local fried potato chips - one plain, another one with chilli - plus crunchy spicy peanuts that I bought from Indonesia.

Beautiful view on the way to Haa
We stopped by for a while to capture the beautiful view above and take photos together with the prayer flags. The view behind was magnificent. And since the road was so quiet (I noticed that there were not many cars going through this way), suddenly I had this thought of asking them to take the 'Jump' photo in the middle of the road :) To be frank, I was quite impressed with the quiet road in Bhutan. It felt like the road was belong to you as nobody else used it. Therefore, you could take photo in any way you wanted to do, like sitting down, lying down, etc. :D

Jump pose 1 by Riku, Dago and Pema

Jump pose 2 by Riku, me and Pema
Tell you, it was so fun!!! For a while, we forgot about our stress at work and home. We were just concentrating on how to jump together and resulting in nice photo as we couldn't afford to jump over and over again as it was tiring la! Hahaha..... Nice pictures right? Especially we were in the middle of the road with mountains and pine trees as background :)

Nice road view with Bhutanese school children and elderly :)

We continued our journey. In front, we saw group of local farmers beating their harvest in the middle of the road. They purposely put the dried wheat just like that and let the vehicles to run on top of it, helping out in beating it. They still had to beat it manually though using some kind of metal rod to hold and another part was made of wood to beat. Dago stopped the vehicle after passing them by and Riku asked us if we wanted to try. Why not? We were there to enjoy and experience no? Hehe.. So, there we went!

Hands-on beating on the harvest with local farmers - on our way to Haa, Bhutan :)
You could see the photos above where all of us hands-on trying to do the job well. The three guys seemed to be very familiar with what they were doing. Unfortunately, not me. Hahaha... You could also see the farmers who were standing behind me, all was laughing at me. Hahahaha.... One of them couldn't resist looking the way I beat and showed her hands asking me to do the right way. Lolx!!! Sorry la, it was really my first time doing that. You were allowed to laugh at me, anyway... hahaha.... It was fun!

Entering beautiful Haa Valley
We stopped by for a while watching people playing archery. Archery was a national sport in Bhutan. Bhutanese enjoyed this sport very much. There were 13 players in the team. They took turn shooting two arrows, first at one direction, then from the opposite direction. When preparing for competition, players were advised not to spend the night with their wives before the competition in order to achieve a high level of concentration.

The teams were said often employ astrologers to select the competing members. These astrologers were often hired at substantial fees so that they could have favorable tsip performances, cast curses against other archers, and gain an upper hand. They were also needed to calculate the time and place for competition (source: It's interesting no? :)

After about 3 to 4 hours of journey, we finally entered Haa Valley. We could see many farmers having lunch on the roadside after a tired half day of working at a farm. We were hungry too. Riku had asked his sister to cook two types of curry veggies and rice early in the morning. He forgot to bring his food containers from his office back home so he had to store it in a small plastic container. He also brought the cooked rice together with its pressure cooker. We stopped at roadside planning to have our lunch. However, we had to cancel that because Riku forgot to bring some plates and spoon. No choice, we had to bring the food inside the car and have our lunch in Haa :D

In the photo above (top left), you could see the three mountains located in a row, next to each other, called as Three Brother Hills, also called Miri Phunsum. We passed through the helipad where helicopter could land in case of emergency (Only about a week before, on 2nd September 2013, there were 8 Bhutanese soldiers killed and 10 more injured in explosion while disposing the old ammunition in Haa, which required those injured ones to be transported by helicopter to Thimphu to get treated). We also passed through the Indian army base and military camp.

Atsara outside Lhakhang Karpo or White Lhakhang in Haa
We fetched Riku's best friend, Chencho, who was working as government officer, in White Lhakhang or Lhakhang Karpo. He just finished rehearsing for the upcoming Haa Festival. Just nice, there was an Atsara coming nearby our vehicle and we managed to take close-up photo of his mask and together with one of his secret weapons :D

Day spent in Haa - played Carom, visited Haa Wangchuklo Dzong

Five of us went to Chencho's house, settled down, and finally had our lunch there hehehe... He lived with his father. It was quite big house for both of them, with 2 bedrooms, 1 toilet and 1 kitchen.We had our lunch in living room while watching TV. All of us was very hungry already. Haha... Btw Chencho just bought a pair of new traditional Bhutanese hand embroidered shoes or called Tsholham. He bought it as he had to wear it on the upcoming Haa Festival. It was beautiful ya! I tried it there and fitted my feet nicely. It was comfortable too, but I heard it didn't come cheap. It was meant for guy though hehehe...

On our way to Damthang, Haa, Bhutan

After lunch, we went out. We drove all the way to Damthang. It was about 15 km long from higher town. The view there was amazing!! It was mountains fulls of pine trees, decorated with spiral rivers, Bhutanese neat buildings, etc. I loved it so much! The air was cold too. If I could stay longer, I would hehehe.. Perhaps everyday I would just wonder around the area, walking or running, cycling, and just embrace the natures surround me :) We saw group of Bhutanese/Indian army training their physics too by running through the mountain road.

Damthang Lower Secondary School, Haa, Bhutan

We could only stop nearby the Damthang Lower Secondary School and were not allowed to go further as it was  restricted area. There were school children playing there. See their playground on the photo above. It was all made manually using wood and rope, so simple yet it could make children happy playing with it. What a simple life of Bhutan!!! In Singapore, children was pampered with good quality and colorful slides, ladders in almost every neighborhood area. Our lives were really different!

On our way back it was raining. The weather got even colder. But when we reached back to Haa town, the rain stopped. We stopped by at higher town as Chencho wanted us to taste Hoendey, the Haa specialty dumpling - deep fried and steamed. Nyummy!!! I loved it! It consisted of 12 different type of local vegetables grown in Haa. Btw, Bhutanese ate their dumplings served with chilli. As for us, we usually dipped our dumplings with Chinese black vinegar and sliced ginger, equally nyummy too.. hehehe.. But I could eat chilli and loved spicy food, so I could eat their dumplings that way :)

Visited National Center for Riverine & Lake Fisheries in Haa, Bhutan
Once filled up our stomach, we visited the fisheries, a place where trout fishes were hatched - called Trout Hatchery. It's interesting though that the place was meant only to grow the fish, but not to sell, kill and eat as it was as opposing to the Buddhist teaching. There, Karma Wangchuk, the Livestock Production Officer,, explained to us the three different trouts that they hatched over there, which were Brown trout (Salmo trutta) ,was first introduced in 1930; Snow trout - the native fish of Bhutan; and Rainbow trout - had not been released into the river yet, just confined inside the premises of the center.

From the photos, you could see two different type of places to hatch the fishes. The photo in middle left was also the small pond where fishes were hatched. Looked more naturally. Interesting place. Thank you Karma for explaining the fish history to us!!! It was great meeting you there too!

After that we visited the Haa Wangchuklo Dzong for a while, then to a place where Chencho and other young Bhutanese loved to visit to pass their time by playing snooker and carom. The place was called Hotel Two Sister. There was a small bar too with TV where people could sit there drinking and watching football, etc. I played the carom for the first time together with them. Hahaha... As expected, I was quite lousy on that and kept saying "Aduh!!", an expression (in Indonesian) that you said when you failed to put the thing into the hole kekeke...

From there, we separated with Pema and Dago.They went back to Thimphu. Riku, Chencho and I went back home to take a rest. In evening, Chencho cooked Haa arra mixed with fried butter and egg for me to try because I told him I hadn't tasted it before and wanted to know how Bhutanese usually drank.

Hoendey and local arra from Haa :)
He showed the process of cooking the arra to me in his kitchen. Now, I knew how to do and even cooked it myself back home in Singapore hehe... Thank you Chencho for your valuable teaching!! We drank it before taking our dinner. It was cold night and we were quite tired. We went to sleep early at about 9pm plus. It had been a long day and the thick blanket had kept me from the cold air. Hmm... so comfortable!! Loved the feeling :)

Haa journey - to be continued here.

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