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Exploring Paro, Haa and Chele La Pass

Chelela Pass

This part of Trip Report is being continued from The Old Capital – Punakha

For your reference again, here’s the itinerary that we are following :

1st Feb : Day 1 : Hasimara – P/Soling via Jaigon
2nd Feb : Day 2 : P/Soling – Thimphu
3rd Feb : Day 3 : Thimphu SS
4th Feb : Day 4 : Thimphu – Phobjika via Punakha
5th Feb : Day 5 : Phobjika – Bumthang via Trongsa
6th Feb : Day 6 : Bumthang SS
7th Feb : Day 7 : Bumthang – Punakha via Wangdue
8th Feb : Day 8 : Punakha – Thimphu
9th Feb : Day 9 : Thimphu – Paro SS
10th Feb : Day 10 : Paro – Day Trip To Haa
11th Feb : Day 11 : Paro – Hike to Tiger’s Nest
12th Feb : Day 12 : Paro – Hasimara via P/Soling & Jaigaon

Trip To Bhutan Series :
Part 1: Planning A Trip To Bhutan – For Indians
Part 2: Entering Bhutan – The Land of Thunder Dragon
Part 3: Capital of Bhutan – Thimphu In & Around
Part 4: Journey To Phobjika via Dochula
Part 5: The Most Historic Dzongkhag – Bumthang
Part 6: The Old Capital – Punakha
Part 7: Exploring Paro, Haa and Chele La Pass
Part 8: Hike to Tiger’s Nest – Paro Taktsang
Part 9: Tashi Delek Bhutan – The Himalayan Kingdom

9th February : Day 9 : Thimphu to Paro and Paro Sightseeings :
First of all let me wish you Losar Tashi Delek. Losar is Bhutanese / Tibetian New Year and Tashi Delek means Welcome in Dzhongkha. After exploring the The Old Capital – Punakha, our plan for the day was to go to Paro, as well as to do the sightseeing at Paro, the last leg of our trip. So we started a bit late at around 10:00 AM today, as travelling to Paro hardly takes one to one and a half hours.

Thimphu - Paro Divider

While moving to Paro, we came across a river, Paro Chu, where Raj asked us whether we’d like to have a stop. We nodded, as we were tempted by the greenish color of the same.

Paro Chu

Paro Chu

After spending few minutes there, we started again for Paro and soon we crossed the Paro Airport. We couldn’t even realize how we spend one and a half hours while having fun. Raj told us to go to hotel first, freshen up and then we’ll go for sightseeing post lunch. Almost all the shops were closed due to Losar, looked like a strike in West Bengal. So we directly moved to our hotel, Hotel Phunsum.

Hotel Phunsum, Paro

We didn’t able to trace anyone in the reception bay as we entered the hotel. But I noticed a source of light on a room nearby. Upon peeping at the room, I noticed that two ladies were watching TV. Upon knocking on the door, one of them came up to us and introduced herself as Tshering. She said that, her mother is actually the owner of the hotel, but she’s in Thimphu right now, so presently she’s taking care of all the things here. She further informed us, due to off season, there’s no guest and we’d be the only one.

To tell you the truth, this was the case everywhere we stayed throughout our stay in Bhutan and we kinda enjoyed the isolated stay everywhere. I smiled and asked her not to worry, and informed her that, we are travelling in bhutan since 10 days and eveywhere we stayed, we were the only one. She told the other lady to show us the rooms and carry the luggage. We had booking of one double and one triple bed room here at Hotel Phunsum. Except this one, all our stays had two double bed room with one extra mattress in one of the room. So I requested her to provide the double room such that I can get the night view of the Dzong and as there were no other bookings, she agreed.

After putting the luggage in our rooms, we came down and inquired about the options available for lunch. But she informed us that, due to Losar, the cook is not available today, so she requested us to arrange it outside for the day. And then I remembered the name of Hotel Sonam Trophel, from various trip reports from India Mike Forums. We asked Raj about Sonam Trophel, he smiled and said, “chaliye, bahut accha khana milega” (Let’s go, you’ll have a finger licking food there) and further continued that the cook, Mr. Sondesh, is his friend and a hindu by religion and he prepares awesome food.

Hotel Sonam Trophel, Paro

It was a 2 minute driving distance from Phunsum. We ordered various items, as we noticed various Bengali Dishes were listed there. And when the Dishes were served, we couldn’t utter a word. First time in Bhutan, we noticed they have prepared Bengali Dishes exactly as it’d be prepared by a Bengali cook. Only Bengali’s can imagine how a Fish Curry would taste if prepared with tomatoes and Coriander leaves. Yes Raj was absolutely right, we kept licking our fingers and decided to have our dinner for the remaining days in Paro, here only.

Finally after having our lunch, we started for our first sightseeing destination Kichu Lakhang at around 1:30 PM and it took us around 10 minutes to reach.

Kichu Lakhang, Paro

Oranges At Kichu Lakhang

  • Kichu Lakhang

After Kichu Lakhang, we we went to Paro Dzong. Raj told us that he’d drive us to uphills and will come back and wait at the entrance of Dzong till we visit the Dzong. Because, otherwise we’d have to climb up if we go through the main Entrance and my mom may not be able to make it that way. We agreed.

Paro Dzong

  • Paro Dzong

Lama At Paro Dzong

Bird's Eye View from Paro Dzong

Bird’s Eye View from Paro Dzong

Bird's Eye View from Paro Dzong

Bird’s Eye View from Paro Dzong

Bird's Eye View from Paro Dzong

Bird’s Eye View from Paro Dzong

It took us more than an hour to check in and out of the Dzong. And finally Raj drove us back to hotel at 4 o’clock. As soon as we entered in the room, my dad got busy with his task of making tea for all of us 😛

After having Tea, we thought of checking out Paro. We could see the whole Paro town from our room. The whole town looked within one’s vicinity. The whole town is based on two parallel roads which would hardly be one KM. Though most of the shops were closed but we came across the shop we were searching for 😛 Dorji Elements Enterprise seemed to be a small version of Eight 11, we experienced at Thimphu. We collected the drinks we’d require for tonight.

Paro Chu

Paro Chu

While coming back to our hotel, just at the opposite of our hotel, we came across few kids who were playing. But by noticing my DSLR, one of them asked “Uncle ek photo khichiye na” (Uncle, please take a photo of us). I obliged and took few photos of them in various pose and with us too. Later they invited us to play kabadi with them. We agreed. They were four of them and after introducing with all of them, they said they all are cousins. They showed us their homes and shops. We had a lovely evening with them.

  • Kids At Paro

As the dusk was hitting the town, the weather kept getting colder. Our room being facing the Dzong didn’t had much issues, but the room my parents were staying in, were on the side of the valley and soon we could notice the dews in window panes. I asked Tshering for room heaters, but she replied that they only provide room blowers which is much better than room heaters, but it’s chargable at Nu. 300/- per room per night. After a small bargaining she allowed it for Nu. 200/- and said she can’t lessen it more as it incurs high electricity charges. We agreed and asked for WiFi, but she replied she’s not aware about the connections here, as it’s completely taken care by her mother. So we have to wait till her mother arrives tomorrow.

Later at night, we again went to Hotel Sonam Trophel for our dinner.

10th February : Day 10 : Day Trip to Haa via Chelela :
Today we needed luck as our plan for the day was to make a day trip to Haa via Chelela. As we went downstairs for our breakfast, Teshering asked us about our plan for today. After briefing her the same, she replied that her sister is also going to Haa, but she’ll go via another route as due to snowfall the route via Chelela is closed. The distance via Chelela is much lesser than the another route she was talking about. We informed the same to Raj, and he replied “Dekhte hain” (Let’s see). He informed us that the road gets dangerous and very sliperry due to snowfall, so he asked us not to force him if he can’t make it up there. We agreed, considering it’d be our luck. We never force drivers specially on hills. Pressuring them only creates nuisance and being travelling since I was kid in hill stations, I knew that they generally are very good persons and don’t cheats like city people.

Bird's Eye View of Paro Airport

Bird's Eye View of Paro Airport

We started for Haa at around 9:15 AM, praying for the success of our trip. After driving through blue pine and rhododendron forests for around an hour, we came upon the roads covered with snow. Raj tried his best passing through them. At some points our innova was skiting, but Raj managed it tactfully.

  • Way To Chelela Pass

Finally at around 10:40 AM we reached Chelela Pass, the highest motorable road in Bhutan.

Chelela Pass

Chelela Pass

Chelela Pass

Chelela Pass

  • Chelela Pass

After clicking few pictures and spending few minutes, we started descending all the way towards Haa. We reached Haa at around 12 o’clock in the noon. Haa is a very small town, mostly occupied by military. Indian Army have a base camp there and trains Bhutanese Army. Haa is a very small town and when we reached we hardly saw people in the market. Luclily we got two ladies who were selling Ema and Chillies near Haa Dzong.

Haa Dzong

Haa Dzong

After visiting Haa Dzong, we skipped Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) and proceeded towards Paro via Chelela again at 12:30 PM.

Ema

Chilli's

At first, my plan was to stay at Haa, and I had even booked Ugyen’s Homestay at Haa Valley Homestay to experience a homestay. But later the reviews at TripAdvisor, specially about the flies and some stinky smell made me cancel my decission. But the review said, Ugyen’s wife prepares great food. So we asked Raj to take us there for lunch, but he warned us that the food is great, but due to the flies, we may not like it and won’t feel hygienic enough to have our lunch there. Well, we didn’t want to take any risks, as tomorrow we had a big plan of Hiking to Tiger’s Nest. So we asked Raj to take us back to Paro, we’ll have our lunch there only.

Bird's Eye View of Haa Town

Bird's Eye View of Haa Town

Bird's Eye View of Haa Town

We reached Paro within 3 o’clock. We were very hungry, so we asked Raj to take us to Sonam Trophel first. But my aunt interrupted and said, let’s try something else today. I agreed and asked Raj about Hotel Dragon, he replied positive. While searching for hotels in Paro, I fixed my stay at Dragon, but later changed my mind and shifted to Hotel Phunsum as BK was offering better rates here. The food at Hotel Dragon was not that bad, but certainly can’t match with that of Sonam Trophel.

Hotel Dragon, Paro

After having our lunch, we returned to our hotel and took rest for an hour. At around 5 o’clock we thought of having a walk to buy cadbury’s for the kids whom we promised to meet today again and make necessary arrangements for tonight 😛 We walked over to Dorji Elements Enterprise again and this time we picked up other variations of Druk Beer instead of same old Druk 11000. Rest of the evening we spent with the kids hearing stories about their school and family. They tried us to take at one of their school which was nearby. But we failed miserably, as they we literally running over the valley’s which we couldn’t. And I was more afraid, due to my incident at Phobjika valley.

  • Kids At Paro

Later at night, the temperature dropped way too much for us to go out to Sonam Trophel. So my dad suggested to try hotel restaurant for the night. The food at Hotel Phunsum was better than we expected. After having our dinner, we went upstairs and joined Raj as usual for a drink. As we had to wake up early tomorrow Raj suggested us to go to bed quickly tonight.

Hotel Phunsum :
IMG_20160303_215929978_HDR

    Tariff : Rs. 1100/- x 2 (rooms) x 3 (nights) = 6600 + 900 (one extra mattress on one room for 3 nights) = 7500/-
    Clean, Elegant & VFM are the three words comes to my mind when thinking about Hotel Phunsum. We had stayed here for 3 night’s and had a very good experience. You’d get a nice view of the Paro Valley if you opt for rooms in backside of the hotel otherwise you’ll enjoy the night view of Paro Dzong if you opt for the front view rooms. Either way you’ll gain something.

    Hotel Sonam Trophel :
    IMG_20160303_215909145_HDR

    We didn’t stayed here though but, we had our best meal here, throughout our trip to Bhutan. It was finger licking good. We didn’t asked for room tariff’s so you might want to check out yourself.

    Hotel Dragon :
    IMG_20160303_215854884_HDR

    We visited Hotel Dragon for lunch while returning from Haa. The food was kinda okayish. I’d prefer Sonam Trophel any day over the others for food.

    The next part of the trip is continued at Hike to Tiger’s Nest – Paro Taktsang.

    Trip To Bhutan Series :
    Part 1: Planning A Trip To Bhutan – For Indians
    Part 2: Entering Bhutan – The Land of Thunder Dragon
    Part 3: Capital of Bhutan – Thimphu In & Around
    Part 4: Journey To Phobjika via Dochula
    Part 5: The Most Historic Dzongkhag – Bumthang
    Part 6: The Old Capital – Punakha
    Part 7: Exploring Paro, Haa and Chele La Pass
    Part 8: Hike to Tiger’s Nest – Paro Taktsang
    Part 9: Tashi Delek Bhutan – The Himalayan Kingdom

    About Author

    Hi, I'm born and bought up in Kolkata in the midst of what bongs are best known for - Eating, Sleeping and Travelling. A developer by profession and a traveller by passion. As I was facing a lack of budget-friendly information on the internet while planning my travel, I started drafting my travel experiences here to help you all having a pocket-friendly smooth travel experience.

    27 Comments

    • […] Exploring Paro, Haa and Chele La Pass […]

      Reply
    • […] Exploring Paro, Haa and Chele La Pass […]

      Reply
    • […] Exploring Paro, Haa and Chele La Pass […]

      Reply
    • Sutirtha Datta
      November 27, 2016 at 1:03 PM

      Hi Kishnandu,

      Beautiful travelogue, I hv one Query, can u share a costing fr food as well specially in phobjhika, punakha & paro

      I heard the cost for Fooding is quite high, like one person breakfast is around 300 fr breakfast, 450 fr lunch & dinner

      It’s quite high

      Can u share the same

      Regards,

      Sutirtha Datta

      Reply
      • Krishnandu Sarkar
        November 27, 2016 at 1:37 PM

        Hi Sutirtha,
        Thanks a lot 🙂

        Yes food cost is a bit high on eastern side i.e. in Punakha, Phobjika, Bunthang and so on. Those being remote areas you mostly have option to take your food at your hotel only. So keep 500/- per person per day as minimum on those areas.

        Whereas at Paro, it’s mot such that. Food cost is normal as like in Thimphu.

        Food cost is a bit higher there in Bhutan than India but that’s negligible.

        Reply
        • Sutirtha Datta
          November 27, 2016 at 2:52 PM

          Thanks for ur reply Krishnandu

          As per other websites it says 1000 per person fr all meals which is quite high fr those phobjhika & punakha & paro

          If it’s within 500 it seems ok fr those areas

          I believe ordering ala carte is better; however, if there is an options in the hotel

          Please advise

          Regards,

          Sutirtha Datta

          Reply
          • Krishnandu Sarkar
            November 27, 2016 at 6:30 PM

            Hi Sutirtha, Well I’m not sure about wht other websites are stating but for 6 of us for 2 days stay in Bumthang bill was around 6k.

            For 1 night stay at Punakha & Phobjika bill was within 3k for 6 of us at each destination.

            Ofcourse the rate may vary according to the standard of hotel and season.

            For pure bengali meal and normal breakfast (bread + omlette) the rate is 500/- per person per day.

            Reply
    • Anonymous
      April 14, 2017 at 10:22 PM

      0.5

      Reply
    • Raghav
      April 22, 2017 at 2:24 PM

      Hi Krishnandu

      We are 2 male cousins planning to enter bhutan through Paro and exit through Bagdogra. 1 week trip. Please suggest itinerary. Thanks in Advance!

      Reply
      • Krishnandu Sarkar
        April 22, 2017 at 11:33 PM

        Hi Raghav, You can do it like

        Day 1 : Arrival at Paro Airport. Proceed to Thimphu
        Day 2 : Thimphu Sightseeing
        Day 3 : Thimphu – Punakha
        Day 4 : Punakha – Paro
        Day 5 : Hike To Tiger’s Nest / Day Trip To Haa via Chele La
        Day 6 : Paro Sightseeing & Paro – P/Soling
        Day 7 : P/Soling – IXB and Deperture

        Reply
    • Anonymous
      May 3, 2017 at 4:19 PM

      4.5

      Reply
    • Neha
      July 8, 2017 at 7:19 PM

      Hi Krishnandu,

      Me n my husband are planning to visit Bhutan from 26th Oct to 2nd Nov.
      We are planning to be in Paro on 28th Morning. Will we get a taxi to hire directly from Paro Taxi stand for a Day Trip To Haa via Chele La? How much will be the approx cost for the trip?

      Are Cabs/Shared taxis also easily available to go from Paro to Thimphu?

      Reply
      • Krishnandu Sarkar
        July 10, 2017 at 11:21 AM

        Hi Neha, Yes, getting a cab for the round trip to Haa via Chele La is not an issue at all. They generally charge around 2000/- depending on the season.

        Yes shared cabs are available for Paro – Thimphu. They are available near Paro RSTA.

        Reply
        • Neha
          July 11, 2017 at 11:37 AM

          Thank you Krishnandu. One more query is that October – November is the peak season but will we get any hotels on the spot if we dont want book it in advance? Is that really difficult?

          Reply
    • Debopriya
      July 14, 2017 at 4:49 PM

      Hi Krishnandu,

      Very informative and helpful post I must say.

      I need you advice for my honeymoon trip from Dec 19-24. We have received quote from BK and which is as per our requirement and budget.

      Just wanted to make sure that B.K is a good operator, I mean me and my would be will be travelling alone for the first time so we want to make sure it is safe.

      Secondly, they have not included Chelela Pass in Paro, so if we include that will that cost us extra?

      We actually wanted to go to Sikkim that’s why bought Bagdogra tickets but then due to recent Gorkhaland issues we have changed our plan to Bhutan. We really want to have the snow thus Chelela Pass can be the ideal option.

      Please suggest. Thanks a lot.

      Reply
      • Krishnandu Sarkar
        July 14, 2017 at 10:59 PM

        HI Debopriya, Thanks a lot and I’m glad that you liked it 🙂

        First of all congrats for your marraige 🙂 Even I went to Bhutan for Honeymoon and guess what I’ll be leading a group of 18 Pax this year during same period, and I’ll be arriving on 24th December at P/Soling.

        Yes atleast I was very happy with services from B.K. He didn’t charged me anything extra for Chele La Pass, but you might enquire with him to be sure. Sometimes, I saw him charging extra for Haa for tours of less than 8 days. But not sure if the same is applicable for Haa also. Also I’m not sure about the reason of charging extra.

        Well you may consider Sikkim too as there’s no issue with Sikkim itself. But last month there were some mishaps with Sikkim vehicles that we all know due to Sikkim supporing Gorkhaland. But that’s solved now. Vehicles are now moving with police convoy and lots of tourists are travelling safely.

        And December is still 5 months away. Things might change by then. But then it’s your call 🙂

        Otherwise just stick to Bhutan. Bhutan is a beautiful place, and you get to see a different culture, traditions and all 🙂

        Reply
        • Debopriya
          July 17, 2017 at 4:15 PM

          Hi Krishnandu

          Thank you for your prompt reply. You are an amazing blogger and so very helpful.

          Yes I am finalizing Bhutan as it is a beautiful place and will be perfect to visit in December.

          I have started to follow all your writings as it entices me to visit all of those places.

          Thanks once again and please keep exploring and writing.

          Regards,
          Debopriya

          Reply
          • Krishnandu Sarkar
            July 17, 2017 at 10:20 PM

            Hi Debopriya, Thanks a lot 🙂

            Sure!! Let me know if you have further queries, I’ll be glad to help you out 🙂

            Reply
    • shaibal kumar dutta
      April 11, 2018 at 6:54 PM

      hi, mr krishanu,
      I am inspired to visit bhutan reading your blog..!! its soo detailed..I have planned to visit in may end this year.I have a 7 years kid with me.I am keen to seen tigers nest in paro as prime motto as well as Thimphu.. can u suggest me a 3-4 days plan based on Thimphu and paro pls. I intend to follow hasimara -jaigaon route.
      Thanks in advance
      shaibal kumar dutta

      Reply
      • Krishnandu Sarkar
        August 24, 2018 at 1:07 PM

        Hello Mr. Shaibal, I’m extremely sorry. I’m not sure how I missed to reply your comment.

        Looks like you had already made the trip. If there’s anything else I can help you with, please do let me know.

        Reply
    • diptanshu
      August 23, 2018 at 7:49 PM

      hello krishnenu da,
      here i wanted to know whether paro sight seeing can be done after returning from ha valley?

      btw, read your dooars blogs! got an ample of information. already planned a trip to dooars+bhutan during october end and november! egerly waiting for further travel diaries.

      Reply
      • diptanshu
        August 23, 2018 at 7:50 PM

        sorry it will be krishnandu . forgive the typing mistake.

        Reply
      • Krishnandu Sarkar
        August 24, 2018 at 1:08 PM

        Hi Diptanshu, Well yes you can. As a day trip to Haa Valley takes only half day and so is Paro Sightseeing. So if you don’t waste much time on each of the points, you can definitely merge them in a day.

        Reply
    • diptanshu
      August 25, 2018 at 5:14 PM

      thank you very much

      Reply
    • Anonymous
      February 16, 2019 at 11:34 PM

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