The uniqueness of Bhutan resides in its very location. With a dramatic topography varying from sub-tropical plains to steep mountains and valleys, each turn of the road presents you with a dramatic view that will definitely make you hold your breath. The valleys of Bhutan are connected by a series of passes also called as “La” in Dzongkha. Two of the most important and most commonly viewed are the Chele La Pass (3789 metres) which connects the Haa Valley to the Paro Valley, and the Dochu La Pass (3116 metres) which forms a connection between Thimpu and Punakha. There is a sense of spirituality that seems to entrench the country of Bhutan; doesn’t matter if you are experiencing that within the walls of monasteries or standing at the cusp of one of the most spectacular views.
Located between Thimpu and Punkaha, Dochu la Pass is one of the most famous tourist spot from where one can ideally click a 360 panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges. With the characteristic 108 chortens (or stupas) built by the eldest Queen Mother Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk to commemorate the memory of the Bhutanese soldiers killed during the expulsion of Assamese guerrillas in the 2003 war.
Inside each chorten, there are images of Buddhist gods composed of clay, stuffed with papers inscribed with prayers.
Reaching early in the morning, especially after brain-storming through the night and randomly planning your journey to Haa Valley, Dochu La was our spot to take group pictures and hog over the picnic basket.
Chele La Pass
Chele La was a complete contrast to Dochu La. Located at the height of 3810 mt, we were given of the hope of experiencing some mild snow due to the altitude. Though my dream of experiencing snow still remains incomplete, my soul was definitely satisfied with the way the region echoed with a sense of peace and well being. Separating Haa and Paro valley, Chele La is one of the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. The best way to describe Chele La is: Wild, Rough, Windy and crowded.
Prayer flags throng the rough terrain in a visual vibrancy of multiple colors, tied by the faithful devotees, especially in reverence to the sacred mountain Jomolhari, also referred to as the bride of Kangchenjunga. Its claim to fame has less to do with physical elevation, and more to do with its spiritual merits. The mountain is sacred to Tibetan Buddhists who believe it to be the abode of one of the five female protector goddesses [Jomo] of Tibet and Bhutan bound under oath by Padmasambhava to protect the Buddhist faith, land, and natives.
Other Passes to take a peek at:
East of Wangduephodrang is Pele La (3,390 metres (11,122 ft)). Continuing towards east along the main highway, other major passes include Yotong La, Shertang La, Wangthang La, Thrumshing La and Kori La (2,298 metres (7,539 ft)