For Indian Nationals travelling to Bhutan, the contrast between the two neighbours can be a big surprise. Moving from Jaigaon in West Bengal to Phuentsholing in Bhutan–towns located in contiguous stretch of land separated only by the border line–you see the dense sprawl of an Indian small town giving way to a charming little place full of green spaces. The disorder that we are so used to in India disappears on to the other side.
The differences continue to catch the attention of a first-time Indian visitor all through the journey. In Thimphu, the traffic (or whatever few cars you see on the road) moves in an orderly fashion and respects other road users. The buildings, even in the densest part of the city, are well-structured and the facades follow the traditional construction style. A sense of rush that we are so used in India is replaced by a slower and simpler pace of life.
The major towns of Bhutan, such as Paro and Thimphu, appear no bigger than a cluster of small villages. And the villages faraway are almost always set in a brilliant surrounding, flanked by fields on one side, a river flowing by and wooded mountains surrounding them in all direction.
The main street of Ha Village
Ha is one such village – the kind of place where one would just want to leave everything to come and settle down. The village has sufficient supplies and good connectivity to find everything that you would need, but a pace of life that can suit the laziest person. A small line-up of shops, a bus stop and a couple of restaurants are all that the village is. Mountains rise steeply on either side. Clear waters of Ha River flow right next to the main road that connects the villages in the valley. The only noise in the village is the occasional murmur of a vehicle that passes by, perhaps no more than one in every ten minutes.
At a bridge across Ha River, next to a village in Ha Valley.
The valley of Ha is a series of villages, each usually set apart by a ten-minute driving distance. Most people live off the land and seem to have a happy and contented life. A road runs parallel to the river, steadily moving up the mountains. The villages, with prayer flags fluttering around the houses, are scattered in the wider parts of the valley, each one having no more than a score or two pack of houses. Dense pack of coniferous trees occupy every inch of space that is not in use by people, hinting that the winters are probably cold and snowy. But in summer months when I usually visit, the weather is joyfully pleasant, thanks to the altitude and the cool breeze coming from the high mountains.
A house surrounded by bloom in Ha Valley
The valley is one of those places where you do not really feel like coming back ever. It is high up on the list of places that I have visited where I would have simply loved to settle down forever.