April 20, 2019
Well we couldn’t have planned a better last day in Bhutan. We started our day at 7:30 and drove to the base for our hike to Taksang Monastery, commonly known as the Tiger’s Nest. This is one of Bhutan’s best known sites and it the most important temple in the country. It is built on vertical cliffs just outside Paro. It was first built in 1692. The altitude is 10,240 feet, about 300o feet above the level of Paro.
Both Tashi and Kinley accompanied us on this strenuous hike. Our fitness trackers said it was 6.7 miles and 153 stories. The uphill climb is estimated to take 3 hours. It took us 2 1/2. Our guides didn’t know until today how old we are, and they said it was quite an accomplishment for people of “our age”. They thought we were younger. Of course, they are both 32!
The only way to get there is to hike, there is no road and the trail is very rough most of the way. You can take a horse half way to where there is a cafeteria, there is a separate trail for the horses. But no horse for us! The rest of the trail is not accessible for horses. You can’t take the horses down from that area though. Here are Norm and Tashi starting out.
These prayer wheels are made of recycled water bottles.
Tashi is very good about taking pictures along the way.
Our guide and driver. They both made the hike with us!
The paths through the forest are beautiful and actually serene in spite of other hikers. There are the beautiful red rhododendrons and this waterfall along the way. The trees with the “old man’s beards” signify that the air is pure enough for them to grow. There are prayer flags everywhere and the views of the valley and the mountains beyond are simply spectacular. As we hiked to higher altitudes, the difference in the trees that grow there was also interesting.
When we got to the top, we were tired but happy. Again, no pictures in the actual temples but Tashi took us through all of them, explained the beautiful statues and paintings and all of the history of this amazing place. For us, it was hard to imagine how it was even built back in the 17th century. It is built into the vertical mountain face. It has suffered two fires, one in 1998 when a monk dies trying to save the priceless artifacts here. 20 monks live here now. The monastery buildings consist of four main temples and residential shelters ideally designed by adapting to the rock (granite) ledges, the caves and the rocky terrain.
All the buildings are interconnected through steps and stairways made in rocks. There are a few rickety wooden bridges along the paths and stairways also to cross over. The temple at the highest level has a statue of Buddha and there are other symbolic statues and paintings too. I won’t describe them all here but you probably can get some history on line. Each building has a balcony, which provides lovely views of the scenic Paro valley down below.
All along the way, we got amazing pictures.
But, like in all the temples, no cameras were allowed. Kinley stayed with our things while we toured all of the temples with Tashi, who, as always, provided so much information!
On the way down, we were glad to have our trekking poles! It took about 2 hours to go down. Norm was feeling it in his thighs, but mine were OK, guess they got strengthened by all of the “squatty potties”, some here, some in China and some in Nepal.
Here we are at the bottom, no worse for wear!
We went back to Paro for lunch and it was delicious as they have all been. The cabbage dumplings they call momo are outstanding and all of the vegetables great. Asparagus is in season here and it is served at almost every meal. They slice it and usually roast or saute it. Yum.
Then we went to a farmhouse that provides hot stone baths which Tashi highly recommended after the hike. Here is the owner explaining the process. Tashi had to book the time because it takes about 5 hours to heat the stones on the wooden fire. The hot stone baths can be found in farmhouses and hotels and are much less expensive in the farmhouses. At this particular hot stone bath, there were several rooms in a wooden shed out in the courtyard. Our room had two wooden tubs, and looked a little bit like open coffins! Essentially they boil herbs for 12 hours and put them in cold water. They then drop the heated stones into the water and it sizzles as it heats up. If you want more heat, all you have to do is call out for hot stones and they will drop more into the water which is at the end outside the baths.
We had a 45 minute soak which was absolutely marvelous. The owner was going to serve us butter tea, but we declined, and headed back to the main street of Paro to do some last minute shopping before heading back to our hotel for dinner and packing.
Here’s our total fitness tracking for the day!
Our flight to Bangkok where we will rejoin our Around the World cruise, leaves Paro at 10 and we need to be at the airport at 7. Tashi and Finley will pick us up. The hotel is just outside the airport.
Norm got this shot of the airport runway. It should be an exciting take off if it is anything like the landing!
This whole trip was wonderful in every way! Hope the posts reflect our joy in being able to experience it.