Tiger Nest Monastery – Paro, Bhutan

Paro

2019 – a year I plan to write more on Rahgeer, plan to travel more and learn more. 

There is much to write and so many pending posts to cover, high time I wrap up the Bhutan series, but there are so many pictures of the place that every time I think of wrapping up in one post, it feels forced. There is a joy to writing every post, editing the pictures and recalling the memories with every visual. I am here to write more, share more, and create more…

I always wanted to visit Bhutan, and the only place that came to mind with the mere mention of Bhutan was Tiger Monastery in Paro. The monastery that precariously hangs on the side of a mountain. I assumed there must be tigers visiting the monastery, and hence the name. Now I know better. 

Paro

Out from the slow and silent glacial valley of Phobjikha, I found myself feeling all touristy in Paro, shopping for souvenirs, looking over the street for a good cafe shop, for wifi to validate my social presence. Honestly, it felt good to be back in the hustle. 

Paro

From Phobjikha to Paro, came the familiar routes

Paro

Dochula pass – who do you wait for

Paro

It was still there

Paro

The infamous Paro airport – I was hoping to see a plane land in the pocket-sized landing strip. 

Paro

Before the souvenir shopping, I checked into a hotel, looked out to this view, while sipping on my masala tea. 

Paro

Doesn’t it look like the cafe filled streets just rolled out from the mountain 

Paro

Paro Dzong – the heart of the city

Paro

A bejeweled fortress

Paro

A heap of tourists started pouring into the city, a good sign to go back to the hotel, sleep and rest for next day’s hike to the Tiger Monastery. 

Paro

Early mornings are always a good time to start for any hike, the place I stayed in had no arrangements for an early breakfast, the only option was to hope for any of the cafes across the street to open for business and entertain a group of really hungry humans. And, lucky we were. A quick bite of egg sandwiches and honey-laced pancakes and I was all powered up for Paro Takstang.

Paro

I would have preferred a clear sunny day to for a good view of the monastery, but the monastery unveiling itself from the dense cover of clouds was also a majestic vision. And when was the last time preferences worked in front of mother nature. 

Paro

The trek up to the monastery is roughly a 3-hour walk, completely depending on your fitness. Rains the previous night made the mud road extremely slushy and slippery. Many prefer to ride up half way on horse or pony for a small amount of money, with horses comes horse poo. Now imagine a dirt patch with an unprecedented amount of horse waste and rain – and you have to hike up through it. 

Paro

I feel there should be an effort when you want to scale a height, an effort in walking the miles, to breathe the extra breath, and riding up diminishes that effort. But what do you do when age and health don’t let you put in that effort? 

Paro

Can you see your future? I can

Paro

Horses/Ponies are allowed to till half the way. Beyond the midpoint, you have to walk to the Taktsang. 

Paro

I want to balance my life like that

Paro

The trail is not very challenging, the last part of the hike leading up to the monastery is a series of roughly 1000 stone steps, that go down to a small bridge cutting through a 200-foot waterfall that drops into a sacred pool and then the steps unwind upwards to the monastery. 

Paro

The mist is the vapor from the waterfall

Paro

You know the monastery is close by when the color flags start appearing from the mist

Paro

The Tiger Nest

Paro

Once you enter the monastery, cameras, wallets, and phones are not allowed. Everything needs to be checked into the ticket counter. Time to not look through a lens at the monastery and just experience it. Now the legend goes that Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, came more than a thousand years ago, on the back of a flying tigress, to find refuge in the caves, hence the name Tiger Nest. He meditated in the caves for three years and introduced Buddhism to Bhutanese people.  There are four main temples in the monastery, we were guided to each of the praying rooms where we could sit quietly on the floor and meditate. I have never tried meditation, my mind doesn’t stay still, I have a very vivid imagination and hearing the legend of Guru Rinpoche riding on a tiger and subduing evil demons residing within the area, I was already viewing the picture I had painted in my head in motion. But it was very calming to sit on the floor amongst the towering idol of Guru Rinpoche, without the encumbrance of the phone, camera, and Instagram. 

We spent about an hour at the monastery, moving through all the temples, offering our prayers, moving in silence amongst the clouds in the Himalayas. It was surreal sitting cross-legged on the edge of a hanging monastery and observing. Chencho our guide reminded us that it was time we should start descending before it gets dark. We collected our items from the ticket counter and started descending down to the city. 

Paro

It’s amazing to see how in sync Bhutan is with nature. 

Paro

The mandatory touristy picture

Paro

and descending takes a break

Paro

helping hands

Paro

Almost there

Paro

back in city we were on the lookout for a place to stay, the Taktsang resort was just at the base from where the trek starts. We were too exhausted to go back to the city and look for a place and luckily Taktsang had rooms available.

Paro

The resort is a small 8-luxury rooms boutique hotel spread over an acre of land. 

Paro

All through our Bhutan trip, we managed to find very comfortable stays, be it the homestay in Phobjikha or the hotels in Thimpu and Punakha. Taktsang resort too is just an eight-room property and it was our lucky stars that we managed to find one room for the night. 

Paro

Bhutan offers a very unique hot stone bath, a form of traditional Bhutanese medicine where hot stones are deposited into a chamber of the wooden tub, purportedly releasing high concentrations of minerals, while the heated natural river water and Artemisia absinthium (wormwood, the source of Absinthe) apparently have a meditative effect. Chencho advised us that after the Tiger Nest trek, we should indulge in the hot stone bath. But, all of us were so exhausted to even consider the option. It is one thing that I do regret not trying, so if you are planning a Bhutan trip, do try the stone bath. Versions of these baths exist all over Bhutan, from luxurious five-star resorts to rustic farmhouses.

Next day we were to leave for Che le la pass and Haa valley early morning, which meant calling it a night and getting some sleep. The Haa Valley post would e the last post in Bhutan series. 

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Kapil Arora
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Kapil Arora

Brings back tons of memories… I visited Bhutan back in 2013 and it has stayed with me… the natural beauty… The lakes… The roads… Buddhism and of course the Tigers Nest… Well described
Cheers