Our Khangkhu Resort meals have been fine, and it’s much quieter here on the hillside away from the town’s dogs. At 8AM this Sunday 11/20 we departed with Sengay and Nidup up the valley to the trailhead for Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest” monastery, perhaps Bhutan’s #1 attraction. It’s an auspicious day to climb to the temple: Sengay advises that it was on this day that the Buddha came down to help sentient beings towards nirvana. The trailhead bustled with Bhutanese pilgrims and tourists as we started he steep 2 hour climb to the Tiger’s Nest.
With lungs and legs trained from our Everest view trek, the hike up through the blue pine forest wasn’t a challenge; some older tourists hired small horses to ease their ascent. An hour up there’s a café with good views up to the monastery; the classic Tiger’s Nest pictures all come from a viewpoint further up across a very steep ravine. From there it’s 15 minutes of steep stairs to the creek crossing below the ravine’s waterfall, then another shady 15 minutes back up to the Monastery.
Guru Rinpoche brought Buddhism to Bhutan and meditated in a cave here; at his behest the first temple complex was built around that sacred site in 1692. We’re told he flew here from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong to tame the Tiger demon. The guy’s quite a local hero and is memorialized in the carvings, paintings and sculptures throughout this complex as well as in many other Bhutanese temples.
I had a magic moment just reflecting that we were high on a cliff in an ancient monastery in a secret land among monks chanting and pilgrims praying… the spirit of it was lost on our all-american boys, but hopefully the some images and memories will stick and provide context for them later in life. Of course we couldn’t take photos inside the Tiger’s Nest, but it’s the dramatic setting, structure and the wonder of effort to build this cliff-side monastery that captures your heart, and pictures say it best, so here you go:
After lunch in Paro we strolled downstream through town to the archery field. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport, and we passed a pleasant hour watching the tournament archers nail a 1’ diameter target from 140 yards. Dressed in ghos with bows, the Bhutanese archers present noble image of how elegantly the past and present mix here.