Today was Sunday and our last full day in Paro. We spent most of our day climbing up to the Tiger’s Nest Temple (Taktsang Monastery). The Monastery got it’s name from a story saying that the Guru Rinpoche flew to the site on the back of a tigress who was a manifestation of his consort Yeshe Tshogyel, to subdue a local demon, Singey Samdrup. Or it may have got it’s name because this site originally had a tiger den?
The first half of our climb was spent riding horses 800 meters up the mountainside. The horses were Mongolian style ponies, very sturdy and small. There were no bridles just a halter with ropes tied to it. They responded to an English style of reigning but mostly just followed each other up the mountain. It was a very steep climb for the horses. We were all glad we did not chose to walk up. As it was, we had to walk a long way up after the horse ride, another hour. Up & down stairs to this beautiful isolated Temple built into the rock face cliffs of the mountain. Built 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley right beside a beautiful waterfall, it was magical.
The mountain side was covered with pines and cypress trees. Only the Bhutanese Cypress trees are not columns like ours but fan out and are very lacy and feathery. Gorgeous trees and underneath all these beautiful trees are rhododendrons! Huge rhododendrons and in the spring the whole mountainside is full of colour from their flowers.
Originally the Tiger’s Nest Monastery was built in 1769 but it had a fire in 1998 and it took 5 years to rebuild. Today all the butter candles were contained in a cement room so there will be no future fires. The Monastery is made up of a series of little temples, all with a different Buddha or God to worship, eleven temples in all. There was one monk per room and he was responsible for that temple. Needless to say the view was spectacular from the Monastery. On one side of the temple was another temple where monks would go to meditate for two years!!
The hike took us 3 hours to climb up and two hours to climb down, stopping for lunch half way down. I was so tired by the time we got to the base of the mountain and back to our hotel that I booked another spa massage hoping to work out the muscle fatigue.
The Uma Hotel in Paro was wonderful. There was a courtyard with fire pits and another area with patio tables and heat lamps. There was a business centre combined with a library, a beautiful round room for the restaurant and a fantastic gift shop with samples of the Bhutanese handiworks. There were only 28 rooms so it had an intimate environment. They even had a dog mascot, a golden lab, lying around the lobby area.
Bhutan was what I thought Tibet would be like. Peaceful, fertile, beautiful, there was no garbage lying around, everyone smiled at you, no street lights but everyone cooperated while driving, no angry horn honking, no one is in a great hurry but everyone is busy doing something. We believe Bhutan is heaven on earth.
The National animal of Bhutan is a Golden Takin which looked like a cross between a goat and a cow. A goat’s head with a cow body. Very funny looking. The story about how the Takin arrived in Bhutan was: A Monk from Tibet visited a Bhutan family and they fed him beef and goat. The Monk was very hungry and he ate it all, leaving nothing for the family to eat. When he asked for more they said that they had no more food that he had eaten it all. The Monk then took the goat and beef bones, mixed them up and threw them outside. In the morning there was a Golden Takin grazing in the field.
The National flag of Bhutan is divided in two with yellow on the top and orange on the bottom. There is a white dragon in the middle overlapping the two colours. Dragons are called Druk and Druk is the Bhutanese name for Bhutan. So Bhutan means dragon. The yellow colour represents the monarchy and the orange represents Buddism. The dragons mouth is open which is protection from enemies and it’s claws are holding jewels because Bhutan is very wealthy.