Sunday, March 23, 2014

After Some Time...Taktsang Palphug Monastery.

In Spain, when you require a task to be done, the inevitable reply is "Manana" (Tomorrow). In India, that's been taken a step further, to "Day after tomorrow". Here in Bhutan, it's not even that definitive. The oft-heard answer is "After some time".

So, after some time spent over Christmas in Australia, I've finally returned to beautiful Bhutan to complete a large landscaping project that I've been working on for around 18 months. But while waiting for the final completion of the building's construction before wading in to plant out the gardens, I've taken the opportunity to visit what is arguably this kingdom's most spectacular icon. If you search Google Images for "Bhutan", you'll be inundated with pictures of this breathtaking edifice. From the inimitable Wikipedia...

"Taktsang Palphug Monastery (also known as Tiger's Nest),[1] a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley, in Bhutan. A temple complex was first built in 1692, around the Taktsang Senge Samdup (stag tshang seng ge bsam grub) cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary deity of the country. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen taktsang or "tiger lair" caves in which he meditated."

I've been here almost 4 years now, and never made the trek. Tourists who come for 3 or 4 days always see it as a matter of course. Not doing so would be like visiting Paris and missing the Eiffel Tower, India and the Taj Mahal, or New York's Statue of Liberty.

So last weekend, after some time, I finally made the trip to Paro to see what all the fuss is about.

The trek itself is fairly strenuous, a 2 or 3 hour hike up a mountain track that rises another 900 metres to a final elevation of around 3000 metres.

It looked pretty friendly and innocuous at the starting point...

I figured the ponies were there to carry the old, the lazy, the weak and the infirm. Definitely not needed by me.

An easy, fairly flat and scenic start...

But we were definitely heading upwards, at an ever increasing rate...

 A not so brief stop to spin a few prayer-wheels and to suck in some oxygen...

 My mind began wandering back to those horses, which now didn't seem like such a silly idea. But onwards we pressed. And the higher we climbed the more the scenery changed, with a light dusting of snow now entering the equation. And these pictures really don't do justice to the increasing steepness of the path...

Finally, our first view of the monastery, unfortunately seen through mist and clouds. But by the time we returned, the sun had burnt through the fog and melted the snow, so I was able to get clearer photos.

As close as the monastery looked, we were still the best part of an hour from reaching it, as there was a steeper and even more narrow path down into the valley and then back up to the peak.

We weren't allowed cameras inside the monastery, but after spending an hour or so wandering inside, making gifts of lamp oil, incense, food and money, it was time to retrace our steps, with the occasional wistful look back.

And a final long-shot view from below. That's the monastery high up on the middle peak...

The next morning, stiff and sore from the previous day's exertions, we made a gentler and more leisurely trip to the ruins of the16th century Drukgyel Dzong (fortress), unfortunately destroyed by fire in the 1950s. But I could still hear the ringing of shields and the clashing of swords from the wars between the Bhutanese soldiers and the invading Tibetan armies.


  1. I knew this blog post was existed someplace. Thanks to post such articles. Will unquestionably be using it very soon.

    Look for Krain Advantage

  2. Really beautiful series of photos!

  3. I cant wait to see this place by myself. Heard that this is the happiest country of the world.If anybody wants to join me for the trip feel free to contact me.
    After an extensive online research i found this best package. check it out