My journey to the ‘Tiger’s Nest’

Tripoto

I am so grateful to myself for taking up a solo trip to Bhutan!

Bhutan... the most happiest country of the world! A country that has been notable in pioneering the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ ????

I flew Druk Air (the national carrier of Bhutan) from Mumbai and reached Paro. After spending 2 nights in Thimphu, I arrived back at Paro with a heart filled with excitement to hike at one of the most famous places on the Earth - ‘The Tiger’s Nest’

Paro Taktsang, also known as Tigers nest is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and a temple complex, located in the cliff side of the upper Paro valley and connected by wooden bridges and stairs carved into the mountain. Undoubtedly, a trip to Bhutan is incomplete without seeing this extra ordinary monastery. Built in 1692, it is said that Guru Padmasambhava was carried from Tibet to this place, on the back of a tigress and meditated here for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours in 8th century to subdue local demons. The original structure was actually burned down in 1998. It took $2 million and 6 years to restore and rebuilt the monastery as we see today.

So I did read a lot about the hike and how tiresome it is, almost 30% of the people are not able to finish the hike and return back to the base. However, I was fortunate enough to have a determination to finish the hike. The hike starts at the bottom of the mountain. There are locals selling souvenirs and hiking poles. The moment we (me and my tour guide) entered the gate and cleared the pine forest, I caught the first glimpse of the nest! It looked tiny but so near. But the truth and the nest, both were far from what I thought. Having said that, I enjoyed every bit of pain, that started after an hour, as the way uphill is steep, filled with mud and stones. But, you’d find tons of prayer flags on the way, as if they are there to remind you not to give up. The higher you go, the better the scenery keeps getting.

At half way, you come across a prayer wheel and you can take a break to spin it. A little more of a walk, and you’d come across the only cafe that falls in the way up to the monastery. The 30% of the people who do not finish their hike, usually decides to give up here or just rest here, as this place gives you the very first proper view of the Tigers nest. The cafe’s name is ‘Takstang Cafeteria’ and the local food is indeed delicious. I had a coffee and few cookies in my 15 minutes break and then continued upwards.

The second half of the climb is easier and soon one reaches the most iconic spot from where the nest is the most photogenic. (I decided to go over the top with my prop, may be I was really happy at the most happiest country of the world)

Me and my ‘smiley’ face!

Photo of Bhutan by SONIA DAVID

From here it’s a short walk down a stone staircase, cross the bridge and then make a slight strenuous climb to the monastery. You are welcomed by a healing vibe. The air in the monastery exists in its most purest form. There are various shrines, and each one of them represents a meaning. You’d find a lot of monks praying and meditating inside the monastery, and thus observing noble silence is required. We even went down to a place where it is believed that the tigress who got Guru on her back, rested exactly for the time he meditated. I decided to sit in the monastery for a while, listening to the chantings and having a deeper look at the view and in that very moment I realised that the best views of life comes only after the hardest climbs. I am grateful to witness such a glory of this place. It’s a surreal experience.

FACTS:

1. There are many caves that surrounds and reside in the monastery, out of which ‘Tholu phuk’ and ‘Pel Phuk’ are very famous, as it is believed to be caves where Guru first meditated.

2. Indian currency is widely accepted at the local markets and restaurants.

BEST TIME TO VISIT: October - December / April-July

GETTING HERE:

It’s located 10 miles north of Paro, thus Paro is a perfect home base when making a visit. It’s recommended that you arrive Paro a night prior before the hike, as it is a full day activity. You can leave from your hotel around 7.30 am and can finish the hike at a decent time, as the sun sets down.

THE HIKE:

1. There are several paths leading to the temple, but the most popular one where you’d find yourself among lot of people, will go through a pine forest and colourful prayer flags.

2. On an average, it takes around 5-6 hours for a round trip hike and one hour for the tour inside the monastery. Due it’s location, it’s very obvious that vehicles can’t drive anyone up. One can hire a horse to an extent, but soon you will have to let your legs take the glorious steps.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

1. Timings: 8am-1pm and 2-5pm (October-March) / 2-6pm (April-September)

2. Make sure that your guide has arranged for a standard permit in advance, without which you won’t be able to enter.

3. A person has to register with the security at the entrance and deposit the bags and belongings.

4. Camera and photography isn’t allowed inside the monastery, so you have to make sure that you live in the very moment and capture images with your eyes that will stay as memories forever.

Have you been to Bhutan? How was your experience? Do share in the comments section below.

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