May 312012

Up early to check out of the hotel to drive back to the town of Paro for our big day hike to Taktsang Monestary. The monastery is at approximately 3,100 metres above sea level, and the hike up starts somewhere around 2,200 metres so it’s a pretty steep hike! We drove the one hour from the hotel in Thimphu pretty quickly, and soon were at the base of the hill to begin our hike.

It was approximately a 2.5 hour hike pretty much straight uphill, with a stop at the canteen halfway to buy water, etc, and take a brief rest. A few pics from the hike up:

In front of the Monastery:

At the top, we walked through the monastery for a while, saw the various shrines, and noticed that all the monks were quite excited and astir about something.  After asking, we learned that the Prime Minister of Bhutan was hiking up, and would arrive shortly.  As he rounded the corner, the monks broke out into music, playing traditional instruments to welcome him.  Hiking up to the monastery is supposed to bestow upon one as much karma as 5,000 rebirths, and supposedly the Prime Minister shows up at least once a year.  We passed him as we were leaving, and he greeted me with “Welcome to Bhutan, thank you for visiting!”  Not something you have happen every day!

On the way down, we stopped at the canteen again, where a buffet lunch of traditional Bhutanese dishes was on offer.  Tasty and filling (albeit vegetarian!) and more than enough to fuel the hike down…where in the parking lot we ran into:


After the monastery, we drove into Paro town where we walked around for a bit.  A view of the town, which was much smaller than Thimphu:

Prayer wheel in Paro:

After this, we went back to our hotel, the Tenzinling Resort where we learned that the power was out…and would we like some coffee or tea while we waited?  We waited around an hour, and still no power, so I prodded our guides into suggesting some more things to see while we waited.  After some prodding, they suggested the Drukgyel Dzong, which was a fortress built in the 16th century that now lies in ruins.  There has been talk of restoring it, but since it was photographed in ruins by National Geographic, they prefer to leave it that way.

On the way down, there was a building that merited some pics – and a story.  It seems in the not too distant past in Bhutan, it was common to paint objects on buildings to ward of evil spirits.  The most common objects were dragons and…penises.  It seems they were in honour of a mad monk, and intended to ward off the evil eye.  They’re shunned now by “modern” (a relative term in Bhutan) city folks, but still appear quite frequently.

After touring the Dzong we headed back to the hotel, where the power had just come on.  Found out I’d been upgraded to the biggest suite on the property, because the other rooms were all rented out to a group of government officials, and as the honoured foreign guest I’d been given the best room in the place.  Can’t complain there!  It was really a junior suite by most standards, but quite nice.  Caught up on e-mail for an hour, and chased around the large fly buzzing around my room…which I eventually managed to swat.  I suppose that wasted several of my 500 rebirths of karma right there, but it was driving me crazy!

Dinner was at 7:30, and my guide insisted on joining.  It was another traditional Bhutanese meal, but quite tasty…especially with a couple of strong Druk beers.  I asked why our driver wasn’t joining us, and seems it is because he (like most Bhutanese) eats with his hands, doesn’t know how to use utensils, and feels uncomfortable around foreigners.  Quite a shame…it wouldn’t have bothered me at all.

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