Bhutan Travelogue – Paro places to visit and Tiger Nest Monastery

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Paro welcomed us with wide tar roads, neatly led footpath, river jingling along, trees stooping in to add color, people walking around and some of them cycling, I was dreading to get down of the car and take a stroll in that most pleasant evening. But we had to proceed further into the town as the clouds were steadily gathering above us. We stopped at Paro town to shop and get Sim card for the mobile. The call charges are pretty cheap and you can get a Sim card by showing your permit. Like many Bhutan towns, it had a town square with shops around. After walking up and down the souvenir shops, decided to settle with an affordable fridge magnet. By the time we reached our home stay it was pouring heavily and the night was cold. Our home stay had one small problem, they did not have water!!
Paro Town Square

Paro Town Square

 

Takstang Monastery / Tiger Nest Monastery:

The morning was as cold as the night.. I walked up to the courtyard, yawned and my vision was clouded with breath from my mouth 😀 Unbelievable with what just happened, I looked up and there, perched on the cliff among thick pine forests was the tiger nest monastery.. The highlight of Bhutan trip and the arduous trek.
Two months back..
Me: Santosh.. Am not a trekker and am not fit.. Am a little afraid of tiger nest monastery..
Santosh (our tour operator): you can take horse that will cover 80% of the way and after that you can trek.. Or try till how much you can and then walk down.. Or wait down till we all go up and come down (that’s a good six hours)
Rewind by another two years, when I trekked Gangotri (how?? oh God, how on earth did I ever do that!!), the guide was kind enough to tell me how people fall down the horse into the gorge/cliff and die. So horse was out of picture.. I started getting on treadmill.. Started taking stairs.. Did squats to make my legs strong.. And was limping around for a while! Then I read some blog which emphasized breathing exercise! So I was now into Suryanamaskara and Pranayama.. I took a deep breath looking at the monastery and ardently wished for some miracle to happen and again got clouded with smoke.
“There is look of fear all over your face.. Wipe it out and eat your breakfast, you need energy to climb.” I got jerked from my thoughts and the toast was refusing to pass through the lump in my throat.

 

The white dot in the middle hill is the Tiger Nest monastery..
Tiger Nest/ Takstang

Tiger Nest/ Takstang – white dot in the middle hill

Tiger Nest Monastery was abuzz with tourist vehicles. There were avid trekkers all geared up with the right equipment. There were tourists who stood down, took photos, admired the view and moved on. Some took the horse and I ambitiously started my climb. Hushed, pushed, gasped, and now apart from lump in throat there was someone sitting on my chest! “Why don’t you take the horse? Trek has not even started!” told our guide and we walked back for the horse. Horse looked tiny in front of me and I refused to get on one. The group moved off and I wondered what to do. I again hushed, pushed, gasped and my heart was in my mouth! But I knew my fitness was not that bad. If anything that gives up first; it would be my legs, not my heart or will. Overwhelmed I sat on a rock to let my heart go back to its place. A monk passed by and said, “don’t walk alone, you will lose balance!” Ok! An aunty came down, “betaa kya kar rahi ho, thoo nahi chad paaogae!” When have I ever listened to others? So I again start up. But for once I had to listen to my heart otherwise it might have come out of my mouth.. I did not realize what was wrong then, it was only later when my nose ran dry and pricked of thorns did I realize it was acclimatization issue. So people, I did not do Tiger Nest trek! And I advice to keep it at end so you understand your body and either you listen to it or make it listen to you.

Tiger Nest Monastery

Tiger Nest Monastery

 

With the group having moved up, I knew they would not be back for another five hours. So I decided to set out sight seeing Paro by myself 😀 And that turned out to be one of the best experiences. I hired a taxi and went around the city.. So here you ride along with me,

 

1. Paro National Museum

Paro National Museum

Paro National Museum

Museum is actually a watchtower converted into museum and it is under renovation now. Artifacts are moved to another nearby complex.This was my first stop. No photography allowed inside any museum.. This is must must do and I would say the first thing to do. It is Bhutan in a nutshell. It explains you the culture of Bhutan, the different Gurus, different disciples of Buddha, how Buddhism spread, all the figurines and paintings we see in the dzongs, all the mask dance, it is just too fascinating, like standing there and reading the most exciting novel ever. One of the stories; the phase between death and rebirth is called Bardo, around 48 days.. So while your spirit is jumping around trees, Yama calculates your karma and shows three masks in front of your face, like goat, deer, fox, etc.. Each animal face represents human tendencies like, passion, selfish, cunning, etc. Now if you get excited on seeing the wrong mask, your next birth is screwed. 😀 Apart from that Bhutan’s flora, fauna, vegetation, tea culture, wildlife, all that is there. There is something called “Golden Worms” that they cultivate. Guess what? It is a fungus that grows out of caterpillar’s head! Slowly caterpillar becomes a mummy and gets erect like root in the soil and the fungus grows by taking nutrition out of its brain! Yikeess.. apparently lot of medicinal value and fetches lot of money!

 

2. Rinpung Paro Dzong

Drive down the watchtower is the Rinpun Dzong.. It is a big dzong and like others colorful too. The usual four friends, wheel of life, cosmic mandalas can be found on the walls. Pictures to speak the rest..

 

First look of Rinpung Dzong.. The right top above dzong is the museum.
Rinpung Paro Dzong

Rinpung Paro Dzong

Entry to the monastery.. Colors colors everywhere.
Rinpung Paro Dzong

Rinpung Paro Dzong

 

Paintings in the entry way
Rinpung Paro Dzong

Rinpung Paro Dzong

3. Kyichu Lhakhang/ Monastery

Kyichu Lhakhang

Kyichu Lhakhang

This temple is one of the oldest in Bhutan. Apparently there was an emperor called Gampo who built 108 temples in one day in and around Tibetan region and this is one of it. Hence the first first Buddhist temple of Bhutan, even before the Guru Rinpoche times. There is a shrine for Gampo which is fully surrounded with many other idols. This is the oldest shrine. To both the sides you can see the thousand hand and thousand eye statues. Outside is another shrine for Guru Rinpoche. Huge statue! The guide (taxi driver) dutifully took me around the statue, made me bonk my head against Guru Rinponche’s feet to get rid of my sins. This is not a touristy place so more peaceful.

Prayer wheels around Kyichu Monastery

Prayer wheels around Kyichu Monastery

4. Drukgyal Dzong

This one is again non touristy. In fact no one around! This dzong was completely gutted by fire and now it is just ruins. The view is amazing from here, one side it is thick green vegetation and other side is snow capped mountains. The horse breeders who take their horse to Tiger nest stay on this side hence a lot of them were freely galloping around. It is not a must place but if you have time in Paro and want some quite time this is a great place.

 

Drukgyal ruined fortress complex:
Drukgyal dzong

Drukgyal dzong

View from one side of the dzong.. Pine forests and paddy fields
Drukgyal dzong

View from Drukgyal dzong

Other side view of the dzong, flanked by snow capped mountains

Drukgyal dzong

View from Drukgyal dzong

 

5. Tara Temple

This was on the way to Drukgyal. It is a small, very small temple on the base of Drukgyal Monastery. I gingerly climbed up the steep wooden ladder only to discover that I will have to do it often in Bhutan. It was a white Tara temple (I hope I remember). White Tara is the mother of compassion, much softer Tara and you can identify Her as the one with seven eyes. Two in Her palms and two in Her feet. The guide (taxi driver) again dutifully made me light butter lamp, the lhama told some prayers, sprinkled holy water and blessed me. I turned around to see that the entire wall had the Yab-yum position painted! I gasped and came out. Btw Yab-yum – sexual union of male diety with His female consort.

 

6. Paro Airport View

This is a view point from above the mountain. You can see the whole of the city and it is beautiful. The airstrip is actually small. The driver dramatically explained us how it looks like the flight will touch the mountains but that does not actually happen 🙂 Stop for the views and photography.
Paro airport

Paro airport

Paro sight seeing requires one day.. Tiger nest if you intend to complete that again requires one day. Once you are done with Tiger Nest your legs are not gonna move anywhere else 🙂

Also read – Thimpu, the most happening city of Bhutan

To book this tour and other off beat locations contact – Exotic Expeditions

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3 comments on “Bhutan Travelogue – Paro places to visit and Tiger Nest Monastery
  1. Yogi saraswat says:

    what a great series of scenic pictures !! Entire Bhutan is picturesque and Paro is like a paradise on earth ! Great to read about Paro and travel there through your lenses !!

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