As instructed by Kinley, we were ready to leave the hotel for Taktsang – The Tiger’s Nest – by 8am. Breakfast again was typical; only bread, butter, jam, omlette, porridge for Indians. From the point we began trekking, we could see the Tiger’s nest right in front. But to get up there, we had to take a long & winding road up the mountains. You can rent a horse for Rs.500 for a return trip, and also buy a stick for support. At some points the path really gets narrow and with the horse’s tendency to walk at the edges, you’d be convinced to not take a horse ride. We were instructed to move towards the inner-side as soon as we saw a horse.No one is allowed to a take a ride on the way down; the horses come down empty, charging like bulls – almost without any control.
At half-way, there is a government built cafeteria that offers a clean view of the monastery. You will be served tea/coffee with amazing cream-cracker-like biscuits, and on the way back can also choose to have lunch here (not recommended for Indians). The journey from this point gets a little difficult: first you have to walk up a steep path, then walk down 500 steps and finally climb another 200 to get to the temple. With some motivation from Chibu & Kinley, I agreed to go. Some of the photos taken on the way are perhaps the best ones from the trek. Most of the steps have no railings, so you really need to be careful. Before you descend the 500 steps, you are at a point that is right opposite the monastery; they could have a bridge. In fact, several people have suggested, volunteered and even contributed to building a rope-way to get up there. But the Bhutanese love Bollywood, and totally believe in ‘kuch pane ke liye kuch khona padta hai’. They believe that nothing comes easy, and that the pleasure of visiting such a holy & refreshing place and getting close to God, should only come after some effort. Continue reading Bhutan Diaries – Day 5: The Tiger’s Nest→
We started our day with a brief trek to the temple of the divine mad man. The one thing you will see everywhere close to the temple is phalluses drawn on walls. The ‘divine madman’ was believed to have a huge phallus and made love to the most beautiful girl in every village he went. He’s called mad because he had sex with his own mother, but only to purify her – and divine for his wisdom. He is known to scare-off daemonesses with his phallus. That is the reason we saw wooden phalluses at the handicrafts museum in Thimpu. Besides paintings, tiny wooden replicas are hand-crafted and worn in the necks of new-born children. Stories like these come from the near past in Bhutan – the 16th century – the same time Shivaji maharaj was building a navy to ward-off the English.
At the temple, Kinley picked a name for his new born daughter by pulling a string-tied page from a book of names; all names come either with Kinley (name of temple) or Chimi (meaning no-dog based on a mythical story). Ma prepared herself for tomorrow’s trek to the Tiger’s nest by grabbing a wooden stick from one of the trees. The struggle for chicken continued even at an Indian restaurant called Chula whose menu featured a dozen chicken preparations common to a Bombay restaurant. We had no option but to head to Hotel Pedling for our protein dose. In the mean while, Continue reading Bhutan Diaries – Day 4: Heading for Paro→
Night stay at Kolkata was decent; we ordered chicken noodles in the middle of the night. The city is still as unclean as it was 10 years back, accompanied by very high entropy. The airport is medieval (note: aviation history starts much after Christ) & even Emirates does not get an aero-bridge. Took an early morning Druk Air flight to Paro; the airline operates a fleet of 2 A319s. I was sitting next to Pema Tshering, a unique scholar who teaches History to MA students & Geography to BA students. He was kind enough to offer me his window seat & introduce me to the Himalayas. The approach to Paro requires a 90 degree turn between the Paro valley to show way to a really small runway; surprisingly there are no taxiways either.
At the airport, everyone from ground-staff to policemen were wearing something very close to knee-length bathing robes; little later we realized this was Gho, the national dress. My parents were telling us the story of a man before them who was about to be sent back for some reason. I think, unless you’re travelling on business, you can’t enter Bhutan without a package tour. Out of immigration & customs, we were welcomed by our tour guide Kinley Tensin (right! Same as the mineral water brand Continue reading Bhutan Diaries – Day 1: Thimpu→