Takstang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, is one of the most sacred places situated on a steep cliff at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft) above sea level and about 900 metres (3,000 ft) above the Paro valley. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress and consecrated this place to tame the Tiger demon. It is also believed that the Bhutanese people must come to pilgrimage to Taktsang Monastery at least once in their life time.
Many a time I saw the photos of Takstang Monastery in the internet and every time I found it hard to believe its existence as is seen in the photos. Our car stops at the parking area. We find vendors selling various local crafts and wooden stick for the trekkers. Horses are also waiting to give tourists a ride up to the monastery. Our driver says, “Yehin se shuru”. We feel immediately the beginning of adventure and ask him which way and where it is. He fingers towards the sky through the forest. Our eyes follow his finger and barely see the Monastery but spot a little white structure with red cap.
He advises to follow the foreign tourist going ahead of us. We buy sticks @Rs.20/- each and start our journey. The foreign tourists are not far ahead. We catch up them soon and find a young Chinese lady is being guided by two Bhutanese guides. We start talking with one of them. He tells us that she is working in Nepal and has come here to pilgrimage to Taktsang Monastery. We ask about the distance and probable trekking hour. He replies that approximately a distance of 6 km which normally takes around 2 to 3 hours depending upon one’s physical condition. He cheers up and says, “You will reach there within 2 hours”; but immediately changes his mind pointing out KKD (my heavy weight friend) “because of him, you may take 3 hours or so”. They leave us behind soon as the young Chinese lady is walking fast justifying her good shape and we cannot leave KKD far behind.
The initial part of the trek goes through forests, but gradually we leave the forests behind and quickly gain altitude. At some turns along the way, we capture spectacular views of Paro valley on one side and glimpses of Tiger’s Nest on the other. After trekking for an hour we arrive at a point, here some iron benches are installed for resting of trekkers. The Tiger’s Nest from this point still seems so far.
We meet here a Japanese group, mostly of elderly persons. A photo shoot with them and start our journey again. We leave them behind soon with a promise to keep ourselves fit in future like them.
We reach at halfway to the monastery. A big red prayer wheel, some benches and a cafeteria are here. We take breaths for a while; shoot photographs with the prayer wheels and the monastery at full zoom on the background. We decide to have our meal in the cafeteria on our way back down.
Last and the most difficult part of the climb starts from here. We meet people from so many parts of the world coming down, all cheering up to boost us, “Yes, you have made it…….you are almost there……only 25% left” and so on. Along the trek route we pass through pine trees, prayer flags, small shrines and breathtaking views at every turn point. The steep climb continues and we progress slowly with KKD a little behind.
It is exciting to finally feel so close to the monastery. We cannot keep aside the temptation to snap lots of pictures. We get closer and are said that there are 850 steps, both up and down, before we get to the entrance.
Someone suggests us not to proceed further for a while as the monastery is now close for lunch hour. We sit by the side of trek route. Not a many while after, the Chinese lady appears, she is now on her way back, a smile in her face reflecting a joy of fulfillment or may be for a satisfactory win over us on the trek.
Yes, we reach here trekking for a little more than 3 hours. But we still hold that we cannot leave our heavy weight friend KKD far behind on any trek even for a beautiful Chinese fairy.
Resting a while we take the steps to the monastery. We are almost near the monastery and see a waterfall to the left falling approximately from 200 feet above into a sacred pool and a little bridge to cross over. Then a few minutes of uphill steps and we are at the entrance.
Here winds are blowing strongly, carrying everybody’s prayer with it and bringing blessing for all- truly a heavenly experience. We enter into the monastery. There are small temples inside, each of them with images of Buddhist deities. The smell of incense fills the air, a divine atmosphere altogether. We are now near the Tiger’s Nest, a small board indicating that, the cave where the Guru Padmasambhava meditated. We peep into the cave one by one and feel great to witness such a sacred monastery.
On our way back down we stop in the cafeteria for our meal. But they charge Rs.460/- per head for buffet lunch, of course a vegetarian meal, so we remain happy with a bottle of cold drink at Rs.60/-. It takes less than an hour to get down. We thank God for blessing us with the opportunity to witness such a sacred place, to view such an architectural wonder and to accomplish the YATRA once in this life.
We are driving to Chelela Pass, the highest motorable roads in Bhutan which locates between the Haa and Paro valley. We are passing continuously through oak trees, at times glimpsing wild fowls with long tail feathers and free roaming yaks, then through snow capped roads climb slowly to the Chelela pass. A milestone placed along the road indicates the highest point on Dantak Road at an altitude of 3988 meter above the sea level. We see a perfect white Himalayan Mountains view from here.
At this pass, a good view of Mountain Jhomolhari, one of the most important peaks in Bhutan, is very charming.
Just a few steps ahead, the top is marked with rows of colourful prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Uphill are capped with snows, we run into it and starts doing all crazy things. It is a spot for a perfect snap and a great photography.
We look down towards the Haa valley, another 22km descend from this point, but to remain content with the view from here. It is now time to bid adieu Bhutan. We are returning to our sweet home with lots of memories, happiness and a hope to come again in this Land of the Thunder Dragon to visit Haa, Phunaka and Bumthang Valley.