Bhutan # 19 : Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Tiger’s Nest is the popular name of probably the most iconic monastery in Bhutan, much photographed and well known outside Bhutan as a symbol of this mountainous land.   The correct Bhutanese name for this remarkable set of buildings is Taktsang Palphug Monastery.  Perched on a sheer cliff some 900m (2952 ft) above the valley floor below, the present buildings occupy a site first used to build a temple complex in 1692.  The reason for this is because there is a cave said to have been used by Guru Padmasambhava to meditate in for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours, way back in the 8th Century.  The commonly used name ‘Tiger’s Nest’ originates from the fact that it is believed that this is the site where the tiger, on whose back Padmasambhava travelled from Tibet to Bhutan, landed.  This is the place where Buddhism was introduced into Bhutan and so is highly revered.

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P1010045  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010045 © DY of jtdytravels

Tigers Nest viewed from the floor of the Paro Valley.

The precarious position it occupies is obvious.

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P1010055  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010055 © DY of jtdytravels

The track that leads to the monastery from the road-head is quite wide and well formed.  Many prayer flags are hung from the surrounding trees by pilgrims as they begin their long and strenuous climb.

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P1010056  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010056 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s a case of  ‘watch your step’ through some of the rocky parts of the track!  There are also exposed roots to trip over.

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P1010061  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010061 © DY of jtdytravels

These small structures contain water-driven prayer wheels.  The creek that flows down this valley provides the water-power to turn the paddles attached to the prayer wheels.

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P1010071  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010071 © DY of jtdytravels

A small violet I spotted growing on the edge of the track.

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P1010074  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010074 © DY of jtdytravels

Parochetus communis has a clover-like leaf

and stunning blue pea flowers.

The plant hugs the ground.

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P1010083  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010083 © DY of jtdytravels

Delphinium cooperi is a spindly plant that seemed to like the disturbed soil on the banks at the side of the track.  Sometimes there was just one flower on each stalk, sometimes a few more.

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P1010088  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1010088 © DY of jtdytravels

Tiger’s Nest viewed from near the Viewpoint where there is a facility supplying food, drinks and shelter.  It provides a welcome excuse to stop and rest awhile and to take in the magnificent view.

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P1010090  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010090 © DY of jtdytravels

This attractive ground-hugging plant liked growing over the banks at the side of the path.  Although small in size, it was hard for the observant walker not to see the hairy leaves and bright red berries.

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P1010096  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010096 © DY of jtdytravels

Tiger’s Nest from the view point.  There is still quite a way to go and quite a bit of going down before the final assault!

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P1010097  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010097 © DY of jtdytravels

Chillies were drying on a shingle roof.  Fully dried they will store well and be used to spice-up winter meals.

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P1010102  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010102 © DY of jtdytravels

A toadstool growing in a shadier part of the track.  It obviously benefits from the moisture the moss and leaf litter provide.

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P1010105  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010105 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor beside strings of colourful prayer flags.  A gap in the forest allowed in a gentle breeze – the flags moved languidly.

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P1010108  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010108 © DY of jtdytravels

This view of Taktsang Monastery is the closest I was able to get to the monastery when I was here in 2003.  Repair work to fix damage caused by a devastating fire in 1998 was not complete.  It is said that a knocked over oil lamp caused the fire.  From this point we noted the steep descent that we needed to take to the left to go down to a bridge which crosses a ravine. A stream tumbles the ravine to the valley floor far below. From the bridge we would have to climb back up, way up, to the precarious ledge on which the monastery sits.

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P1010110  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

P1010110 © DY of jtdytravels

Getting closer, the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, better known as Tiger’s Nest, is an impressive sight.  Visitors approach the monastery from the left.

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P1010114  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010114 © DY of jtdytravels

Trevor taking taking a photo of the ravine down which the watercourse tumbles.  The bridge was a favourite place to tie strings of prayer flags.

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P1010116  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010116 © DY of jtdytravels

The bridge in the previous photo is down to the left.  Having climbed down to the bridge from the viewpoint, it was an equally tough climb back up to the monastery.

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P1010123  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010123 © DY of jtdytravels

Aster alpinus is found throughout the Himalaya.  It is a small, ground-hugging plant.

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P1010124  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010124 © DY of jtdytravels

This small legume has deep blue flowers. The buds are protected by a ‘leafy’ calyx covered in masses of stiff, short, black hairs.

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P1010128  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010128 © DY of jtdytravels

A trio of toadstools growing in disturbed soil.

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P1010133  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010133 © DY of jtdytravels

back at the car park from our hike up tyo Tiger’s Nest, our group is about to board the Etho Metho bus for the last time.  We were about to leave for the Paro Airport where we wwere to board a flight to Gauhati in Assam, India.  I was sad to leave Bhutan but, as my friend the Hon. Sonam Dorji said to me on our walk back down from the Tango Moanstery – you will come back!  Sad to leave but this next plane flight also heralded the next part of our adventure on the sub-Continent and our cruise down the Brahmaputra River.

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P1010136  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010136 © DY of jtdytravels

It was time to farewell our trusty and much respected local guide in Bhutan, Leki.  He is accompanied by his assistant, Dechen.

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P1010138  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1010138 © DY of jtdytravels

Drukair, was until October 2013, the only airline to fly into the country.  A private airline started services to Bhutan the week before we arrived.  Paro Airport is at an elevation of 2225m. (7300ft.).  Pilots have to fly into the valley over 4877m. (16,000ft.) high mountains.  All landings are entirely by visual flight rules.  Landing at Paro is quite an experience as mountains seemingly wizz past the wingtips!  Drukair fly Airbus 319 and ATR 42-500 aircraft.  Obviously, these aircraft have been chosen for their ability to climb and descend quickly and to take-off and land on short runways.

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More from Assam in India in our next series of

“join me for the journey”

David

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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