…The next day turned out to be bright and perfect. I hiked down to the taxi stands in the centre of town and took a shared cab from Thimphu to Paro. It was dirt cheap. The route is well-travelled and has a large amount of traffic along it so I had no problems finding co-passengers this time. It was a 50 km drive and took just over an hour and a half to complete.
The destination of the day was the Tiger’s Nest monastery located just outside Paro. Paro in itself was a quiet little town even though by definition, it was Bhutan’s second largest city. The cab took me right up to the start point of the trek up to the Monastry. It was at the base of a steep mountain where quite a few locals had set up stalls to sell trinkets and to offer walking sticks on rent. There were even ladies offering mules-on-hire to carry you up to a point.
I was on a budget so I avoided all of these and started my trek up. The trek up is relatively simple as the route follows a well-worn path. It took me 1.5 hours to get to the 3/4th point which is a cafeteria located on the hillside across from the monastery and gives you your first good look of it. It was picture perfect. I stopped for a bit and accepted tea and biscuits served there sitting right on the edge and just soaking the view in. Turns out the tea and biscuits alone cost me Rs. 120. My budget went down the drain right there…
The path becomes relatively more difficult and extremely steep. It follows a sequence of steps going downwards to a waterfall and then up again towards the monastery. There’s a gaping chasm right there the entire time. But there is a point right before your descent where you get the best view of the Tiger’s Nest. It has prayer flags tied everywhere and a tiny viewing platform to just look out into the valley.
The monastery is cut into the side of a cliff. I can’t even begin to imagine how it was constructed. When I reached it I attached myself to a tour group of some British tourists and followed them across the halls and inner chambers of the place. There’s a special cave inside where the founder of Bhutan, Guru Rinpoche landed on his flying tigress, hence the name “Tiger Nest”. It was the second most beautiful trek I’d end up taking in Bhutan.
I took me about an hour to trek back down (avoided the cafeteria this time) and get back to the city centre. I ended up making a deal with a cargo van driver to take me back to Thimphu for a bit of cash. While he loaded up he pointed me to a restaurant that I could go eat some lunch at. Can’t remember the name of the place now but its right across from the taxi stand. Best. Beef. Momos. EVER.
When in Thimphu the previous day, I had noticed a really big Buddha statue overlooking the city from the top of a hill. I really wanted to check it out so on the way back I asked the guy to drop me as close as I could determine on google maps, on his way back into the city. There was a long winding road that led up to the statue but that was meant for vehicles. I didn’t want to take a taxi since again, it would cost too much and I was still recovering from my dip in the cafeteria.
I was fully pumped after my trek and decided to go as the crow flies, up the hill. Some people pointed me towards a shortcut that they normally take. I’m sure I understood their directions wrong because I ended up in the middle of some dense woods. I decided my best way out and to the statue was up and out. I walked for about an hour maybe even two until the trees suddenly opened out onto a dirt track. Thinking this was my salvation I followed it hoping to reach the top of the hill. Another half an hour of walking made me realise the path just led to the next hill. A cyclist pulled up behind me and on asking him for directions he practically laughed at my face. I was walking on a cycling track that went around the hills of Thimphu. I couldn’t see the statue over the hill-top above me but the cyclist assured me it was further up and not to far away. So upwards I went again.
In about 10 minutes the statue came into view. It was , to quote Donald Trump, “HUUUGE”. There was a compound wall around the premises so I followed it up to the entrance and that alone took another 15 minutes. I was exhausted by this point but I’d reached and had one of the best views of the Thimphu valley! The statue was not only magnificent but also very richly made. I walked to the edge of the podium and just plopped myself there to enjoy the view for a while. There was a rain cloud relieving itself over the main city down below and you could see the circumference of the rain clearly too!
I only got up to leave when the security guards were clearing the premises at closing time. I looked again at Google Maps and couldn’t for the life of me get myself to walk back down. After a couple of failed attempts at getting a ride a really kind man offered me a lift. He had brought his 7-year-old daughter and her friends from school on an excursion. He was driving a pickup where all the girls were enjoying the wind standing at the back, and me and the man sat up front. He dropped me off at the city centre but didn’t leave before giving me his number and email address with promises to call him if I ever needed anything. It made me realise, Bhutanese people are one of the most helpful in the world.
I walked down the main shopping street of Thimphu and found a slightly lavish but lovely place called Ambient Cafe. I’d skipped out on breakfast so I figured I ‘d splurge on dinner. And after the amount I’d ended up walking that day, I really felt like deserved it. The owner turned out to be a lovely Indian lady who sat down with me after the other customers left and chatted me up for a bit.
At the end of it I just went back to my dingy room and fell asleep before taking my socks off. Not a bad day two…
[One second a day: Bhutan (Click on the link)]