As the grand finale to our trip in Bhutan, we climbed to Tiger’s Nest monastery (Taktshang) near Paro. Tiger’s Nest is by far the most photographed site in Bhutan. It is a beautifully located monastery clinging to the cliffside at 10,000 feet above sea level. Its multiple temples combine with the natural mountain environment for a breathtaking result.
Bhutanese legend has it that a lama rode from Tibet on the back of a tiger to reach here in the 8th century. Guru Rimpoche, “the Lotus-Born” lama meditated in a cave here for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours. The temples were built above and around the cave site. It is one of the very most sacred spots in Bhutan.
The morning of our last day with our driver Dawa (on the left) and our guide Jigme (on the right). We are about to climb to Tiger’s Nest – jogay, jogay!! (Let’s go!!)
Traveling by horse up the mountain. Wimps :).
Our first full view of Tiger’s Nest.
The prayer flags were magical. Look at the span from the top of the mountain.
At a bluff, looking up toward Tiger’s Nest.
Not sure how they were able to stick it on the mountain cliff.
Same bluff, looking down toward the valley.
Prayer flags are inscribed with sacred emblems, symbols, and texts in the forms of invocations and mantras. The prayers and blessings are offered for long life, good fortune, health, wealth, peace, happiness, prosperity, protection from harm, strength, release from suffering. It is believed that when the wind moves prayer flags, even with the slightest breeze, these prayers and blessings become activated in spiritual vibrations that can be carried across the world by wind, rivers, and oceans. Our guide informed us that the colorful horizontal prayer flags are offered to benefit not only the flag planter, but all sentient beings (beings with consciousness). The vertical prayer flags are attached to poles and raised to benefit another – a friend or loved one perhaps – and also, all sentient beings.
Lines and lines full of horizontal prayer flags.
Shauna and Jigme laying out one of the vertical prayer flags that we hung.
Jigme digging one of the holes. We didn’t have a post hole digger, so we used a sharp stick. Not the fastest way to dig a hole.
Shauna writing a message on the flag.
Iwo Jima? No, Mark and Jigme raising the 35 foot pole.
Mark holding the pole against wind and gravity.
Oops. A strong gust of wind toppled the taller flag pole. We thought that we had dug the hole deep enough, but obviously not. The pole not only toppled, it slid down the steep hill 100 feet. A bush saved it from going over a cliff.
After we wrestled the flag pole back up the slope and dug a deeper hole, we raised it again. This time to stay. Tiger’s Nest is over our right shoulders.
A view of our prayer flags looking over the valley.
A view of our prayer flags from the base of the trail. We could even see them from the main road down below. Jigme and Dawa will think of us whenever they look up at them. Assuming they don’t fall down 🙂
Our good-bye to Jigme, Dawa, and Bhutan is bittersweet. We promise to return one day in the future, and Jigme promises his daughter will practice her English diligently until we return. We have been touched by this magical country more than we imagined we would be. This quote by George Bogle, a Scottish adventurer and diplomat who led important diplomatic missions to Bhutan in 1774, is still a perfect characterization today.
“This simplicity of their manners… and strong sense of religion preserve the Bhutanese from many vices to which more polished nations are addicted… They are strangers to falsehood and ingratitude. Theft and every other species of dishonesty are little known. The more I see of the Bhutanese, the more I am pleased with them. The common people are good-humoured, downright and, I think thoroughly trusty… They are the best built race of men I ever saw.”
Trip planned by GeoEx
Local Bhutanese tour operator: Yangphel Tours and Travels