Paro Taktsang, Tiger's Nest Monastery

Paro Taktsang, Tiger's Nest Monastery

In wrapping -up our trip to Bhutan, i thought i’d share some random photo’s/thoughts with you. The photo above is the “Tiger’s Nest”, one of Bhutan’s most important religious sites. Completed in 1692, the temple hangs on a cliff at 10,200 feet. It takes over two hours to walk there, straight uphill, but is well worth the climb. Early on the walk, the temple appears to be floating in the clouds, and the further you walk, the more it seems like something out of a fantasy book.  Once you catch your breath, you realize that it is very real, indeed.
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Monk and Nun

Monk and Nun

One day before starting our trek, we took a three-hour hike up to a temple, completely isolated at about 10,000′ altitude. Looking out at the surroundin mountains, i spotted something red in the distance. “That’s a monk”, explained Jambay. “He will be here, meditating, for 3 years, 3 months, and 3 days, never speaking.” “Good God, why?”  i can’t imagine going 3 hours without speaking, at least to my dogs!
“In order to devote themselves entirely to their religion.”
Hmmmm..after that amount of time, i’d be devoting myself completely to my therapist!
We walked across to the little 2-room caretaker’s hut to have a cup of butter tea, which, in my opinion, smells like vomit and tastes worse. We sat on the floor around the stove, rubbing our hands and trying to stay warm. 
Every couple of weeks,  1 or 2 people take shifts living in the hut, and this week it was an elderly nun and a monk. A visiting  traditional medicine-woman was there to check on the meditating-man. Out of nowhere, a rap song blasted the room.  The monk jumped-up to answer his cell-phone, carrying his conversation outside and out of earshot of his visitors. I swear, it was straight out of a Sprint commercial, something that would easily have been the norm around any American dinner table.
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Festival Dancer

Festival Dancer

Festival Character

Festival Character

We were in Paro for the Paro Tsechu, one of Bhutan’s most important festivals where masked dances and stories of saints are staged. The dances are performed by trained monks and laymen wearing costumes that depict the creatures that you can expect to meet after death. the festival was fascinating, but people-watching was equally entertaining.
Family at the Paro Festival
Family at the Paro Festival
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On the last night of our trek, Cowboy was generous enough to invite us all to camp in his family’s yard, along with the promise of a hot stone bath. Having tramped around the Himalaya in yak-shit and sweat for 8 days, i jumped at the opportunity! Cowboy built a big bonfire where he heated the rocks. Knowing they had no indoor plumbing, I glanced around.  hmmmm…where’s the tub? My eyes followed the hose coming off the side of the mountain, running into a, what? a horse trough! No, couldn’t be! Yep, was.  I know, because all of the horses and mules came up for their drink. Cowboy shooed them away with a straw broom, and placed a makeshift screen around 2 sides. When the tub was near-full, he motioned me to get in. Horse trough or not, that there hot stone bath was pure heaven!
 
my hot stone bath

my hot stone bath

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As we walked up the trail toward the mountains one morning, we came upon the man below. He was dressed in red,with yak-hide knee-pads and 2 wooden paddles strapped onto his hands. He was weathered and looked old, but amazingly limber. 
  CLAP   
  “What in the…”
“That is a prostrating man”, explained Jambay. “He will prostrate himself for 3 more days, until he gets to the ??? temple.”   P.M. clapped his paddles together, knelt to the ground, then laid down flat on his stomach before pushing himself back up. Villagers will give him a place to sleep and some food, but for luck on our journey, we gave him the equivalent of  a quarter.  It must have been enough, because we had  pretty good luck.
Prostrating Man

Prostrating Man

Prostrating Man

Prostrating Man

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