On out last full day in Paro, we hiked up to Tiger's Nest Monastery (Taktsang). This spot was where the Buddha first arrived in Bhutan on a flying tiger. It is a holy place for Tibetan Buddhists and the site of many a pilgrimage. A monastery built into the side of a cliff, it has become quite a tourist attraction as well. And the hike has evidently been recently improved with the installment of railings on the thousand stairs. Evidently there had been some 'incidents' with clumsy people and overzealous picture takers. In fact, we had to swear to Kunzang that we would be careful on our hike and she called several times to remind us of our solemn vow.
The hike is about three hours up but if you are weak-kneed or weak-willed you can take a burro up the first half. Interestingly, on the way up we ran into Michael Rutland, an Oxford professor who was the 4th King's science tutor and is now honorary consul and famed television personality (a sort of Bhutanese Bill Nye). He told us that this was about his nth trip up to the monastery including one trip with Prince Charles who hiked well although his bodyguards suffered.
We followed him for a bit and then continued on, taking photos and not falling off cliffs all the while:
The monastery was originally built in the 1600s but has been rebuilt several times. Buddhists, in fact, feel that rebirth and rebuilding are necessary as structures are temporal yet the ideas that they represent are immortal. Upon arrival, all visitors must remove their hats and shoes and store their backpacks and cameras. We explored the different temples and took a few moments to meditate before heading back down from 10,000ft. Apparently many people have spiritually transformative moments in the monastery (including this National Geographic correspondent). I'm glad I wasn't aware of this before going because I would have been disappointed by my lack of enlightenment.
Perhaps next time.