My journey to the “Kingdom in the Clouds” concluded with the ultimate culmination — Bhutan’s holiest, otherworldly, hardly accessible, way-up-in-the-clouds monastery Paro Taksang known as “Tiger’s Nest”. 🐯 Yes, yes, yes! It is as breathtaking, mystical and wondrous as the pictures portray it. It is everything you expect from Bhutan since it captures the beauty and the spirit of this last Shangri-La, just perfectly.
Guru Rinpoche is the dude! 👊 Also known as Guru Padmasambhava, this 8th century Tibetan Buddhist master is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary deity of the country. According to the local legend, Guru Rinpoche flew to this site from Tibet on the back of a flying tigress (a manifestation of his consort Yeshe Tsogyal) to tame a local demon, Singey Samdrup. He then stayed here and meditated in a cave for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours (3-3-3-3-3). Another sacred text found in the monastery revealed that the legendary Buddhist mystic and poet Milarepa also came here and mediated on the same site as Guru Rinpoche. Many other revered Buddhist scholars, monks, yogis and pilgrims visited this site over the centuries triggering the foundation of the first monastery in 1692. I can see why from all the beautiful monasteries in Bhutan, Paro Taksang is the most visited and venerated religious site.
Getting there was an experience 🙂 After 4 km of sweaty uphill trek, countless super steep stairs, many twisted ups and scary downs, getting lost and going to the wrong monastery (there are many temples), and accidentally waking up a monk from his three-year meditation period … I finally made it to the legendary Tiger’s Nest. Photography inside the monastery is forbidden, which made for a much better experience #soakingitin. After admiring the stunning frescos inside the monastery for an hour, I hiked all the way into the Tiger’s Nest cave. An extremely high, long and narrow corridor leads to the end of a tiny cave where a modest Sakyamuni statue with lots of candles awaits the pilgrim. It is eerily quiet inside and profoundly peaceful! I did a short prayer, then walked out of the cave to the edge of its cliff. A spectacular view of the valley (see pictures below) was the ultimate reward for this long and traitorous hike.
Kadrin chhe Bhutan, kadrin chhe La! 📿