Bhutan Day 6: Flying Tiger, Hidden Temple
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
PARO - TIGER'S NEST
The 8th-century Indian Buddhist master, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), was believed to have flown on the back of a flying tigress from Tibet to a cave on the cliff above Paro Valley where he had meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours. This very cave where he had meditated became a holy shrine and a monastery was built around it. This monastery is none other than the legendary Tiger's Nest.
The Tiger's Nest, formally known as Paro Taktsang, is inarguably Bhutan's most important cultural and architectural icon. "Taktsang" means "tiger's lair" in Tibetan language, but fret not as there is neither a tiger in captivity nor any wondering in the mountains.
The formidable temple structure clings precariously on the steep, almost vertical rocky cliff with parapets and roof eaves overhanging 900 metres amidst the clouds above Paro valley, rendering a mythical and celestial aura that makes it seem out of this world. Sitting and living on the edge of the cliff high above the mountains, Paro Taktsang is undeniably a staggering piece of architecture that would take anyone's breathe away.
Many have came to Bhutan to see the Tiger's Nest. The arduous three-and-a-half hour ascend over some steep and rugged terrain could be harder than we've imagined, and had certainly made the journey a memorable one. Having said that, it's not an achievable task for all, young or old. Your friendly tour guide would certainly adjust the pace and expectation according to each traveller's condition or preference. And in our case, it was without a doubt the most laid-back possible, as this was the only place we had planned to visit for the day.
Located just 10 km from Paro town, we arrived at the starting point after a short 30-min ride from our hotel. Not surprisingly, hordes of zealous tourists had arrived and were beginning to commence their once-in-a-lifetime climb. Many were armed with professional trekking gear and supplies. For a moment, we thought we had seriously underestimated the task.
Trying to look on the bright side, we grabbed our humble hand-made wooden walking sticks, courtesy of our driver and guide, and looked up the sandy slope ahead with excitement and started our monumental climb.
Despite the long and tiring day, that speechless moment of seeing the Tiger's Nest for the first time was still fresh in my mind. Looking at the sunset across Paro valley from our hotel verandah, I couldn't help but imagine Guru Rinpoche flying over these very mountains from Tibet more than 1,200 years ago. All thanks to him and his flying tiger that had given us this hidden but spectacular temple today.