25th November 2014 – Paro, Bhutan
The nest beckoned, and grudgingly, I acknowledged. Like a warrior with a target, I trudged ahead, Past prayer wheels, returning horses, and bewildering steeps, but when I finally reached a rip-off restaurant, my tracks stopped dead.
So, last evening in Paro, I met an Aussie teacher who was living in Bhutan and working with the local school kids. And she took me to the Drukgyel Dzong, which is one of the oldest dzongs in Paro. A dzong is basically a fortress, and the Drukgyel Dzong was built in memory of a Bhutanese victory over a marauding Tibetan army.
It was funny how a historic Dzong, maintained very beautifully, can remain completely empty. It was so empty, that we decided to get some beers and cigarettes, and settle down at the Dzong for a sundowner. I followed this up with a visit to a Drayong, which is like a local dance club, but with full clothes on. The Anti-striptease, we call it.
I slept well-tucked in the cold, thanks to all the Druk beers that I had downed, and woke up today morning to go see the rest of Paro. In the morning, I stepped out to see the Rinpung Dzong, and the Khichu Lakhang, which was a famous local temple. And then, I had to try and do the inevitable.
I am not a hiker, as Nepal had taught me. But there was one hike I had to try and do in Bhutan. To see the gorgeous Tiger’s Nest monastery. The Taktsang monastery has been the face of Bhutanese tourism for time immemorial, but the problem is also that it is very difficult to get to. It’s a clearly a 2-3 hour uphill hike, the kind which I normally dread to do. But, I had to make a go for it since I was already here. So, I did.
And boy, was it hard. I kept lumbering up for a good 2 hours, stopping at different spots to click on prayer wheels and prayer leafs, and watching returning horses. There was an option to take a horse to the top for 10 USD, which the proud side of me had completely denounced. And after a good 2 hours, I could finally get a good, decent view of the tiger’s nest. But then, calamity struck. Out of nowhere, there appeared a restaurant in front of me!
The Taktsang restaurant is located in the ridge opposite to the tiger’s nest, and the monastery is just another 500 metres from here. I was famished, and decided to eat something. They only had the vegetarian meals, but the price left me in shock. 470 Ngultrum! Thats more than 10 USD for a meal that had nothing in it! This place was obviously a rip-off for the tourists that had to come here through tour groups.
I just settled on a mango juice. And after the drink, and a cigarette, my resolve to climb higher had completely vanished.
So, I quietly went back. The same way that I had gone up.