Friday, 21 August 2015

Magical Bhutan

Last month i was in Bhutan over the weekend for short Business trip with the Mrs and we both fell in Love with is a place so languid and peaceful you want to go back there again and again and again!!
Bhutan is a land locked country in South Asia at the eastern end of the Himalayas. It is bordered to the north by China and to the south, east and west by India. To the west, it is separated from Nepal by the Indian state of Sikkim, while farther south it is separated from Bangladesh by the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Bhutan's capital and largest city is Thimphu.
Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring states until the early 17th century. At that time the lama and military leader Ngawang Namgyal, the first  Rinpoche, who was fleeing religious persecution in Tibet, unified the area and cultivated a distinct Bhutanese identity. In the early 20th century, Bhutan came into contact with the British Empire and retained strong bilateral relations with India upon its independence. In 2006, based on a global survey, Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the eighth-happiest in the world. unlike other countries Bhutan does not have a GDP or Gross Domestic product,they have Gross National Happiness and the term was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's fourth KingJigme Singye Wangchuck. The phrase was coined as a signal of commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's culture based on Buddhist spiritual values instead of the regular  development parameter that was represented by gross domestic product.
i have been to switzerland also with Sally last year and thought no other country could be as beautiful,i was wrong!! Bhutan's landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan heights in the north, where some peaks exceed 7,000 metres  Its total area is approximately 46,500 km2 and it is compulsory that 70% or more of its land area must be forest. Now in Junior and Medical school i used to be an avid trekker,but i must admit ever since i started work in 2005 i have never been able to trek again because i hardly get the time off,so when we were done with the regular sightseeing i knew that it was time to break the news to the Sally that morning we were going to Trek up the Tiger's nest ,she was very skeptical and did not wish to go because we had to get up like at 5 in the i asked her to sleep over it and then in the morning when i was ready to leave she asked me to wait 30 minutes and she also tagged along!!
The Taktsang Monastery is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley, in Bhutan.legend has it that Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong. This place was consecrated to tame the Tiger demon.
An alternative legend holds that a former wife of an emperor, known as Yeshe Tsogyal, willingly became a disciple of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambahva) in Tibet. She transformed herself into a tigress and carried the Guru on her back from Tibet to the present location of the Taktsang in Bhutan. In one of the caves here, the Guru then performed meditation and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and the place became holy. Subsequently, the place came to be known as the “Tiger's Nest”. A temple complex was first built in 1692, around the  cave where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary deity of the country. 
The monastery is located 10 kilometres  to the north of Paro and hangs on a cliff at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft) above sea level.The rock slopes are very steep (almost vertical) and the monastery buildings are built into the rock face. it is an Architectural marvel and impossible to imagine it was built centuries ago!!at base you are greeted by a dense forest and tiny streams of fresh mountain water,so we began our climb with our Beautiful Bhutanese tour Guide!!we cleared the forest area which took about ten minutes and then began the real Trek and i was astonished with the steepness of the climb!after about 5 Minutes of the Trek Sally felt light headed and started panting,usually the trek to Tiger's nest is kepton the last day of the Bhutan trip so that people can get acclimatized to the thin mountain air.we were in Bhutan 2 days before we decided to trek but i guess it was not enough,so we thought it was better not to take the risk and Sally and the guide stayed back and decided to do a tour of Paro city whilst i continued on the trek, the weather was clear with bright sunshine and after the next 30 minutes i started to feel the lack of oxygen content in the air and after every 50 metres i had to stop for breath and then continue. i must admit quitting and going back did cross my mind once but then i decided not to let go off this perhaps once in a life time oppurtunity. so my next stop was the beautiful cafetaria which is half way to the Tiger's nest

quick cup of tea and i was ready again and the view from the cafetaria looked daunting but beautiful.from here it is a continuous steep ascent and then once you reach the very top you have to descend again.

after about another ten minutes of non stop climbing i reached the top of the cliff opposite to the Taktsang Monastery and the view is breathtaking!!!!the drop below is sheer 3000 feet to the valley floor

now i was ready for the descent and this has been barricaded for safety as the path is very narrow and on the cliff face

after descending for about ten more minutes one is greeted with a beautiful water fall and i had a quick drink and the water was so cold and sweet,better than drinking the bottled water!!

from here it is a 5 minute climb up to reach the steps of the Monastery. 
Cameras and phones are not allowed inside because of religious reasons. Inside there are several temples of various deities and so calm and serene.i went into the TIger's cave and it is very narrow and dark so one has to crouch and go inside. Trekking upto the Tiger's nest was an Adventure for me but once inside i was thankful to God that i did not give up and continued my journey because it was one of the most spiritual moments i have ever experienced when i was inside the monsatery!! 
the climb down was equally tough and my knees were hammered by the time i got back to base
my guide was surprised by the speed of my trek!! i was able to reach the top in 90 Minutes and the fastest according to local lore was a British Navy seal who did it in 60 minutes!!

it is a 60 minute drive back to Thimpu from paro and by the time we got back it was dinner time and we slipped into the traditional Bhutanese Attire,had a quick Dinner and ready to sleep for it was time to get back to my most favourite thing to do in the world-making Babies!!

the Best thing about going to Bhutan?on the way back you can see Mount Everest from your Window!!