To briefly summarize the end of my Bhutan trip: I spent three nights in Paro. Paro is home to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest monastery), aka the reason Bhutan intrigued me in the first place. The monastery is tucked away on the side of a cliff and requires a three hour hike to reach it (or 1 hour and 45 minutes if you are me ?). This time may have been shorter if I hadn’t been tempted by checking out the local Paro bar scene with my driver the evening before.
Rewind to the Evening Before
We first visited the “dancing girls bar.” And I know what you’re thinking because I know what it sounds like. But this place is actually just nice Bhutanese girls, fully dressed in traditional Bhutanese outfits, doing basic, simple dance moves on a stage for tips. It was as wholesome as a middle school play.
We then moved on to karaoke. You could choose songs in Dzongkha (the local language), Nepali, Hindi, or English. I was the only tourist among a bunch of the tour guides, because apparently I am more fun than their guests. They all love singing and they do karaoke regularly. I like to do karaoke on special occasions, like when I am in Bhutan. My driver sang the same Bhutanese song three times! There were also beers. Plenty of beers. The local beer comes in bottles twice the size than they do at home and also weighed in at 8.5% alcohol, which is twice that of a bud light. So one bottle is like four beers at home. Anyway, enough math.
Back to the Day of the Hike
When it came time to hike in the morning, I would describe my state as, “I’ve been better,” but that wouldn’t stand in my way. I have been dreaming of Tiger’s Nest for years! The monastery looked impossibly far away at the beginning.
There was the option to ride a horse for the first portion of the hike. I declined on account of being afraid of horses and the fact that my legs work perfectly well! The fact that there were horses sharing the same hiking trail, made the morning a bit more difficult. The altitude also added another level of difficulty. I love blaming altitude anytime I partake in anything that requires physical exertion, but this time it really was a factor. The hike begins in the parking lot which is at roughly 8500′ and ends at the monastery (duh) which is over 10000′.
About halfway through, we had a pit stop at a tea house. It was a nice break and the tea helped nurse my baby hangover. After about thirty more minutes of hiking we reached the most perfect viewpoint. I became very camera-happy as this was the view I had been waiting for!
From here, it was only about 20 more minutes and a shitload of uneven ascending and descending stairs before I reached the entrance. At the entrance you were forced to lock up all personal belongings, especially cameras and phones. We had to remove our shoes and make our way into the complex. I was also asked to remove my buff/headband because, well, I still don’t know. The monastery was very impressive and there were so many temples inside to visit. It was nice to be in an environment where everyone was ridded of their camera and could just focus on the experience at hand.
Taktsang closes during lunchtime each day. The stragglers were rushing to reach the entrance before lunch, otherwise they would have to wait one hour in a location that does not serve lunch (my biggest fear). I made it up with plenty of time to explore. We descended even faster than our climb and made a lunch stop back at the teahouse.
That evening I went for a hot stone bath at a local homestay. It was essentially a tub built out of plywood inside a dark shed where Dexter probably brings his victims. Upon stepping in the bath, I thought that maybe they intended to serve my boiled organs for dinner. It was so effing hot. I moved cold water from the adjacent tub into mine which was a hefty procedure. When I finished being a burnt raisin, we ate dinner at the homestay. I also experienced what was called “butter tea.” You butter believe I never want to taste that again!
I had my flight back to Bangkok the following morning from where it all began in the Paro airport. The story of my trip to Bhutan would not be complete without a casual mention of the worst food poisoning of my life, that struck in the early morning hours before my flight. I think I got my 10000 Fitbit steps that day on the plane, running back and forth to the bathroom.