I think this hotel is aiming to be luxurious, high end and chic, but doesn’t quite make it. Our suite is very pleasant, but the toilet seat is precarious, the shower sprays water over the entire room if you don’t have the curtain fully drawn and the hot water is not enough either for a full bath or two sequential showers. The food in the restaurant is satisfactory without being anything special. Service is pleasant but slapdash – no sugar for coffee, asked for and quickly arrives, but no spoon to stir it with, – that sort of thing. More annoying was that there was no accommodation available for our driver and guide so they had to drive to Sunam’s home north of Thimphu or else pay full price for somewhere in town, and they are not paid enough for that! Grumble over!
Today we joined many others and walked up to the legendary Taktshang Goemba which translates as ‘The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which hangs off a sheer cliff. It is said that Guru Rinpoche flew to the site on the back of a tigress to subdue a local demon. He then meditated in a cave there for 3 months. It was built in 1692 around the holy cave. Unfortunately, like many dzong it largely burnt down in 1998 but was rebuilt between 2000 and 2005. There are five temples inside.
The climb begins in the car park which was packed. People of all nationalities were climbing up, although very few British. At first you get staggering views of the Paro Valley as you climb up through pine forest.
At the half way point is a cafe serving not bad coffee and offering some rather grubby toilets. It is here that those who have chosen to come up on horseback have to leave 5heir steeds. Then more of a climb and finally the path levels out. Now you get some superb views of the monastery. But what is this? A long, zig-zagging flight of steps takes you downwards and across to a waterfall. We stopped to admire it, but also to gain breath as we started the ascent up more steps to the monastery.
Once there, the rules are strict and all cameras, phones etc. have to left at the desk.
The temples are stunning as you’d expect but the views and location are of greater interest, I suspect to the non-Buddhists. So after a quick tour it is back down the steps to the waterfall and back up to the top on the other side. It was these steps that nearly did for Christine, whose legs had all but turned to jelly.
Still, she persevered, and made it back on to the level path, before descending to the cafe where lunch was awaiting us. Not a very wonderful lunch in fairness, but the coffee was still good and we filled up on our own cereal bars and some bananas purloined at breakfast. We continued down and finally got back to the car at 1.45 , 5.25 hours after setting off. We had climbed and descended some 900 metres, so we were quite pleased with ourselves. Of course young Suman has lost count of the number of times he has been up and down!
Mr Numgay then drove us to the oldest Buddhist temple in the country dating from the C7th. Kyichu Lhakhang was built around 659 by King Songsten Gampo of Tibet to pin down the left foot of a witch who was thwarting the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. He built another temple in Bumthang to deal with her left knee. It is a lovely old temple and adjacent to it has been added a second by the current Queen Mother with a gigantic statue of Buddha. Elderly people keep walking around the temple spinning the prayer wheels. While we were there they were joined by a party of school children.
We drove back to the hotel quite early for a hot shower and to start packing for our journey to India tomorrow. After a wonderful time in Bhutan, another holiday beckons.