March 15th, 2010
The journey to the Taktsang was as beautiful as the monastery itself. On our way back, small droplets began to fall and the sky was overcast. After 25 minutes of walk from the monastery is a lovely cafeteria, which also offers a most wonderful view of Tiger’s Nest, being on an opposite hill. We stopped there for lunch as had many other travelers. A sumptuous meal was laid out in the center, and the circular hall was lined with wooden benches for the tired hiker. The lunch, in Bhutanese style, was delicious. It was here that I first tried Ema Datsi, the heart-burning dish of chillies and cheese, which I would recommend you be very careful with.
After the cafeteria, it was less than half an hour to the valley. From there, we went to the Drugyel Dzong, or the ruined fortress, where the road ends, and treks begin. Like all places in Bhutan, this too has some history, and like all dzongs, this too was built by Zhafdrung, to mark his victory on Tibetians.
In the evening, we enjoyed a traditional Bhutanese stone bath at our resort. The bath needs about 2 hours of preparation – took 3 for that day because of the windy weather, as stones are heated in woodfire till they become red hot. Then they are put into the bath water. The minerals from the hot stones are supposed to be good for bones and skin. But for us, it was a relaxing therapy after the slightly strenuous walk. The bath heats the body right to the core, such that it becomes much easier to brave the cold.
Today we reached Thimpu, the capital. In Thimpu, the provincial seems a little left behind, as traditional dresses give way to Western wear, especially amongst the youngsters. But then youngsters everywhere want to be different from their old. What would youth be if not defiant.
Set on water, you may think of Thimpu as the many European cities, but the buildings around you will never let you forget where you are. It is a large city, with another pretty town center that has a clock-tower. If the day was sunny, I would have loved to sit on the steps and read about the country in ‘Facts about Bhutan’, a book I purchased about this little known country. But as it turns out, the day was chilly, windy and clouded. So after going to the traditional healing hospital and the National Library, we took refuge in a cozy cafe: The Zone. The highlight was a wi-fi connectivity, something very welcome to the drones of modern communication, esp after three days of being offline.
In the afternoon, we visited the post office. In the National Museum at Paro, there is a whole floor dedicated to the stamps of Bhutan. Bhutan had published so many different stamps on so many different things, that it is a philately enthusiasts heaven. After watching that collection, I had been unable to get those stamps off my head. At the post office, we found a philately counter, something I have not seen anywhere else. What a delight it was. We picked up stamps worth Rs 1300, amongst them a CD stamp. There was a collection of Man’s moon landing, on the many rives/bridges of Bhutan, on its festivals, on dzongs, on World heritage and so many other things.