We drove from Thimpu past Paro to the end of the road below the monastery. We then hiked for about 90 minutes to a look out point, about half way up, where we stopped for lunch. This was the second best meal of the trip, and probably the best view of any meal we had. The hike continued up for another 30 minutes, until we were across a small ravine from the monastery. We took a lot of photographs from this vantage point, including the annual Christmas photo, and then headed down and up more than 500 stairs to get to the entrance of the monastery.
Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche came to a cave on the hillside at this location on the back of a tiger. He then meditated for three months in this cave.
A fire set by an arsonist over 10 ears ago destroyed a lot of the monastery. However, it has been rebuilt to match the original style and there is little of evidence of the destruction that occurred. However, as a result of that, there are military police there, and no bags or cameras are allowed in the complex.
We walked around the monastery visiting the inner chapel as we had done at the other temples, however, the views out the window looked straight down to the valley, and made one think they could fly with a simple jump. This was truly an inspirational setting for a monastery.
We headed back down, taking many more pictures along the way and returned to the van around 4:15pm.
Our accommodation for this night and the next night was the Olathang hotel. This was the first Western caliber hotel built in Bhutan, and was built in 1974 for the fourth king’s coronation. The rooms were actually separate cabins, each with a full bathroom, and a huge bedroom/living area. The hotel was about 15 minutes outside of Paro up on a hill overlooking the town. A grand setting for our final two nights in Bhutan.
Our final full day of sightseeing in Paro was spent visiting the dzong and the National museum. The dzong was impressive with many levels and buildings. The original circular watch tower building is now the National Museum. The museum was jam packed with a wide range of natural and cultural artifacts that gave a comprehensive overview of both the land and the people over the past few millennia.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a local restaurant, eating buckwheat noodles, beef goulash, fish, vegetables and chili cheese, and the national dish of Bhutan.
We stopped by Puna Lhakhang temple, said to date to the seventh century. Inside there were nuns chanting. We entered the chapel, and after a few minutes were in a meditative trance listening to the Buddhist chant.
The next morning we spent our final few hours in Bhutan contemplating the previous ten days experience. The combination of Buddhist mysticism, impressive monasteries, gentle people dressed in colorful clothing, towering mountains, clean air, flowing rivers, delicious food, and intricate architecture paintings and sculptures offered a unique experience in what may just be the last Shangri-La in the Himalayas.