One of the joys of living in a new place is discovering new holidays, and with them new places and customs. Over the past four days we enjoyed a long weekend with spectacular weather as the Bhutanese celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Female Water Snake. The Bhutanese New Year, known as Losar, coincides with the Chinese New Year, though it is celebrated at various times in different parts of the country. We celebrated by making a pilgrimage to the sacred monastery Taktsang, often known by its translated name of “Tiger’s Nest”.
Antonia and I first visited Taktsang as tourists in 2010, when we were amazed by the postcard views and the precarious cliff-side construction. The temple was originally built in 1692 by Guru Rimpoche when he flew to the spot on the back of a flying tigress – certainly reason enough to be a sacred site! This time we took three days to explore several of the outlying temples, including three located on the cliff tops above Taktsang (Zandok Pelri, Urgyan Tsemo and Oseling), each offering spectacular new views.
The trails up from Taktsang is much narrower than the main path plied by thousands of tourists and horses each year. Narrow paths, steep
wooden ladders and steps cuts into the cliffs all led us past each of the three upper temples. Finally, from Oseling at 3300m, we hiked through the woods for another 2h to reach our campsite just below Bumdra, a sacred meditation site where young monks will meditate for the auspicious time period of 3 years, 3 months and 3 days.
The Lama welcomed us warmly and showed us where the spring was, and in return we let him play with Laya, our 5 month old mountain puppy. After a small bonfire (complete with marshmallows) and some star photography, we retired to our tent for a deep sleep. An early rise the next morning gave us ample time to wander up two peaks to the north for even more amazing views, including Jolmohari (the 2nd highest mountain in Bhutan) and Kanchenjunga(the 3rd highest mountain in the world) rising to 8586m on the distant border between Sikkim and Nepal.
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