A Holy Hike to Taktsang


“You can’t come to Bhutan and not visit the Tiger’s Nest!” beamed the elderly European tourist as he happily trekked down the trail that led to the Taktsang Monastery, perched higher up on a sheer cliff on a mountainside in Paro Valley in Bhutan. I was resting on a rock, fanning myself in the hot sun and looking down at the valley below. I was contemplating whether I would in fact be able to make it to the top of the cliff (located 1,500 feet above the valley) where I could just about glimpse the white walls of the monastery. Paro is situated at about 7,000 feet above sea level, and every step up was getting more and more difficult.

Poor Toilets in Bhutan for Tourists

News + Stories, Travelogue

Poor conditions of public toilets in Bhutan continue to irk visiting tourists.

The condition of existing public toilets in Bhutan has been questioned not only by tourists, but locals as well, over the years. It is still common today to find public toilets in a mess, clogged with sticks and stones, and with no running water, despite the existence of health ministry standards and guidelines.

Archery in Bhutan

Attractions, Travelogue

A trio of dogs loll on their sides in the morning sun, oblivious to the arrows whooshing invisibly above them at 200 mph. When the shafts appear with a telltale thwack in the foot-wide oblong targets, the dozy beasts don’t even bother looking over. The hundred or so spectators in the bleachers here at the Changlimithang Archery Ground in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, are another matter. Like true fans everywhere, they know to arrive with cushions and cardboard panels to sit on. Among them are a dozen monks, who have come by taxi and will have to return to their monasteries by the end of lunch. But more enthusiastic still are the players on the field: each time an archer lands a shot, his teammates clad in ghos, the knee-length, white-cuffed robes that Bhutanese men wear, stream around the targets to strut, yelp, and sing, even flashing a little thigh as they kick their legs like cancan dancers.

Chimi Lhakhang – The Divine Fertility Temple

Attractions, Travelogue

On a cold March night nearly two years ago, not long after we had learned that the baby I was carrying had all his chromosomes in a sequence that spelled health and wholeness, I was lying in bed next to my husband marveling at this unlikely turn of fortune when I remembered Chimi Lhakhang.

Chimi Lhakhang is a dusty temple in Bhutan, a country where two summers before I had taught composition at a college. Bhutan is tiny, caught like a bead between the masses of China and India. Through the protective arc of the Himalayas and a strategic choice of alliances, Bhutan has preserved its borders and its culture. It remains stunningly itself, indifferent to Western notions of success.

Bhutan at the Rubin

About Bhutan, Travelogue

What’s remarkable about this crystal-clear photograph of Drukyul Dzong, which is currently on display at the Rubin Museum in New York City, is that it was taken 105 years ago with a camera that is the size of an old TV set. And that the plate-glass negative on which the image was captured made it out of Bhutan’s rocky roads on the back of a horse.