I ended up sleeping for 11 hours after that excruciating hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. I had a late breakfast and met my guide Thinley around 9:00 a.m. My flight from Paro to Kolkata to Dubai did not depart until 4:00 p.m. and I did not have to be at the airport until 2:00 p.m. so the plan was to take in a couple temples in Paro, have some lunch and then head to the airport.
The first stop of the morning was to Paro Lhakhang which was built in the 6th century. The temple was simply lovely and was actually a sister temple to the lovely Jambay Temple in the Bumthang Valley. When we arrived, there had apparently been a recent blessing that had taken place as there was rice everywhere on the floor, which made it a little though to walk on in bare feet. (Remember no shoes inside a temple.)
We wandered around the temple (on the rice) and then outside where Thinley turned the the four prayer wheels causing them to chime in unison.
Second up was the Dumtse Lhakhang, which was built in 1433. This temple turned out to be simply awesome. The stupa looked like one of the hats worn in the black hat dance we watched at the Thimpu festival. It was really unique. But what made the temple awesome was the incredible murals that lined the walls throughout the three stories of the temple.
Now in order to access the murals, you had to be prepared to wander around in virtual darkness, which was intended to help preserve the ancient murals, and you had to be prepared to climb incredibly steep ladders to each level. However, once you made the commitment, you were rewarded with some of the best murals I saw in all of Bhutan. There were buddahs and dancing women and snow lions and demons, and animals and on and on. Unfortunately, I was not permitted to take pictures. However, the murals left an indelible print in my mind. It was like walking around a museum filled with ancient paintings.
So after a trip to the historic temple, Thinley and I took the one mile walk back across the river and into the main part of Paro. We ended up stopping in the little cafe we had previously visited (now three times). My driver, Dandin, joined us for coffee (I had a chai tea) and some lovely yoghurt cake.
After the coffee, Thinley suggested we go check out the Sunday archery tournaments. There were no matches going on at the main field, but we found a club tournament and ended up watching the goings on for about an hour. It was amazing and hilarious all at once. First, these guys were using bamboo bows not the graphite bows we previously saw in the Bumthang Valley, but still shooting at a 145 meter distance.
Second, this tournament featured a LOT of trash talking. Now I could not understand the language, but I could certainly “get” the fact that it was trash talk. Lots of yelling back and forth, pointing at the target when someone missed, laughter all around. It was hysterical. And then of course there was the dancing and singing every time someone hit a target. It was a sport within a sport. I could have sat there all day and watched the tournament. These guys really knew how to have fun.
After the archery tournament, it was on to a little lunch before we set off for the airport. On the way, we attempted to stop at lookout point, but were stopped by some kind of government official who advised us that the King was at the airport so there was no stopping at the lookout point. We never did see the King at the airport, but there was certainly a large military presence when we arrived.
Thinley and Dandin helped me with my luggage and waited with me for about 15 minutes at the security gate until it opened for boarding. It was finally time to say goodbye to these two lovely gentlemen. I simply cannot say enough good things about both Thinley and Dandin. Kind. Helpful. Proud to show me their country. And incredibly good at what they do. They rank among the best guides and drivers I have ever had. It was really tough to say goodbye.
I gave them both hugs and told them to stay in touch. As I moved through the security line into the building I turned and they were both standing there waving. I waved one more time and then walked into the building.
My vacation was over and it had been a fabulous tour through Tibet, Kathmandu and Bhutan. There were so many wonderful memories: the cool phone app that allowed me to communicate with folks who only spoke mandarin; Lhasa (the old town was simply wonderful); the fabulous momos in Tibet; Mount Everest, Mount Everest, Mount Everest (did I mention Mount Everest?); the visit with Hank’s father; the incredible Mi Casa Hotel and its staff in Kathmandu; the food in Kathmandu; the trip around Baktapur (and the hysterical escaped duck race); the amazing dances at the Bhutan festivals; the Blackneck Crane; the Gantey Valley; the lovely Bhutanese people; the hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery; and of course Thinley and Dandin. The negative experiences were rare: the bathrooms throughout Tibet (including the train from Xining to Lhasa … words cannot justly describe how bad the bathrooms really were); the nasty guard at the Thimpu festival; and of course the road from Trongsa to the Bumthang Valley (although there were some positives about that trip as well). I had an amazing time! Next up is my sabbatical starting in July 2018. Until then … Cheers all!