Imagine This Monastery Perched Precariously on a Mountain

DSCF2199Isn’t it amazing how Taktsang Monastery was built on the cliffside of a mountain?  As one of the highlights of Bhutan,  “Tiger’s Nest” continues to attract visitors, including myself.  After hiking most of the morning to get to it, I glimpsed it for the first time from afar:  the monastery looked unbelievably tiny with the gray jagged mountainside as the backdrop.  It appeared as if at any minute, it could just topple over into the valley.  Built in 1692, and after a couple of fires and renovations, it still remains as a fully functioning place of worship.  When I got closer, I thought about how unbelievably dangerous it was back then to build it on the side of a cliff with no real foothold in the mountain to establish a firm foundation.  And yet it was done, miracles of miracles, in order for this resplendent Buddhist monastery to be as close to peace and the skies as possible.

Once inside, the old wood creaked underneath my shoes as I passed through the hallways.  I wondered what the walls told of stories of the past and present, and the excitement that pilgrims felt when they first arrived at such a special place after an arduous journey.

Snapshots of People from Bhutan

Sonam at the town's grocery store

Sonam at the town’s grocery store

“Hello! Can I practice my English with you?” she asked.  I heard this high-pitched voice from across the street and when I turned around, all I saw was a small wooden shack that served as a mini grocery store in this tiny town in Bhutan.  “Over here!” she waved.  Her beautiful big smile greeted me and she introduced herself as Sonam, a Bhutan-born Nepalese girl whose family ran the store.

Sonam and her sister in their modest home

Sonam’s two sisters in their modest home

That afternoon, I met her two sisters and we chatted about boys, American movies and funny stories about their teachers.  I think kids are the same all over the world.

Welcome to the family!

Welcome to the family!

During a drive to a nearby monastery outside of Punakha, I met this wonderful Bhutanese family who shared that they’ve never had a family picture taken of them. I took a few shots and then I mailed them copies when I returned to the U.S.  The funny part was that they insisted I had to be in every picture!  “You are now part of the family,” the patriarch said to me.  They were so kind and hospitable, inviting me to tea and biscuits afterwards.

This is the biggest prayer wheel I've ever seen in my life.

This is the biggest prayer wheel I’ve ever seen in my life.

My driver knew a handful of English phrases including “Hello,” and “It’s time to go,” and “You may eat that.”  Although his English was limited, he was always so gracious during the 12 days I was in Bhutan, and we learned to communicate by reading each other’s facial expressions and using a lot of sign language.

I love the grin of the girl on the far end on the right

I love the grin of the girl in the red skirt

I loved the kids I met along the way!  One time, I walked in the middle of a field to see the town stupa.  Suddenly, around seven children showed up out of nowhere and we had a blast taking photos and singing songs.

Who can cheer the loudest?

Who can cheer the loudest?

 

Trumpeter's call to prayer

Trumpeter’s call to prayer

Monks in a doorway

Monks in a doorway

I enjoyed visiting the temples in Bhutan mostly because of the people-watching.