Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bhutan: The Hike to Tiger's Nest

I promise that I truly TRIED to limit the number of pictures. But this is one of those "epic" things that I truly want you to be able to enjoy with us. It is absolutely mind-blowing that they were able to build this massive monastery on the side of a cliff, so extraordinarily high up. It is captivating and breath-taking, and the pinnacle of our trip.

You can read all about Tiger's Next, a.k.a. Paro Taktsang, by National Geographic if you would like. Just click HERE. Almost any picture you have ever seen of this country involves this wonderful place.

To the white speck we go!

From the base, here goes nothing!
Mind you, Adam is still dealing with a fractured knee and wrist at this point. I strongly did not want to do this, concerned about the risk, but there was no deterring him. Knee brace properly placed, up we went!

God, it was absolutely incredible.
I wish there were someway to describe the experience in any sort of way that would do it justice.
It felt spiritual.

The hike is difficult but not dangerous. That being said, I would NOT go if it was raining. We were lucky too, as it starting pouring down rain about 10 minutes after we got to the bottom. It took about 90 minutes to ascend and 60 minutes to descend.

Can you see the monastery to the right of Adam's ear? That's our hiking destination!

The leisurely ascent option

Prayer flags decorated much of our journey. Grateful for the luck!

Always excited for the occasional glimpse as we gained altitude!

Graced with gorgeous views!

Prayer wheels at the halfway point. The white speck still seems impossibly far! Can you see it?

Yeah, these women strolled right past us like we were standing still (instead of sucking wind with the high altitude
and less oxygen). Demonstrating how supplies make it to the monastery. 

The contemplative hiker

Star flowers!!!

Pictures were not allowed once you actually reached the monastery. Could you be sneaky and take them? Yes. Did people? Yes. Are we those people? No. We respect the requests and culture. So this is what you get.

We did get a full tour inside of the monastery, hearing the full history and such, as you are required to be escorted by a licensed guide.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bhutan: Logistics & Beauty

Bhutan is an absolutely stunning Himalayan Kingdom nestled in between India and China. It was always on our travel radar, but logistically complicated with the visa process and such, so we opted to travel to much easier countries. That was until Escape Travels organized a trip. They are a small-group travel company that we have used a few times for shorter trip, as not having to organize and plan anything is really nice from time to time.

This truly was a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip, as the visa is $250 USD per person PER DAY. So yes, that is $500 per couple per day. The visas cost us more than the trip and airfare. Let me tell you though...it was worth it. As in ONCE-in-a-lifetime worth it. Actually, I must applaud the country. They found a way to bring in the tourism dollar without sacrificing their country to rely on tourists, by only offering a limited number of visa per year and charging a lot for them. After being there and seeing it, I can tell you, it makes a difference, in the most wonderful of ways.

The prolonged layover in Kathmandu demanded a trip into the city for dumplings, of course. Luckily we had been to Nepal before, so there was no pressure to explore the area other than feeding Adam's dumpling obsession.

A Bhutan arrival

Monkeys roamed freely in the airport

Bhutan airport architecture

After getting organized and freshened up from the journey, we explored our hotel and then ventured into the nearby town of Paro for our first real glimpse of local life.

The steps and view from our first night in Bhutan

Our accomodations

Everything is mountains and valleys and green, and it is SO nice. It is clean. It is fresh. The air...crisp.

Surrounded by rice fields

The town of Paro. Typical Bhutanese architecture:

Prayer wheels

We explored the town until sunset, enjoying watching the local daily life come to a close. The people were gracious and welcoming, with their shy and sweet smiles, and gentle nods. Oh and how the children stared at Adam; the mystical giant.