The trail to Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery gets a new makeover
The Taktsang monastery was built around the holy caves in Paro by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. He founded the monastery by putting it's first stone during his visit to the holy caves in 1692.
The Old Taktsang Trail
If we were to ask our forefathers and grandparents how the trail towards Paro Taktsang looked like in olden days, they will most likely say it was dreadful. Since the monastery is perched on the cliff, the trail leading towards the monastery was narrow and rocky, not to mention, dangerous. “Some pilgrims who feared height would never make it to the Taksang ‘Nyego’ – door of the pilgrimage site”, said the elderly. And in superstitious beliefs, people who fear to complete the pilgrimage are considered sinful.
There is also the dark history of cases where horses and people fell off the narrow trails while hiking to the monastery in the past.
But gone are the days where parents feared or hesitated to carry their child on their back to the monastery. Since 2010, there has been a rise in the number of pilgrims of all ages hiking to Taktsang Monastery. You can find hikers from as young as 2 years old to above 80 years old.
From the entrance of the sacred site, hundreds of steps were built with concrete and pole fences for the convenience of pilgrims and tourists.
Tourism in Bhutan
The borders of Bhutan has remained closed since the first imported Covid-19 positive case was detected in March. Tourism industry is one of the biggest source of income for this tiny Himalayan Kingdom. It is no surprise that the country was hard-hit during the global pandemic situation. And people involved in the tourism industry bear the most brunt of it.
However, during this lull period, there has also been cases where tourist guides have embark on new journeys to spend their time meaningfully. Some have traded their guide uniforms to become farmers, some volunteered as a Guardian of Peace as a frontline to safeguard the country and some took the time to revive and develop existing prominent landmarks such as the Taktsang's trail.
The group of guides spent weeks to reconstruct the new trail. With the improvement of the trail, hiking time has now shortened compared to the previous trail. There are shorter pathways for one to reach the monastery quicker. And there are now two separate pathways for the ponies and humans. Previously, hikers share the same pathway as the ponies and often having to make way for each other.
The steps have also been developed using wooden logs to prevent hikers from slipping. Aside from that, benches, resting places, and canopies have been built along the trail.
The Taktsang Cafeteria is also currently under full renovation
Despite numerous stray dogs, empty handicraft stalls at the base of Ramthangka base camp, and happy carefree horses and ponies, the locals are hoping that tourism reopens soon to restart the economy. With the improved infrastructure, we look forward to welcoming tourists back to the Kingdom!
In the future, if a tourist ever revisits Taktsang Monastery, one will definitely feel the difference. But then again, no hike to Taktsang Monastery ever feels the same. Whether it is your first visit or the tenth visit, each experience is a unique personal spiritual endeavour.