Thursday, 9 January 2014

Bhutan 2013 Dec 22-28 (day 2)

Today our itinerary starts with Tango Monastery. It is actually a university for Buddhist studies and is located up a mountain 2,3230m above sea level.

Tango is the highest center of Buddhist learning in the country; almost every Je Khenpo (religious head of Bhutan) completed the 9-year program there. After completing that program, monks traditionally spend 3 years, 3 months and 3 days in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba retreat, built in 1619 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder or first unifier of Bhutan. It is currently the home of an 19 year old boy believed to be the seventh reincarnation of the fourth desi, or ruler, of Bhutan.

It was supposed to be an hour's trek up but since we are from the geriatrics, we took nearly 2 hours to reach Tango. When up there, really no strength to tango. During the trek up, I kept feeling breathless and dizzy. Another felt headache. This was due to our bodies not being used to the higher altitude. Little did we realise this trek is chicken feed in comparison to another that we would be doing to Tiger's Nest, the highlight of the whole journey. Well, we took lots of rest stops along the way to allow our bodies absorb the rich, pure and clean air. Incidentally, 70-80% of Bhutan is covered by forests and no prizes for guessing the air quality there.

Throughout our slow climb up to Tango, we were overtaken by monks lugging supplies back up. Seemed so effortless for them while we really felt like some octogenarians taking an arduous stroll. After what seemed like hours and after countless photo taking stops (aka rest stops), we finally reached the "promised land".

It was about time for lunch for the student monks and they were all at the entrance waiting for their lunch. 

Inside the monastery it was beautiful. Surrounded by the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan mountains, we were trigger happy and pointed our cameras at everything and anything.

We were invited by the principal of the university for tea and snacks along this corridor.

We continued touring the compound and went higher up each level of the buildings for the breathtaking scenery.

Next stop, after lunch, to Buddha Point to see a 169 feet tall bronze statue of Buddha. Located on a hill, it overlooks Thimphu Valley where you can see the capital of Bhutan. It was freezing cold as the winds were very strong and the temperature then was only about 2 or 3 degrees Celsius. We quickly snapped our pictures and off we went.

Next up was to see the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin, a strange looking animal that resembles a bee stung moose. Sadly, we didn't get to see it as it was shy and far away into the enclosed forest. Instead we came across a very docile lamb that followed and played with us.

We returned to our hotel for an early night and dinner. Going to be a long journey tomorrow to Punakha.

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