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Sunday, 30 June 2019

Climbing to Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan

Written by Dale Fehringer
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Today is the day we have looked forward to; the reason we flew half-way around the world. Today we are to climb up to see Bhutan’s famous monastery, Tiger's Nest.

It’s a long way from the U.S. to Bhutan. If you take a globe and put a finger of one hand on the U.S. and a finger of the other hand on Bhutan, you will find your two fingers at nearly opposite points. And it’s not all that easy to get there. There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Bhutan, so you fly through Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore, or Thailand. We flew from San Francisco to Delhi, India where we spent a night. The next day we boarded a DrukAir (Bhutanese Airline) plane for the three-hour flight (over the Himalayas and through Kathmandu) to Paro, the only airport in Bhutan. The view of the snow-capped Himalaya Mountains (including Mt. Everest) and the refreshingly-clean air of Bhutan made the effort worth it, as did the reception we received from locals and our tour guide at the airport. The people of Bhutan are welcoming.

Bhutan is a small, mountainous, lightly-populated country in Asia west of Nepal, sandwiched between China and India. It's about the size of Switzerland, with a population slightly more than Wyoming. They have a king, and an elected council of ministers and a prime minister. They refer to their government as a constitutional monarchy.

It is a Buddhist country, and the vast majority of people practice that faith, but all religions are accepted and visitors of other faiths are made comfortable. By law, everyone in Bhutan is equal in all respects. The country’s largest export is hydroelectric power (most of which they sell to India), and they encourage tourism, which they tightly control, and with a few exceptions tourists must be accompanied by a guide. Bhutan charges tourists a fee, which helps pay for their universal health care and education programs.

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The people of Bhutan we saw are happy, hardworking, and industrious. Men and women wear robes (women ankle length, men knee length). Everyone speaks English (they are required to learn it in school), and it's interesting to approach waiters in restaurants, hotel desk staff, and people on the streets and engage in conversation with them in English.

At the edges of the cities we saw small, makeshift homes, but everywhere else the homes appeared to be well-designed and well cared for. It is a relatively advanced country, and most people have cell phones, televisions, and access to the internet. We saw no indication of homelessness, unemployment, or addiction.

There is a lot of history in Bhutan, and a lot of tradition, and our guide (Nom Gay) eagerly showed it to us. We saw three dzongs (former forts, now monasteries), two temples, several chortens (memorial religious statues), an impressive art school, a sanctuary for takin (strange-looking mountain buffalo), a huge farmers' market, a gigantic gold statue of Buddha, rice farmers plowing with oxen, and the spectacular Himalayan mountains.

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Last modified on Monday, 01 July 2019

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