On the 24th, Ugyen gave us a ride down to Paro as he headed back east to Kanglung. Our plan: to climb to Taktsang (Tiger’s Leap monastery) on Christmas day.
We had a somewhat slow start, struggling to get over reactions to a different hotel, and the beginnings of travel fatigue. Eventually (around lunch time), we headed off to climb to the dzong, and the National Museum up above.
The way leads down the road out of town and across a covered bridge.
The stairs up to the dzong offer a mesmerizing array of different angles.
Evidently, the bees like the angles as well–at least the ones up high.
We went to the National Museum, perched up above the dzong. It took a couple of attempts to find the path (of course the shortcut we were sent on ran through people’s private yards, though there was also a way to arrive by the road). The National Museum had a lovely collection of masks, with some very useful explanations of what different forms (might) symbolize. There was also a fascinating natural history collection. Zoë was particularly impressed that the great blue poppy can grow to the height of a person (1.5 meters or 5 ft, perhaps particularly the height of a Bhutanese person). Sadly, most museums in Bhutan forbid photography, so our discoveries were evanescent, to say the least. And the museum was under renovation, so many of the floors were closed.
Outside the museum, we enjoyed the views and then had the pleasure of a long chat with the director, Khenpo Phuntsok Tashi. He had visions of integrating Western museum experiences with Bhutanese culture and traditions. One possibility was a room (or space) full of mist and rainbows, to help recreate a sense of spiritual discovery. He was also looking for translation help, and gave his email to Zoë so that we could stay in touch. (Must act on that contact information soon!)
Later that afternoon, we met up with Chencho and Chimi Dorji and a “brother” (cousin?) in the Champaca café , and Chimi Dorji volunteered to be our guide up to Taktsang.
For the evening, since it was Christmas Eve, we had planned to go to the Institute for Hospitality a few kilometers outside of Paro. We didn’t realize how complicated it would be to get a taxi there–and the taxis we could find wanted to charge far more than we had been told was reasonable. Of course, after bumping over a very rough road in the dark, we had to agree that the higher fare was entirely fair–but then the taxi didn’t want to come back to pick us up. The food was delicious, and the formality of the waiters-in-training made the evening seem very festive indeed. We were the last people to leave, having asked the manager to help us find a taxi home. In the end, he said he would give us a ride back to the main road, since he too could not find anyone willing to come to the Institute itself. Once we reached the main road, however, he decided to just take us all the way back to Paro–despite the late hour and the many demands on his time. True Bhutanese hospitality and kindness!