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Andrew Bain reviews Paro, Bhutan
By Sue Marr
22 November 2017

Words by Andrew Bain In Paro, arriving planes seem almost to squeeze into the Himalayan valley that cradles Bhutan's international airport. An enormous whitewashed dzong (fort) balances on a slope above the end of the runway, and Himalayan peaks scrape at the sky beyond. Few countries offer such a dramatic visual welcome to visitors. To see so much that's great about Bhutan, you need travel little further than Paro itself. In this valley barely wide enough to fit an airport, the city of 50,000 people is neatly cleaved in two - new town and the traditionally styled old town - by its main road, which is lined with handicraft stores. Hemp grows wild in empty lots, and the dzong, which functions as both a monastery and a government administration centre, dominates the view. With its airport and its grid of new streets, Paro is a modern Bhutanese city, but high on the cliffs outside of town is an ancient and extraordinary sight. The most famous attraction in Bhutan, Taktsang Lhakhang - aka Tiger's Nest Monastery - is pinned to a cliff face 900 metres above the valley floor, seemingly defying gravity. The only way to access the monastery, with its warren of chapels ascending up the cliff, is to make the steep two-hour hike (horses can be hired to take you to a cafe about halfway up the climb). Though the monastery has a precarious position, there's nothing precarious about the walk, with barriers keeping hikers well back from the edge. Finely balanced on a cliff ledge, Tiger's Nest was built in 1692 (and rebuilt after a fire in 1998) on the spot where Buddhist master Guru Rinpoche is believed to have flown on the back of a tigress in the 8th century to expel a demon who was terrorising the region. It would have been the first flight into Paro, beginning a tradition of thrilling landings in the Himalayan kingdom. Blog: www.adventurebeforeavarice.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/AdventureBeforeAvarice Instagram: @bainonbike Twitter: @bainonbike Bhutan-Australia Friendship Offer The year 2017 is a special occasion for the Kingdom of Bhutan and Australia as it marks 15 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. To commemorate this happy occasion, the Royal Government of Bhutan is pleased to present the “Bhutan – Australia Friendship Offer” to welcome all nationals of Australia to visit Bhutan in 2018. See the Bhutan Tourism Council website for more information. Thai Airways International flies daily from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to Bangkok with connections to Paro, Bhutan with partner airlines.
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