Chimi Dema | Paro
Taktsang gleams under the turquoise blue sky. There is special aura about this national icon that is almost heavenly.
It is 8am. At the base of the monastery, hundred-something tourists and local pilgrims have gathered. The trek up the steep and treacherous terrain is difficult, especially for tourists from abroad.
For the local people, this is a good business opportunity. There are vendors who sell walking sticks, handicraft products and jewellery. Fast food business is among the most successful here at the base of Paro’s most visited tourist site.
All these have kept the pony service alive in this locality. There are groups—of men and women—who provide pony and pack horse services to the tourists.
Aum Kanzom from Tsento-Shari, Paro is today assisting her guest with horses. This is what she does every day.
She sets off to work at 6am and calls it a day by 12pm. She is one among ten women contractors with Horse Contractors Association.
The association was formed sometime in July this year and caters to locals and tourists visiting Taktsang Monastery. Currently, the association has 33 members. The association owns about 200 horses.
For Aum Kanzom, providing pony services has been the most profitable enterprise. With three horses for at least six days in a week, she makes about Nu 80,000 in a month. That’s during tourist peak season, between September and November.
She had to take up this business because there is no man in the family to take care of the business. She started a year ago and she is the sole bread earner for a family of three.
“The income helps us pay labour charge during paddy transplantation,” she said.
However, she said that the business was much lucrative before formation of the association. “We could make multiple trips in a day in the past.”
According to the association rule, each horseman gets a single trip a day according to their serial numbers and can take three horses maximum.
Horse contractors charge about Nu 880 per horse if three horses are hired with a horseman. But if guest wants a horseman with a horse, the cost is Nu 1,100.
Kinzang Dorji, a member of the association, has been into the business about some four years now.
He said that the service did not require much time and the cash came in handy to cover expenses for his family.
“It is quite challenging rearing animals and we need to bear some expenses but there’s no loss,” he said. “We earn enough to sustain our family.”
Like him, most residents of Paro earn from tourism.
Taktsang gets over 1,000 visitors a day.