The iron links of a suspension bridge creak and sway underfoot; above, prayer flags flap lazily in the breeze. Below, the clear, swift-flowing Paro Chhu runs over the smooth stones that cover the riverbed. A short trail climbs from the bridge to Tamchoe Lhakhang, a private temple six centuries old.
Once your eyes adjust to the dim light inside of the temple, details emerge from smoke-darkened murals adorning the walls. The ancient artwork depicts episodes from the life of Thangtong Gyalpo, a bearded and shirtless figure holding a length of chain. A fifteenth-century lama, Thangtong Gyalpo came to Bhutan in search of iron ore for his forge. He found his ore in the hill behind Tamchoe Lhakhang, marked today by a cave — then, used the iron to erect a total of 108 iron-chain suspension bridges across the Tibetan Plateau.
When the last of Thangtong Gyalpo’s eight Bhutanese bridges washed away in 2005, the remaining links went into the construction of the bridge that stands today at Tamchoe Lhakhang. His descendants now own the modern bridge. The small temple of Tamchoe Lhakhang sits virtually halfway along the two-hour drive between Paro and Thimphu, and makes for a charming stop between the two towns.