0316 – The Kingdom of Bhutan

Another long overdue post. Jeez. I need to do a better job of documenting my travels. These posts just take a lot out of me mentally as I get older.

Anyhow, I was lucky to have been able to visit my #1 destination in the world at the age of 21. Bhutan, due to the creation of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and its role in sparking the global conversation about happiness, has been one of my dream vacations. I wanted to more than see the scenery, which in itself is worthy of a trip, but also understand the people and feel the country. I wanted to know how GNH impacts the mood and livelihood of the people.

To get into Bhutan, you need to be accompanied by an official tour guide recognized by the country. The cost of entering the country is rather high, at around USD 250 per day. Tour operators sprouted up quickly as Bhutan grows more popular as a tourist destination. I traveled on a standard 9-day itinerary that included a lot of sightseeing and sitting in the car, so my vacation trip didn’t really allow for as much talking to the locals as I wanted, but I still enjoyed the lush green scenery and could feel the calmness and quiet bliss in the air.

Here are some pictures:

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Most of our stops in Bhutan were to dzongs–administrative centers that housed both administrative offices and temples, and monasteries built anywhere between the7th century to late 1900s. Cultural preservation in this country is amazing–the legends, folklores, and architecture seem mostly intact. Bhutanese are very proud of their culture too. The nationalism here is as strong as anywhere else in the world, and is undoubtedly bolstered by the existence of the monarchy.

Bhutan’s current king during his wedding ceremony.
The words of wisdom of the 4th king of Bhutan

As a citizen of a country with a constitutional monarchy as well, I loved seeing how the royal family has done so much for the country. It’s a powerful reminder of how when hierarchical superiority does not corrupt, it can serve the entity well.

Bhutanese live simple lives. Many people sell fruits and home-cooked food along the streets. Most of the citizens still work in the agriculture sector–some even milked their cows on the streets as we passed by! They don’t have much of the modern technology that we do, but with the opening of the country, it’ll be interesting to see how the country will transform. The core of Bhutan is its religion–Buddhism. Bhutanese are very religious. Monks are highly revered in the country, and you can see prayer wheels and prayer flags all over the country. Their main tourist attractions were monasteries (dzongs as they call them) and their pristine nature. Anyway, I’m not going to say much more. I’ll let the pictures speak for me. My fascination with the Gross National Happiness indicator has definitely opened me up to a whole new world, and I have Bhutan to thank for that.

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