When I was a kid, I watched a film about a place called Shangri-La. It was a place hidden in the Himalayas, where there was only happiness. People were -no matter what their age were- young and healthy, friendly to others, there was an abundance of everything. Once you got in you never wanted to leave. Before I travelled to Bhutan, I read so many stories about its resemblance to this mythical place, so I thought I really was going to see Shangri-La finally!
When we finally arrived in Thimphu, the capital, I thought I would fall in love with Bhutan immediately; what I didn’t realize was that I had so high expectations for this little lovely country.
Bhutan is a kingdom, it is a land locked small country in southern Himalayas. It is full of ancient monasteries, Buddhist temples and has a beautiful landscape. Foreigners are only allowed in the country in the last 40 years, but even now you have to get a permit to get in, because they control the number of tourists in the country for environmental reasons and to preserve their culture. Tourists pay a daily rate that includes accommodation, three meals, daily sightseeing, a car and a driver, as well as your very own guide. One caveat is that there is no possibility to select any of them, they are assigned by the tour company. We got lucky with one hotel but the second one was not good at all, so I am not sure if this only happened to us.
One of the best parts of being in Bhutan was meeting with Bhutanese people. Everyone that I met was incredibly friendly, and treated us as if we are their guest in their own house. Despite ditching the GDP to measure growth and progress and establishing a National Gross Happiness in 1971 and as well as setting some ground rules about the environment to make every effort to minimize Bhutan’s footprint, it seemed like there is much progress needed to better the lives of ordinary citizens, especially in education, violence and drug use among young people and job creation (Few Bhutanese young people told us only jobs that was available was in construction but Bhutanese don’t like those types of jobs so they bring Indian workers to do construction work). But if you think about it, not to minimize Bhutan’s problems – I am aware that they are more severe -, these problems exist in most other countries too. I think at least Bhutan actually introduced these new laws and leading the way hopefully for others to follow.
So much more to write about Bhutan, but on another post, another day. Here are some photos in the meantime:
By the way – try Ema Datshi, if you like spicy food, that is. It is Bhutan’s national dish that is made with cheese and chillies and it is out of this world spicy – I am saying that and I love spicy food. I almost fainted a couple of times eating it, and it was so worth it.