BHUTAN

BHUTAN
May, 2008

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a child monk

Bhutan is a tiny country in South Asia. It is the eighth happiest country in the world and the happiest in the continent. It was in the year I visited Bhutan that she made her transition from an absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy and held its first general election.

The official name of the country is Drukyul which means land of the Dragon. Remember the flag? Among the natives, it goes by many other names, few of which are Cambirasi, Potente and Mon.

A country not larger than a very tiny slice of India is economically more stable and robust.  Bhutan is the second fastest growing economy in the world. Bhutan attained a growth rate of 22.4% in the year 2007.  Bhutan’s economy is based on agriculture, tourism, forestry and sale of hydroelectric power to India.

I went to Bhutan via India. It was a school-organized and parents-sponsored trip. We did not require  passports and visas. Only permissions from both the embassies.

We stayed in budget hotels and ate what a middle-class Bhutanese would. I wish I could have experienced both the super-poor and super-rich lifestyles, but going by the happiness index we can assume that income disparity in Bhutan is at the minimum.

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Thimpu downtown

Most budget hotels in Bhutan are good awesome! Bhutan is great for shopping, especially warm clothes. Food is great. If you’re very specific about what you eat, rest assured, Bhutan serves all cuisines of the world.

Bhutan is beautiful and also, because of its many monasteries, spiritually befitting.

It is a country I’d rather have visited alone than with a gang of friends in my teens. But what’s done is done. Bhutan, if you love solo travel, can be spiritually stirring. It is just so serene and nice and friendly. absolutely highly recommended!

Here’s a brief story of my Bhutan trip: C:DCIM100MEDIASUNP0078.JPG

Better to travel than to arrive. So we did.

We took cars from a remote town called Jaigaon somewhere in the border of West Bengal (India) and Bhutan. It takes around 8 hours, weather permitting. We started in high spirits. As the weather got more inclement our high spirits drained-out and a kind of fear set in. The roads were not good and it was raining incessantly.

And then… landslide.  C:DCIM100MEDIASUNP0109.JPG

Honestly, it could have been us. But not this time. We waited for hours behind an array of vehicles, mostly tourists. It was frightening. Smiles lit every face when we learned the victims survived with minor injuries. And as the day started wearing off while we waited for the debris to be cleared,  a new excitement set-in.

We reached Bhutan at night. The eight-hour drive cost us the whole day. We were exhausted and famished. Our hotel was in the same street as the city pubs. We saw a couple kiss. It was the first time I saw two people kiss. The guy pulled the woman behind a tree and slid off the straps of her black spaghetti and then, a wild kiss. I was a teenager! Can’t spare the details. We had dinner and hit the bed. The drive had sapped all our energies.

After that it’s just a clouded memory of the days spent there. Unsequential. It’s been six years now. But it was a beautiful experience. Bhutan has a unique culture.

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the trek

One of the days we went to an awesome Monastery up in the mountains. It was raining. And so romantic. But I’ve been single all along. So I couldn’t help but immerse myself in the beauty of it. Ha ha… and beautiful it was! In the Monastery it was so quite and uplifting. I almost did not want to leave.

But we did leave, you know. Ha ha.. the same way we’d come. I can’t seem to forget the friendly faces, the warm laughter and the lovely places I’ve been to. And yeah, I do have many things to remind me of Bhutan!

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a couple of miles from Thimpu

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a house in Paro

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