Have you ever thought that in the 21st century there might exist a mysterious land that is not subject to the influence of modern technology? A place where the environment is of greater concern than economic benefit? Where carbon discharges are a negative number? This is true in Bhutan, known as Land of Dragon’s Thunder.
Bhutan, the last Buddhism kingdom left in the world, is located west of the Himalaya Mountains in South Asia. The landscape is framed by a mountainous area stretching nearly 47,000 square km. Visitors are drawn to the natural beauty and fresh feeling this place offers. During the reign of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (1972-2006), Bhutan stepped out of isolation and began to open up to other countries. However, tourism is tightly controlled, especially from neighbours China and India.
Small scale agriculture is the major industry. Women hand weave fabric and there are no massive production factories. Life is filled with traditional activities. It takes children one to two hours to walk to school in bare feet. The level of economic development is one of the lowest in the world, but this country rates as one of the happiest places to live. Residents may lack material goods, but they are rich in spirit.
The Buddha teaches the people of Bhutan to live modestly and sociably. Traditional activities are praying, having fortunes read and dressing in Kira and Gho. Since there is no TV or Internet, people are not envious of what they do not have. Life is simple. Perhaps it is the natural scenery in the Land of Dragon’s Thunder that contributes to the peace of this destination and contributes to the spiritual life of residents.
People live in harmony with nature and 72 per cent of the country is forested. Protecting animals and plants is a priority. The level of carbon discharge is not medium or neutral but negative, making for fresh, clean air. Visitors to Bhutan are required to get a visa and they must pay about US$250 daily for their stay in the country. This policy prevents over tourism. The fee covers hotel, food, a tour guide and transportation. A part of the fee goes towards education and healthcare for Bhutan citizens.
Chili is used in almost every food, including a popular spicy cheese called ema datshi. Sprinkled with chili and pepper, the dish is served warm. As in most Asian countries, rice is a staple food and eaten with vegetables. Buddhists respect animals and are usually vegetarian.
Visitors from all countries, except India, Bangladesh, and the Maldives, come into Bhutan with a tour company. Independent tourists are not allowed.
There are only two airlines, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines, with flights to Bhutan. The departure points are Thailand, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Singapore. If you want to come to Bhutan, you must come through one of these countries. Visitors have to be prepared for the possibility of bad weather and flight delays.
After that, you land at the small, international airport Paro in the center of the valley. The roof, windows, and walls are decorated with traditional Bhutanese patterns. Bhutan’s allure is not modern buildings, but simply the traditional life, romantic landscape and fresh air. A must see is Rinpung Dzong, an ancient fortress-built hundreds of years ago. With its Dzong architecture, typical of Bhutanese and Tibetan styles, located on the hillside, walls surrounding the yard, residences and government offices, Rinpung Dzong is an important destination. Another place to visit is the sacred Jomolhairi mountain. At a height of nearly 2,700 m, it is a challenge to climb.
As the terrain is mainly high mountains, the climate is cold all year round and warm clothes are necessary. Smoking is banned in most of the public areas and this law is very strict. Smoking areas can be found only in non-public places.
Bhutan is not a place for city lovers. It is a destination for those who are looking to shake off the hustle and bustle of urban life in a wild and natural environment.
By Chang Chang
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