The Land of the Thunder Dragon

Bhutan rice paddy

Bhutan is a tiny kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between India and China.  Almost completely cut off for centuries, it has tried to let in some aspects of the outside world while fiercely guarding its ancient traditions. I visited it in 2008. That year, there were only 5,000 people visiting Bhutan. In 2012, the amount of visitors to Bhutan was multiplied fourfold. That’s why lots of major investment projects in tourist industry are conducted since 2008.

The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means “Land of the Thunder Dragon” and it only began to open up to outsiders in the 1970s. Bhutan breathtaking scenery make it a natural tourist attraction. Tourism in Bhutan is somewhat restricted; visitors must travel as part of a pre-arranged package or guided tour. Backpackers and independent travellers are discouraged: the amount of compulsory “tourist” tax to be paid by day and person is 100 USD. For a couple of travelers going there for 2 weeks, it makes 2800 USD only in taxes. The bright side of this measure: there is no much harm because of big crowds of tourists!

Bhutan monk

Bhutan is said to be impoverished. However the kingdom uses another economic indicator than gross domestic product (GDP). The concept of gross national happiness (GNH) was developed in an attempt to define an indicator that measures quality of life or social progress. The term was imagined in the 70′ by Bhutan’s former King Wangchuck. He used the phrase to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. At first considered as a casual remark, the concept was taken seriously. Hence, the Centre for Bhutan Studies developed a sophisticated survey instrument to measure the population’s general level of well-being.

The absence of polluting industry, Himalayan fresh air, ban of smoking as well as a better access to modern healthcare contribute to a sharp rise in Bhutanese life expectency, to 68 year in 2011.

You can see on these pictures: a young monk, a mountain river, rice fields on terraces, also called rice paddies and a funny (although very common) painting on a house. Its function is to protect against the evil.

butan river

Here’s the house! In Russia I was told Russians don’t know how to paint it, but they know how to write it on a wall!

Bhutan house

2 Responses to “Bhutan”
  1. Greetings Sebastian;
    Kim & I just returned from India, Kathmandu (we celebated New Years Eve there) and then spent 5 nights in Bhutan. I did a trek up to the Tiger’s Nest 10k elevation. Greetings to your family, and may 2012 be your best year ever. Are you riding horses now ?
    Wayne & Kim / Fellowship Travel

    • Hi, Wayne!
      Congrats for Tiger’s! It was rough because it’s already in altitude. I almost spit out my lungs there! For the ultimate climbing experience, I recommend Sri Lanka Adam’s Peak: 1.5 km high on stairs! Kim made me love horses!

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  • © Sebastian Zelechowski, Moscow 2011
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