A small country in the Himalayas, Bhutan sets itself from its larger neighbors with its strong sense of culture and tradition and stunning scenery. Furthermore,
the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan has been called “The Last Shangrila” because of its pristine environment and harmonious society.
During Jason Buzi’s five stay in Bhutan, he kept saying to himself that the country is quite unique like no other because of its unique style of architecture, culture, food and most especially it’s near odd national animal. It was really a special and wonderful place, having been completely isolated until recently.
He took a fifty minutes flight from Kathmandu passing over most of the Himalayan mountain ranges. Good thing he followed the tour guide’s advice of requesting a seat near the window because the views were really breathtaking. Also, there was only one national airline, which was Druk Air that flies into and out of Bhutan. The Druk Air only consisted of a two airplanes fleet. It was only in Bhutan that an international airport was served by one Airline Company, which only had two airplanes.
As soon as he arrived, he was amazed on how the roads were paved and how good the road condition was, unlike Nepal. Moreover, the cars were in better condition. Everything seemed cleaner. Not only that, the style of architecture of the country was simply amazing. Houses were built without nails or any adhesives and instead, pieces of wood were used and fitted together for building. Furthermore, in more good news, hotel rooms had heaters and power interruptions were rarely occurring.
Jason Buzi expected that Bhutan was somewhat similar to Nepal but it wasn’t, it was much more refreshing. It reminded him more about the place he had visited which is Iceland. Geographically remote and sparsely populated, both countries have a population of an estimate of six figures (Bhutan about 650,000 and Iceland about 300,000).
Surprisingly, the level of English in the country was quite high, knowing that the country was never colonized before and had a limited influence from the outside world. Primarily the reason for such high literacy could be attributed to its Oxford educated King because almost forty years ago, learning was deemed to be very important so it was integrated in the school’s curriculum beginning kindergarten. Furthermore, he noticed that all the menus in the restaurant he was dining in with some friends were written in English. He asked for any Bhutanese menu however the waiter replied that most Bhutanese prefer to have the English menu since they could read the language quite well. Also, many of the signs were written in English. The bottom line was that English language was widely used among the locals.
Jason Buzi noticed that the royal family in the country seemed to be truly revered like the royal family in Thailand because their pictures were found everywhere. In an unusual move, without any public pressure, the King decided to give up absolute power in order to establish democracy and to open up the country to the world a few years ago. In fact, most Bhutanese didn’t want him to do this. In 1999, the internet was permitted yet it didn’t have much positive effect among the people because for example, English swear words or scandalous graphics had begun appearing on walls.
It wasn’t the peak season when Jason Buzi visited the country. He was like one of the two hundred tourists in the entire Bhutan. In fact, he kept running into the same people he flew with in different towns. It was definitely a very small country. The country tried to limit the impact of tourism by requiring tourists to pay about $200 each per day to travel in the country. The rate was all inclusive which means that it included a tour guide, a driver, an accommodation, and food.
The locals were friendly and helpful. The country had lesser commercials compared to other developing countries he had visited. Also it has a good diplomatic relations with its southern neighbor, India, where in it exchanges trade and assistance with. However, it doesn’t have any diplomatic relations with China and the border is closed. Furthermore, it doesn’t have any relations with U.S., and Russia and other major countries.
Unlike many of its neighbors, Bhutan didn’t have a widespread poverty because everyone seemed to have the basic needs such as food, shelter, and others. Also, polygamy wasn’t’ very common however it was practiced. In fact, the King is married to four sisters. Among the nomads, several men will sometimes share with one wife.
Furthermore, archery was the national sport. It was quite popular to the point of being held as a competition every week. Not only that, there were also plenty of archery shops. Even kids played with toy bows and arrows rather than toy guns.
The national dress was called a “gho”, a kind of a bathrobe like. Men wore it over a shirt and boxers, down to their knees, with their socks being pulled up. On the other hand, women wore it similarly but over a full length skirt.
Jason Buzi found the food in Bhutan to be tasty but too spicy. Bhutanese people liked to put plenty of chili in their food. In fact, there was a large section of the weekend market in Thimphu dedicated to selling chili.
The capital which is Thimpu was quite attractive. It felt like a small European town in some ways, thought it had the unique Bhutanese architecture everywhere. It certainly felt nothing like the crowded big cities of neighboring countries like Nepal or India. Furthermore, there were no traffic lights however a policeman was manning the traffic at one busy intersection. The “busy” intersection probably was less traffic than a typical suburban street in the U.S..
Upon arriving at the guesthouse in Thimphu, Jason Buzi was greeted by two giant penises painted on both sides of the front entrance. It was believed that it guarded against evil spirits and many believed it, that such graphics were painted on entrance gates of many houses.
It was completely “green” because all of its power came from hydroelectric. Well, it was 99% of it Jason Buzi speculated and the rest was solar. The government had given solar panels to different villages. Also, it engaged in exporting electricity to India which was one of its major sources of revenue.
Jason Buzi highly recommends Bhutan for a truly unique cultural experience. James Hilton wrote the classic novel Lost Horizon, describing “Shangri La”, a utopian Himalayan society, isolated from the outside world, filled with happy residents living in a valley. Though no place is perfect, today Bhutan is probably the closest place to fit such description. In a fast changing world, hopefully it would remain the same.