When I choose my travel destinations, I normally try to pick places that not many people know of, or that few have traveled to. Why? Because everyone always goes to the same places, the safer countries, those that are cheaper etc etc. But what about the other countries, those that are mysterious, or scary? More than this, I try to pick destinations I feel most attracted to, and yes this is normally for personal reasons or it depends on my mood, or the year I am having, or the activities that I am passionate about and want to do there.
I remember the first time I heard of Bhutan: it was probably around 2010. A a friend of mine traveled there to work and visit some friends. I remember to this day how fascinated she had been about the country and its people. As she told me about her trip and experiences in Bhutan, I had said to myself: one day, I will be going there.
And that day came sooner than I expected.
This little Himalayan country, with a population of 750,000 people, is unknown to many people still. When I told people I was going to Nepal and Bhutan, they would say: “Nepal and where? Where is that?”
Located north of India, near the Tibet border, the small country is nothing but magical and still has much to be explored. The landscape is beautiful and very green and everything that is cultivated is organic. The country is built according to the mountains, so you can see many temples and monasteries built into them. This means that the roads are winding, anyone with car sickness, bring your pills!
I felt like I was in a fairy tale, as our guide talked to us about kings and queens, monasteries and flying tigers. Here, there are no traffic lights, and barely any tourists.
One thing that is very important for the country is their culture’s preservation. The government has preserved certain traditions by applying certain codes that do so. For instance, traditional architecture is mandatory. All homes and buildings must follow the architecture that was established by royal degree in 1998. The small arched windows and wood carved doors painted by hand are absolutely beautiful.
As well, traditional clothing is mandatory when working in Bhutan or during formal occasions. If people are simply with their friends and family, they can dress as they please. The kira (women) and the gho (men) are from the 17th century and made from woven fabric.
Bhutan is also unique for its Gross National Happiness indicator. Government policies are implemented according to these four pillars:
– Good Governance
– Sustainable Socio-Economic Development
– Preservation and Promotion of Culture
– Environmental Conservation
Measuring people’s happiness, rather than gauging a country’s economic health, brings in a whole new way to see the world. Although most Bhutanese claim that they are happy, according to the UN, the country remains one of the poorest. I will always remember when we visited a typical 17th century home in a small village, and I asked my guide if the people living there were considered poor. He answered me: No, they are not poor. They have a house, and family, and food, and everything they really need.
Comments like these make us think and question what happiness really means in the 21st century. Are we ever satisfied with what we have instead, or are we always wanting or wishing for more?
Thinking of visiting Bhutan? Check out my previous post with everything you need to know.