Land of The Thunder Dragon

Posted: April 21, 2012 in Tourism
Tags: , , , , ,
Puntang Dechen Phodrang Dzong in Punakha, or &...

Puntang Dechen Phodrang Dzong in Punakha, or "Punakha Dzong" , Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The authors of this blog recently took two long-overdue vacations. Not together, you understand. We both happen to be of the conventional orientation, thank you very much. I went to Bhutan with family. And unless you failed in geography, you would know that it is a country, not a hill station in India. It’s small compared to ours, but it’s beautiful, and very very different.

The thing that any Indian is most likely to notice is that they take their laws seriously. Smoking in public is prohibited, and you wouldn’t see anyone smoking anywhere on the streets. Sticking posters here and there is also forbidden, and you do see clean walls everywhere. The political parties have to be content with small “Election Notice” boards that are erected at places. Imagine those two laws (both already in place in our country by the way) being followed in our country.

The place, as I’ve said before, is beautiful. Its cold, clean, green and peaceful, and it is kept that way. Bhutan has a near-perfect combination of majestic snow covered peaks, rivers, valleys , beautiful weather, picturesque villages and a modern, functional capital. It could have made a killing as a tourist destination. It refused and preferred to have a life of peace and quiet. Away from most of the rest of the worlds noise, pollution and so called culture. They are happy to live with their own, with just a little bit of rock music and a few foreign made SUVs thrown in.

They have a custom which I really liked at first glance, then wasn’t so sure about. Bhutanese citizens are supposed to be in their national dresses when they are working(whatever the profession is) or visiting any official places. I agree, this ensures a certain amount of dignity, but isn’t it an unnecessary enforcement too? I mean, how would we like it if we were required to put on dhoti-kurta on weekdays? Also, think about how many wardrobe malfunctions that would have caused on the Kolkata metro or a Mumbai suburban local during the average weekday rush-hour.

And finally, the question that still has me stumped is, how the heck does their economy work? They have no heavy industry, neither is the country exactly agriculture friendly. There are no gleaming office buildings. They don’t even make toothbrushes in their own country. Yes, there are a lot of handicraft shops, but they are absurdly overpriced, and the owners do not appear to be the least bit interested in making a sale. A few tourists do come to visit, but the body language of the place makes it abundantly clear that it is the tourists that are interested in the country and not vice versa. And yet, and this is what kills me, every other guy (quite a few gals too) seems to own a shiny Hyundai Tucson or a Toyota Prado. I wish……

Bhutan is a kingdom, and any local guy will tell you with evident pride and a huge grin that theirs is the “Happiest Kingdom” in the world. The reigning king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth of his line, is not just popular, he is practically worshiped all over the place. You will not find a single house, hotel, shop or office building that does not have the royal couple’s picture hanging on the wall. And the people are genuinely fond of him. Apparently, he has done a lot of things for the development of his people and he has shown ample evidence of his love and devotion to his subjects. They just love him back as strongly. Brainwashed? I didn’t think so. They don’t share our disease of overexposure to media. The fit and smartly dressed cops(sigh…) also seem to have little to do except pointing bumbling tourists like us to the right directions with a smile and a lot of patience. The populace seems disciplined, sober and hard-working. And yes, one has to admit, they look happy. And this begs a question. Wouldn’t it be better to be ruled by an honest and benevolent king, instead of suffering the thousands of corrupt politicians in our glorious democracy?

  1. Bill says:

    Reblogged this on Digital Dharma and commented:
    Extremely well-written article about Bhutan, the “Happiest Kingdom in the world.”

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