The first thing you can’t help miss, as soon as you land in Paro, the international airport in Bhutan, is the SMILING FACES OF THE PEOPLE THERE. If you ask someone why it is so, they will immediately tell you that BHUTAN is rated THE HAPPIEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. Can you imagine in today’s day and age, a place that has positioned itself on happiness ?
Bhutan is non-commercial and unspoilt. They practise Buddhism and love their King, who believes that while it is good to be “modernized”, it’s not good to be “westernized”. Government rules dictate that all buildings, palaces and monasteries need to conform to the traditional architectural style and everywhere you look, you know that you are in Bhutan. People are trustworthy and friendly, and most importantly, honest and simple. While every place has its “unique quotient”, there were a few that surprised us about Bhutan :
(1) NO DESSERTS : There is no culture in Bhutan to have “desserts”. One can’t think of any other country in the world where that is the case. Their menus, thus, have no option of “dessert” listed on them.
(2) NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS : There are no “traffic lights” throughout Bhutan. One, the traffic is low, but even when there is traffic, they are disciplined and manage beautifully without traffic lights The only semblance to a traffic light is a police booth at the junction in Thimphu which ahs a policeman giving directions that everyone follows.
(3) NO SMOKING : SMOKING is officially banned and while some youngsters may smoke secretly, it is not allowed.
(4) TEA WITH SALT (SUJA) : The only country where people have their TEA WITH SALT in it. Called SUJA, the Bhutanese love its taste. For a non-Bhutanese, you would need to acquire the taste, otherwise you may not like it. (Kashmir also has salted tea called SHEER chai)
(5) TIGER’S NEST : Bhutan practices Buddhism. Perched on the side of a cliff, 900-m above the Paro Valley is the TIGER’S NEST (TAKTSANG) one of the most famous Buddhist pilgrimage places in the world. Bhutanese believe that once in a lifetime they must visit this sacred place. It is a 6-hour rugged trek up and down hill, but every bit of the pain taken is worth it when you reach the place and see Buddha in so many of his avatars. Here is my earlier post on Tiger’s Nest…
(6) NO NEWSPAPERS ON SUNDAYS : Bhutanese are relaxed as a community and work on fixed hours without any sense of urgency. Sunday is a complete day off, so much so that there are NO NEWSPAPERS ON SUNDAY.
(7) DIVORCE IS SIMPLE : Bhutan has a “no-dowry culture”, as a result of which if a boy and girl like each other, they just go to their parents, buy them food and drink, move out of their house and get married. However, if they don’t get along with each other, they can move out of the marriage, thanks to an easy divorce that they can get within a month. As a result of this culture, most people have multiple marriages, and many children. But, as a community, they are happy and peaceful, and domestic violence is treated with utmost severity by the law. The good news is that Bhutanese food is very simple to make and thus, boys don’t have much expectations on the kitchen front from girls ( the most popular dish is EMA-DATSHI, a dish with a lot of chilli and cheese, the two most popular ingredients of Bhutanese cuisine).
Much like in India, Salman Khan is the much sought-after star there. And, finally, for Indians, there are no visas required and the Indian Rupee works exactly the same way as in India, as the currency in India is equal to the Bhutanese currency. The only issue in planning travel that you may face is to book your flight tickets from Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata to Paro, as there are very few flights, and so, booking, changing or cancelling tickets is an uphill task.
All in all, its worth one visit to Bhutan —— THE SMALL BUT BEAUTIFUL, PEACEFUL AND ALMOST SILENT COUNTRY.
——– Priya. Gupta