A Brief History
On September 21, 1971, Bhutan became a member of the United Nations. Bhutan is a state located on the Asian continent, between China and India. The Bhutanese capital is Thimphu. It has about 758 288 inhabitants belonging to different ethnic groups: the Ngalop – 50% of the population; Nepalese – 35% and the remaining 15% correspond to migrant or indigenous tribes of the area.
Known as the happiest country in Asia, Bhutan is a small country, smaller than Rio de Janeiro, located in the south of the Asian continent, which borders China, India and the eastern end of the Himalayas. Its landscape is mountainous, with peaks reaching over 7,000 meters and densely forested valleys.
In 1972, Bhutan’s 4th King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, ruled the importance of a new model by stating that “Gross Domestic Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.”
Since then, Bhutan has rejected the idea of GDP as the country’s only measure of growth and integrates the Gross Domestic Happiness (GNH) concept. This is based primarily on sustainable economic development, culture preservation, environmental conservation and good government.
In practice, this concept has been sustainably adapted to Bhutanese society, especially in education. In schools, students not only learn the traditional subjects, but also take basic agricultural and environmental protection classes.
In addition, Bhutanese schools promote a sustainable lifestyle – all school materials used are recycled – and calm by replacing the typical bell with soothing traditional country music.
The dragon, in the center of the Bhutanese flag, represents the name of Bhutan in Tibetan, which is “Dragon Land”. Orange represents the Buddhist religion and yellow represents the secular monarchy.
Bhutan began opening its doors to tourism in the mid-1970s. The opening was gradual and to this day Bhutan is still a poorly visited country. The main reason for visitor control is that the country is very concerned with nature preservation and local culture and prefers to keep tourism well controlled, thereby avoiding massification. The government’s goal is to have high value tourism and low impact.
Basically, for a trip to Bhutan you need an especial visa. This visa is only granted through a travel agency and only when that agency presents to the government proof of payment for the entire package of your trip.
Independent tourism is not allowed in Bhutan and as there is a minimum daily cost set by the government and this value is not very low, nor is it a destination for backpackers or anyone more concerned about saving.
The driver and guide are always available and will stay at the same hotels as the tourists, but the itinerary usually has about 8 hours of service per day. The cars are pretty cool too.
It is best to visit Bhutan in November or spring, from April to May since you can enjoy rhododendrons and other flowers blooming.
Ngultrum (BTN) is the official currency of Bhutan. You can buy it on arrival at Paro airport – the country’s only airport- but you don’t need to buy much. Purchase Ngultrum to cover alcohol, coffee, snacks, tips, taxis, extra dinners and souvenirs. Credit cards cannot be relied on in Bhutan.
For those visiting the region, one of the main attractions is the local architecture: the country’s buildings and houses are true works of art, with various dragon paintings, flower designs, portals and lucky wheels.
Interestingly, Bhutanese houses are made of bamboo, clay and wood. Doors and windows are decorated with animal, floral or religious motifs.
The houses are built on three levels: cattle and other animals live on the ground floor, the attic is for storing hay, dried vegetables and meat and the upper floor is reserved for family life.
One of the most common images in the country, whether in paintings or sculptures is that of the penis. Drawings of the male sexual organ can be found even at the entrance to the simplest residences.
According to blogs,” It all started due to a religious leader, or Lama, named Drukpa Kunley or the Divine Fool. He was known for his unorthodox ways of leading his followers, especially women, to enlightenment. He took over 5000 women to the peak of life with his.”
Finally, one of our favorite traits about Bhutan is that it seems to have stopped in time, resisting all the transformations of the globalized world. Inside, you will not find any fast food chains, big brand billboards, or any other common image as western countries. Gambling is illegal, so you won’t find casinos, although you can still place your football bets on Superbowl through NFL online betting websites.
Still, this isolation makes the country have a unique setting, which can be seen both in clothing, customs and architecture.
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever visited Bhutan? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Phuntsho, Karma. The History of Bhutan. Penguin, 2018.