International Writers Magazine: Bhutan
Passage to Bhutan
is often interesting for passionate travelers to freak out in
the unknown terrain. That probably signifies the essence of being
adventurous and satisfies the ego of discovering new avenues.
Last year we got married. Being adventurous in nature,
we decided to go to Bhutan for our honeymoon.
King of Bhutan
The kingdom of Bhutan
is situated between the two major superpowers of the Southeast Asian
region India and China. During our stay in Bhutan we were amused
by the uniqueness of its culture. The beautiful landscapes, the lovely
weather and interesting people have enough zing to reinvigorate the
most world-weary traveler. In the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is bordered
by the Tibetan plateau in the North and the Indian states of Assam and
West Bengal in the East, West and South
Passport/visa carrying passport is a must. However visa is not
required for Indian nationals.
Weather & climate Bhutan is relatively cold with maximum
temperature ranging from 12.3 deg C in January to 22.5 deg C in May
and 25 deg C in August respectively. The minimum temperature on the
other hand can be as low as -2.6 deg C in January, 13 deg C in May and
15.8 deg C in August. The afore-mentioned temperature is that of Thimpu
(capital city of Bhutan). Paro is even more cooler than Thimpu.
Glimpses of the snow capped mountain in the month of May
Languages The official language in Bhutan is Dzongkha. However
most of the people understand Hindi and English.
Accommodation Accommodation is readily available in both Thimpu
and Paro. We stayed at Hotel Jumolhari in Thimpu and Hotel Olathang
(A unit of Bhutan tourism corporation Ltd) in Paro.
We in front of Hotel Olathang, Paro
Currency The Bhutanese currency is known as Ngultrum
(Nu). Astonishingly it has the same value as that of the Indian Rupee.
Indian Rupee is widely accepted, giving a feeling of home away
Public telephone telephone booths are available at regular distances
and the ISD call charge to India is Rs 17 per minute.
Public transport there is no such organized public transport
system. Tourists may hire cabs (mostly Maruti vans). The fare is a bit
on the higher side and a little bargaining may be required. We were
awestruck to see costly vehicles (mostly of Toyota brand) moving on
Imported vehicles parked at the Paro Town
How to reach Bhutan Druk (meaning Dragon) Air is the only
air carrier to fly to Bhutan. It is the national flag carrier of
the kingdom of Bhutan. The airport is located in a deep valley at
an elevation of 7300 ft above the sea level with surrounding hills
as 16,000 ft at Paro. Druk Air operates from Paro, 5 times weekly
to Bangkok, thrice to Kolkata, twice weekly to Dhaka and Yangon,
and twice to Kathmandu and Delhi. For further information one may
log on to www.drukair.com.bt
to see in Bhutan
Thimpu has been the capital city of Bhutan since 1955. It is the home
to about 50,000 people and many important government and religious institutions.
We were touched by the hospitality of the people out there at Thimpu.
We hired a cab to visit the Bhutan broadcasting service (BBS) tower,
which is the only source of broadcasting any news out of Bhutan. On
the way to the BBS tower is the Takin reserve (Takin is a sheep like
animal and is the national animal of Bhutan).
Other than getting the spectacular view of the Thimpu valley one can
also get the glimpse of the Queens palace (the present king, His
Majesty, Wangchuk has four Queens each having of her own in a secluded
location) and the crown princes palace hidden deep amidst the
blue pine forest.
From the BBS tower we moved down to the Tashichhodzong, on the banks
of the wang chu river. It is Bhutans administrative and religious
centre. It houses the throne room of His Majesty, the king of Bhutan,
government ministries, the nations largest monastery and headquarter
of His Holiness, the Je Khenpo (the chief abbot) and the central monk
body. Tourists need permission to enter the premises.
Changangkha Lakhang (monastery) is an interesting place to see. As per
the norms of the monastery tourists are not allowed inside the main
prayer hall. But to our pleasant surprise a very old member of the monastery
invited us to visit the prayer hall. We were enthralled to see the huge
metal idols of Lord Buddha. A monk chanting mantras and the fragrance
of the incense stick mesmerized us.
Dochola is around 20 km uphill from the city of Thimpu and is a beautiful
tourist spot having 108 stupas built by the eldest Queen. Foreign tourists
are required to take a special permission from the immigration centre
to visit the place. Though we never knew this the officer at the checkpost
was kind enough to allow us enter the place by holding our passports.
On the way back we stopped in a roadside shop to have some refreshments.
We saw a very innovative cooking oven placed in the middle of the room
which was simultaneously being used as a room heater. The small shop
is a living place of its owner and is decorated with many modern amenities.
We at the roadside refreshment center
From Dochola we moved down to Paro, around 54 km away from Thimpu. Paro
is a very thinly populated small town situated amidst the beautiful
snow capped mountains, the blue pine forest and the river Paro. Bridge
linking two valleys of Paro Paro town
What to buy
There are a lot of colorful textile and handicraft items being displayed
from the road side shops. On approaching the sales person we were surprised
to know its extremely high price. A small cloth wall hanging was priced
at Rs 250 and above. Most of the products (be it cosmetic or food item)
are imported from India. Countries like Thailand, China, Nepal, Korea
and Bangladesh are catching up the market as well.
Archery is the national game of Bhutan. It is often visible in every
nook and corner of the village grounds. We tried our hands and to our
delight could throw only a few meters. Our delight completely vanished
when we watched the archers throw the arrows hundreds of meters away
aiming at the bulls eye.
Sayandeep trying his hands with the bow and arrows.
The Bhutanese archers are seen in the background
Education is free for all Bhutanese nationals. The cost is borne by
His Majesty. On an average each year 300 400 graduates pass out
of the institutes. The bright students securing a certain percentage
of marks are sent by His Majesty to countries like Australia, USA and
India for higher studies, with the precondition of serving His Majestys
office after completion of the studies.
We stopped near a primary school and was touched by the creative and
innovative way of teaching the students. We spoke to the teachers and
found that the school is running with just three classes, P1, P2 and
standard1, around 88 students and 8 teachers.
Almost 70% of the population strives on farming.
The national dress of Bhutanese males is gho and that for females is
kira. It is mandatory for all Bhutanese nationals to wear them to enter
any place of religious and government importance.
Bhutanese school children wearing 'gho'
The tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion.
Prayer Flags Prayer Wheels
Staple diet is red rice, buckwheat, pork, beef, chicken, yak meat, etc.
Some interesting dishes are jasha maru (chicken in gravy), kewa datshi
(potato with cheese), suja (tea with cheese and salt). The taste of
suja is totally different from Indian tea. Liquors of various brands
are plentily available. Drinking in public is a common feature
among the Bhutanese mass be it men or women.
National flower of Bhutan is blue poppy. National tree is cypress. National
bird is raven and national animal is takin. Other than this Etho metho
(rhododendron) flowers and blue pine trees are seen in plenty on the
Some interesting observations
Different number plates are fixed for His Majestys vehicles and
other drivers on the road have to stop their vehicles and bow to honor
the passing vehicle.
Condoms available at the reception counter of a hotel at Paro. Flesh
trade is a very common practice in Bhutan. Deals are quite openly made
adding to the pleasure of the tourists seeking sex tourism.
Cold rivalry between the people in Paro and Thimpu.
Excessive high price and a bit cold behavior of people at Paro contrary
to the warmth at Thimpu.
No private practices are allowed for professionals like doctors, lawyers,
engineers, etc. Each one of them has to serve the His Majestys
Every 5 years each government officials are transferred to a new office
in a new position.
Kuensel is the only English newspaper and is Bhutans national
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