A trip to Bhutan
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to visit the land called Druk Yul in Dzongkha (the national language of Bhutan) in April 2013. Bhutan is not yet high on the tourist map since it caters mainly to high-end travelers. To protect the beauty and pristine environment, the number of visitors to Bhutan are restricted through the high cost of travel, star hotels, visa permits, etc.. India has signed trade agreements with Bhutan, thus being an Indian made it easier to travel there. However, we still needed a separate permit (for both entry and exit) for each district that we visited! (Looks like everyone is suspicious of Indians).
Mid-air the pilot brought our attention to the lofty Himalayan mountains- we were lucky enough to spot Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu.
As we began our descent to Bhutan, deep valleys covered with forests of pine and cypress enfolded by snow-capped mountains gave us a glimpse of what was in store for us. However, nothing could prepare us for the awe-inspiring sights as we stepped out of the plane. We landed at Paro, an hour’s drive from the capital city of Thimpu, courtesy Druk Air or the Royal Bhutan Airlines. The airport was a small one built in the traditional Bhutanese style of a sloping wooden roof supported by wooden beams jutting out, painted with sacred Buddhist symbols. It is impressive to note that as a way of preserving the traditional architectural designs, the law mandates that all buildings be built in this fashion.
An hour’s drive on some very high quality roads (thanks to the Border Roads Organization- Indian army), along the Paro chu (Chu in Dzongkha translates to river) brought us to Thimpu. Check-in formalities and a refreshing cup of coffee later, we were all set to explore the city.
However, being the National Election Day everything was shut down till evening thus forcing us to return to our rooms for lunch and an afternoon nap.
Democracy has been introduced in Bhutan only a few years ago, and it is important to note that it was the initiative of the 4th King to open up the economy and give power in the hands of his people. The royal family is revered as gods and this decision made the king even more beloved to his people.
Bhutan seems like something from the pages of Grimm’s fairytales- a small and beautiful kingdom ruled by a benevolent king and his beautiful queen, who take care of their people and who in turn are loved and respected by their subjects.
The people are content, without being ambitious or greedy and still follow their age-old customs and beliefs. They are ardent followers of Buddhism and law-abiding citizens.
Thimpu has no traffic lights or speed breakers. Pedestrians are given the right of way and everyone follows the speed limit. In India, where roads are treated as runways and sidewalks as dedicated two-wheeler lanes, traffic lights which no one pays heed to and pedestrians trying to navigate among this chaos- it were refreshing and surprising to see the traffic and civic sense of the Bhutanese people.
Why is it that we find it so difficult to follow rules? We need someone to constantly drill them into our heads and when someone tries to do it, we feel offended? It’s not rocket science, is it?