Lessons from Bhutan

Paro, Bhutan

Paro, Bhutan

It has been almost a month since we returned from Bhutan and I have had a chance to reflect back on our experiences and what we learned about the last Shangri-la. Over the next few weeks I will try to share pictures and thoughts about “The happiest country in the world”.

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Bhutan is a landlocked country sandwiched between China and India, sitting at the foot of the Himalayas and close to Nepal. Formerly a monarchy, it became the newest democracy in the world in 2008 when it established a constitutional monarchy. The population for the entire country is 700,000, with 100,000 people living in the capital city of Thimphu. 70% of the population lives in rural villages with the primary income being subsistence farming. Tourism to the country is tightly controlled and it is required that you sign on with an in-country tourist group to act as guides and book your accommodations and itinerary. In fact, your visa and flight into the country is arranged by the tourism company.

Lesson #1  The tourism plan is a very sensible program for a tiny country that could easily be over-run by outsiders.

Two of the books I read about Bhutan before we left were written by women who traveled to the country during a mid-life crisis, one of whom married a Bhutanese man. While I am not considering a mid-life crisis, I am starting to consider my own mortality now that I am on the better side of 50 and wanted to start visiting those places that I have always dreamed about. Pictures of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery had always intrigued me as an exotic and remote location. While this monastery is considered a once in a lifetime trek for Bhutanese, it is at the top of most tourist itineraries. Legend holds that the monk who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan, Guru Rinpoche, rode on the back of his consort, who turned into a tiger for the long trip from Tibet to this mountainous location. The Guru performed meditation in a cave during the 8th century and the present temple was constructed in 1692. The temple is seen to appear out of the clouds during the 3 mile trek to the top, climbing almost 4000 feet. Frequent stops are necessary to catch your breath and take in the amazing views of the valley below and mountains above. Pictures are not allowed once you enter the monastery, so those are only in my memory.

Crossing the bridge to start the trek

Crossing the bridge to start the trek

Our first view as the clouds started to clear

Our first view as the clouds started to clear

A prayer wheel at the 1/2 way point

A prayer wheel at the 1/2 way point

The view before starting down the 700 steps to the monastery

The view before starting down the 700 steps to the monastery

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Proof that we were really there

Proof that we were really there

Lesson #2  Dreams can be just as fabulous as you imagine.

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3 thoughts on “Lessons from Bhutan

  1. […] is part of a continuing series about our recent travel to Bhutan. Lessons 1 and 2 can be found in a previous […]

  2. lexklein says:

    I saw your comment on another blog and had to check yours out. I’m a huge mountain trekking fan, and Bhutan is very, very high on my list for the next one! I was curious to know if one could walk the whole way into the Tiger’s Nest (so many treks seem to stop at a viewing point), but it sounds like you did go the whole way – good to know! Off to read some more of your posts …

    • The trek to the Tiger’s Nest is not very difficult. There are multiple viewing points on the way up and you actually get to a point that is 1000 feet above the monastery before climbing down 700 steps to the front door. You are permitted to tour inside, which we did, but your camera is not.

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