For me, SOUTH AFRICA emerged as the most adventurous and thrilling trip of the year but at the same time, I would love to call BHUTAN as the sweetest surprise of 2016. The whimsical world of this Himalayan Kingdom is different from the rest of the world. I found it extremely special and charming. While I was surprised to see phalluses painted on the houses to ward off evil, I was equally touched to see people wear their national dress to schools, government buildings and on all formal occasions. The 10 days trip blessed me with many ‘aha’ moments but here are 10 reasons which will always remind me of BHUTAN trip done in 2016. Thank you Bhutan Bookings for making it happen.
- The traditional architecture that offers great aesthetic pleasure
The architecture and the characteristic layout of its building is the most astounding feature of this beautiful Himalayan Kingdom. It is impossible not to be smitten by the uniqueness in style and consistency in design all around the country. The landscape is not just peppered with colorful houses but artistic monasteries, enormous dzongs, legendary stupas, etc. The Punakha dzong happens to be the largest dzong (fortress) in the country and one must check out its picturesque location at the confluence of Mo Chu and Po Chu rivers.
- The feeling of ‘Happiness’ and its contagiousness
Bhutan and its happiness are definitely not over-rated. The measurement of collective happiness in a country is a great idea to measure its progress. The Bhutanese do not shy from saying that ‘we may not be the happiest people but we are content.’ Art, craft, music, traditions, culture, buildings, dress, behavior of the people, everything inspires you to live and appreciate life around you in Bhutan. The fourth King of Bhutan ‘Jigme Singye Wangchuk’ had coined the word ‘Gross National Happiness’ which was not only meant to drive a happiness movement in the country but it also promised good governance towards its people.
- No Traffic Lights and no cacophony of sorts
Only one road connects Bhutan to the outside world and who wouldn’t be excited at the thought of doing a road trip in Bhutan. Just when you are there, some interesting road rules will take your fancy. Don’t be surprised to learn that Bhutan has no automated traffic signals. In towns, speed limits are from 8 km/h to 20 km/h and for the whole country 50 km/h is the maximum. Don’t forget to read the delightful messages on the sign boards that are placed at every significant spot along the road.
- Ema Datshi : A unique dish of chili peppers and cheese
Your trip to Bhutan will remain incomplete if you will not taste the popular cheese dishes of the country. Bhutanese are passionate about cheese. For those who love chilli or cheese or both, this national dish of Bhutan will take charge of your taste buds in a unique way. Ema Datshi is an exquisite cuisine made my boiling yak cheese mixture, chillies, onion, salt and water. The locals usually savor this chilly curry with red rice or jasmine rice.
- Takin, the national animal of Bhutan
With the face of a goat and the body of a cow, the unique and rare Takin or ‘Dong Gyem Tsey’ is the National animal of Bhutan. Catch hold of a local and he/she will let you know of many stories around their distinctive structure. For the curious animal lovers, there is a preservation center in Thimphu where one can see them in real inside the fences. Initially when they were left free but they began to wander around the streets of the capital is search of food, they had to be put at one specific location.
- The fondness for the royal couple
As a tourist, you will definitely admire the fact that Bhutanese love their royal couple dearly. The fifth king is known to be a people’s man and his marriage to the queen makes for a delightful love story in the Himalayas. It is said that the King has visited almost every part of the country and met almost every citizen of his country. If you will go looking for souvenirs in the market, you will definitely come back impressed with their lovely pictures on keyrings, fridge-magnets, postcards, photo-frames and more.
- Lively and animated night life of Thimphu
In the last few years, Bhutan has been singing new tunes. It might be hard to believe but like any other city, one can spend an animated night in the capital city, Thimphu too. While culture and tradition is an important aspect of Bhutan’s beauty, the country does not stop its people from catching up with the modern trends. For all the party freaks, Thimphu has buzzing nightclubs and karaoke sessions which invite people to dance freely on their favorite numbers. After sunset, the locals love to chill out with friends and family. This not only helps to refresh and rejuvenate but also peek into the young talent house of budding artists, musicians and dancers of the country.
- Taktsang Monastery (Tiger Nest) – the legendary Buddhist monastery
What Taj Mahal is to India, Tiger Nest is to Bhutan! Period! Taktshang Goemba or Tiger’s Nest Monastery is considered to be the most blessed place in the Land of Dragons. There is no one who misses the chance of being up, close and personal with the sacred monastery where ‘Second Buddha’ is said to have meditated. Hanging on a cliff, it makes for a perfect, pretty picture. No doubt, the trek to the top is not an easy one but it is very much do-able. Just aim for it and you will be there. Once you successfully make to the top of the Monastery, I bet you will love every bit of it – the angle, the view, the fell and also the trials and tribulations of reaching there. And I can’t forget to mention that this is my first big hike.
- Haa Valley
Haa Valley has recently opened to tourism and it makes for one of the most photogenic locations of Bhutan. All this while Bhutan had saved its spectacular scenery from its visitors but now one can go and live in lovely home-stays of Haa district also called ‘Hidden-Land Rice Valley’. While driving towards Haa Valley, one must stop at Che le la Pass at 3988 m, the highest point on Dantak road. The oldest school is here and one must go looking for the 7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black temple) at the foothills of a venerated three brotherly mountains known as Meri Puensum.
- Passion for archery
Archery is big in Bhutan but the passion for it comes with a difference. There is none who will say no to a game of archery but there is none who will act crazy or nerd for the sport. The archers respect the sport in their own unique way. Archery has been a part legend, history, people, divine, heritage, culture and celebrations of Bhutan. Bhutan boasts of an Olympic archery team but when it is played at home, it is a different scene altogether. The players are not just supposed to aim the target but sing and dance as well. Next, it involves drinking and eating too. The families and friends join in and in no time it becomes a festive celebration.