Bhutan - in Asia - for those who love nature
by Marsha Camblin
(Denver, Colorado USA)
How and why is Bhutan significant? The current King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuk has stated one primary goal of "Gross National Happiness" - what a worthy goal! His other goals are sustainability, self-reliance, development of the private sector, and human resource development.
If you want a place very similar to what Tibet was like in the 1950s as far as a pristine environment - Bhutan has it - 72% of the total land is still intact. It is a place of bountiful medicinal herbs. The people want to save this natural setting for future generations. Many Buddhists want a pilgrimage to Tibet. Unfortunately, the Chinese have pretty much de-nuded the forests there and destroyed the majority of monestaries.
If you travel to Tibet now, the Chinese are taking advantage of the West's fascination with the Potola and other treasures. So rather than feed into the Chinese desire to profit from all things Tibetan, why not visit Bhutan where Tibetan Buddhism has a long history and it is all still preserved?
The background of the word Bhutan is the land of Bhotia (a Sanskrit word for people from Tibet). Residents of Bhutan call their country "Druk Yal" which means "Land of Thunder Dragon". The state religion of Bhutan is Drukpa Kargyud Buddhism and from that root the people are called "Drukpa".
The population of Bhutan is under a million and close to half of them are under age 15. So it is a
very young country indeed. There are 3 main ethnic groups: the Sharchops in the East is the largest, the Ngalong in the West who decended from Tibetan immigrants and the Lhotshampa who are Nepalese immigrants are mostly in Southern Bhutan. There is only one airline which serves Bhutan called Druk Air; it has a couple of flights a day into Paro. A new airport was recently built and they have 2 very new jets. You must go on a tour to see Bhutan - visas are not given for independent travelers!
It is a pristine pastoral country and my experience was WONDERFUL. The food was great. My tour consisted on only 4 people and a guide and a driver. Very intimate and sweet. The guides were interesting and well informed. If you want to see the beautiful Himalayas this is the trip to take. Wow - what beauty.
The highlight of the trip was a hike up to Taksang - The Tigers Nest - just fabulous - but not for the faint of heart. Another highlight was seeing the black necked cranes.
A perfect trip for those who want to excape the media - we didn't know what was happening in the rest of the world for 10 days. Kind of hard to come back to the world of information - most of it negative. So if you want to escape this is the place to go.
Read more about my Trip to Bhutan