Dissecting why you love something is often difficult. But this is not the case for Bhutan. The land is unique in so many ways from the other countries. The tiny land, situated in the lap of the Himalayan mountain range between the two most populous countries of the world – China and India, is often described as the last Shangri-La. I had a lot of expectations from my trip to Bhutan, and fortunately, Bhutan fell no short of its reputation. Here are the top 8 things to love about Bhutan in my opinion.
1. THE SKYSCAPE
One has to experience certain things rather than just read about it. Bhutan’s majestic landscape and skyscapes are one of those. Encounter the deep blue sky and the majestic mountains with an open heart here. Breathe, take it in. Be it the picturesque Dochu La or Chele La or the major towns – Thimphu, Paro or Punakha, the views are consistently gorgeous as far as your eyes can reach. Layers of mountains, topped by the snow-capped Himalayas and a gentle river reflecting the deep blue sky – It was more than what I had imagined.
2. THE PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES
If you love photography, you’ll love this place. The Chorten Memorial, Dochu La, Punakha Dzong, Chele La, Bumthang Valley, Taktsang Monastery are places where even after taking tons of photographs your enthusiasm to click the next one will remain the same. Bring your wide angle lenses, attach a circular polarizer filter and set your dreams free amidst the clouds!
3. THE ARCHITECTURE
The Bhutanese buildings are characterized by its unique sloping roofs, inscriptions and design illustrations on the sides, with the abundant use of red colours on the white background. They all look beautiful and coherent with the Bhutan landscape. Even the huge Dzongs (fortresses) follow a similar style. It all looks like the materialization of a master architect’s vision, so similar to each other, consistent together in a theme, yet different in its subtle ways.
4. THE NATIONAL ATTIRE
The uniformity is not restricted only to Bhutan’s architecture, Bhutan has its own dress code, a national traditional attire. Bhutanese love wearing their Kira (for females) and Gho (for males) in their day to day life or while visiting religious points of interests. I’ve seen them in jeans and teeshirts as well, but why would a Bhutanese go for something else – they look ravishing in their national attire!
5. THE TRANQUILITY
Bhutan lives up to its moniker “the land of happiness”. I can’t imagine a happy place with the noise of honking vehicles, shouts of hawkers selling items on the footpath or loudspeakers blaring political agenda. In Bhutan, my senses registered nothing of this sort. Instead, I woke up to the chirping birds and slept peacefully after a quiet, reflective evening. This place reminds you of a tranquillity you have forgotten you have a right to. The land stands tall and silent and lets you explore your mind and life at your own pace.
6. NO POLLUTION!
Bhutan is the only country in the world that is carbon negative. Thanks to its massive forests, Bhutan absorbs more carbon dioxide than its vehicles or factories emit. The mountain air feels as it should – rejuvenating, healing. The Bhutan landscape is not polluted by the hoardings or banners advertising consumer products or movies, unlike any modern city where the sky hides behind the advertisements of soaps!
7. NO TOBACCO!
Bhutan is the first non-smoking nation in the world! The sale and distribution of tobacco and tobacco products are prohibited in Bhutan. Although people are still allowed to smoke inside homes or import for personal use, they have to pay a huge import fee for this habit. Any foreigner, if found selling cigarettes to Bhutanese, is charged with smuggling! For once, during my stay in Bhutan, I saw few cab drivers smoking at a roadside gathering in Punakha. And that was the last time I saw anyone smoking there. In short, good news or bad news, you shouldn’t light up in Bhutan.
8. THE PRAYER FLAGS
There are two types of prayer flags, as far as I’ve seen, white ones and colourful ones. White ones are often arranged vertically. These are hoisted on behalf of a deceased person, mostly 108 flags together. They are believed to help the dead find their path in the next life. The colourful flags are strung horizontally. The inscriptions of mantras on these flags are believed to send holy vibrations when they flutter in the wind. Not only are these so picturesque, they add to the beauty of the landscape. Don’t be surprised if these bring out the philosophical you!
For more Bhutan experiences, you may visit my blog.