Bhutan: Where Happiness is currency!

Taktsang Lhakhang, Bhutan

“In my dreams, clouds climb down from the sky, fill up ravines, melt into fields, darkening the green of the rice and the maize. I watch the mist and tell myself I am dreaming, the world cannot possibly be so beautiful, but I wake up and it is.”

~Jamie Zeppa, Beyond the Sky and the Earth

 

Maize fields in Paro, Bhutan
Maize fields in Paro, Bhutan

There’s a lot to love about Bhutan. The unspoiled beauty of the mountains amidst the clouds, the tranquil dzongs and monasteries, the content people with their infectious smiles, the cups of tea that come with heart-warming conversations, the surprises along the way like the giant protective penises painted by the entrance of many houses, the national dish with chillies as the main ingredient… I could go on and on. It’s a place where a grandmother and her granddaughter wear the same kind of clothes, where age-old myths, legends and traditions thrive and the latest global developments are also cautiously welcomed. It’s a country that has pledged to reforest its lands, two-thirds of which is already covered by forests. This Land of the Thunder Dragon is indeed no ordinary place!

I spent a couple of weeks in this Himalayan Kingdom and left a peace of my heart there. Bhutan touched me like no other place. It was just one of those holidays where I was not perpetually hounded by the fear of missing out on attractions and must dos and I could just slow down and feel the essence of where I was. It was also possibly the first holiday that truly and wholly made me believe that that was indeed the best way to travel. {Read more about the Joy of Slow Travel here}

School girl in a Kira in Punakha, Bhutan
School girl in a Kira in Punakha, Bhutan

I sat hours by the window of a monastery, watching the monks doing their chores and the cows grazing in the fields near-by, hearing the birds chirp. When I stopped by a bridge to take a picture of a school girl, I ended up sharing tea and stories with her mom the entire afternoon. I asked Tashi (our convivial driver) to halt at the only little house I saw in a village for some food, ending up pretty much cooking my own noodles with the owner, picking out each ingredient I wanted to add and going with some of her suggestions. And then of course she sat around observing my expressions as I ate, trying to gauge how I liked it, smiling every time I looked at her, checking if I wanted anything else.

Such is the pace of life in this beautiful country. No one is in a mad rush to try to do everything and to say they’ve done everything, to just be on the cutting edge. I wanted to take in as much of the culture, the beauty and the fresh air as I could, and then some more. I spent some afternoons on the balcony outside my room, overlooking the river and reading Jamie Zeppas account of her time in Bhutan.

“I am glad to be part of the time warp”, she wrote. “I don’t have anywhere to be but here. I have no idea what is happening in the outside world – what wars or famines are being turned into 10 sec news clips, what incredible new technologies are revolutionizing the way people die or dream or do their banking. I lost my watch in Tashigang but I am learning to tell time by the sun and the sounds outside and I am hardly ever late.”

The gorgeous countryside in Bhutan
The gorgeous countryside

I could not have agreed more and was as glad as her to be momentarily caught in that time warp. To be oblivious to the outside world which was designed to depress. In most countries happiness isn’t considered very good for the economy after all. Why would anyone buy expensive beauty creams for instance if they were content with the way they looked. But the contented land I was in wasn’t one of those. And every now and then I kept wondering how I would be able to get back into that vicious rat race – the smartest mind, the whitest smile, the brightest skin, the highest heels.

While its true that you tend to leave a little bit of yourself wherever you go and take a little bit of wherever you go with yourself, there are just a few places that have the capacity to change you for life. Bhutan was one of those to me. And I still dream of going and living for a while in what will always be one of my favourite countries! I guess that’s why Good Bye (Log Jay Gay) in Dzonkha literally means we’ll meet again!

Tashi Delek!
Tashi Delek! Untill we meet again!

 

You might also like

2 Comments

  1. Very awesome. Could you also write up on how did you go around? via travel agency or self? If self, how did you prepare for the whole journey? guides? language? food? accommodation? suggestions if any, etc.

    Thank you

    1. I plan most of my trips on my own – A mix of online research, a few tips from travellers and a lot of going with my instinct.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *