On a scale of 10 Bhutan gets a 9
Clean air – water
Clear blue skies
Getting there in –
Health care – education
Super highways, traffic, roads
No honking. India, please take note.
I last visited Bhutan in 1983 & recall driving along an excellent highway from Phuntsholing to Thimphu (165 kms). Mostly forest land, with a few scattered villages there was hardly a human in sight. A time when tourists were shut out of the royal kingdom
Change has arrived in a singularly regulated, planned manner. In 2018 today, there are more visitors & many more cars. The country still ranks first on the international index of Happiness with, a monarch who continues to reign popular despite abdicating in favour of his people, on whom he has bestowed the gift of democracy.
The weather channels were completely wrong about local conditions – temperature especially. As a result we ended up lugging more woolens than required. Paro & Thimphu at the same altitude almost, have similar weather patterns. End May, it was a mild bracing cold with occasional showers for which a light jacket was sufficient – even when going up to Dochu La (10,000’). The 108 stupa memorial at the pass, laid out beneath giant oak trees, is serene & beautiful as is the slow engulfing mist that brought back memories of another more potent, ‘Bhutan Mist’. ( for the uninitiated, this used to be a popular brand of whiskey that is unfortunately, no longer available)
Bhutan is all mountains, rivers, streams, forests & waterfalls. Nature at its pristine best. Ancient dzongs & monasteries dot the skyline evoking tradition & history. For most visitors the trek up to Taktshang (Tigers Nest), perched atop a cliff hanger ridge is the highlight of the trip.
For me it was walking through Sobsukha village (Punakha) & water logged paddy fields to the Temple of Fertility – a plethora of out sized Phalluses – where each woman’s yearning for motherhood finds fulfillment.
That walk & the incredible flight into the country. Barely 2-3 hours flying time from New Delhi, Paro airport is said to be one of the most difficult landing strips in the world. One flies in traversing almost the entire breath of the mighty Himalayan range offering tantalizing views of some of the highest peaks – Everest, Annapurna & Kanchenjunga included.
So why does Bhutan not score a perfect 10 ?
Minus one. For what?
To be forewarned is forearmed.
Hence, an early bird warning against the thronging tourist hordes. The vans & the trucks beginning to spew dark deadly fumes that will some day choke & kill & turn the mist to smog & smoke.
* INR is legal tender & Hindi a language of currency