- Pramod de Silva
Bhutan shares its border with China in the north and with India in the eastern, western and southern sides. Lying at the eastern end of the Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan is the perfect abode if you are looking for peace and fresh air. It is a Buddhist Kingdom that still preserves its ancient customs and traditions inspired by Buddhism.
More than two-third of the Bhutanese citizens follow Buddhism (also the state religion) and around one-third follow Hinduism, the second most dominant religion in Bhutan.
People from all over the world visit the mountainous monasteries of Bhutan. One of the most famous among them is Tiger’s Nest monastery in the region of Paro.
Note that you just cannot visit Bhutan as a solo traveller. You have to be in a tourist group. This is to prevent the overbearing effects of tourism on the tiny Kingdom. You can use Indian Rupees as legal tender in Bhutan, in addition to the Bhutan currency.
You will find steep and high mountains crisscrossing swift rivers. The extra-ordinary geographical diversity and the diverse climate conditions play an important role in contributing to Bhutan’s outstanding range of biodiversity and ecosystems.
The capital Thimpu has one of the largest statues of Buddha made of bronze and gilded in gold towering over the city. The National Memorial Chorten is nearby, where Buddhists circle clockwise while reciting prayers and whirling prayer wheels.
Punakha Dzong, Zuri Dzong Hike, Gangtey Valley and Bumthang Valley are some other breathtaking destinations in Bhutan.
Bhutanese tradition is deeply steeped in its Buddhist heritage. The national dress for Bhutanese men is called Kho and for women it is called Kira.
Bhutan’s main language is Bhutanese or Dzongkha, though English is spoken in the cities. There are many cultural activities including masked dances. The national sport is archery.
Ema datshi, the national dish of Bhutan is a very spicy dish made with cheese and chilies. Bhutan is the first country in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco under its Tobacco Act of 2010. This ensures clean and fresh air all over the country. Bhutan was also the second country in South Asia after Sri Lanka to popularise electric cars.
The Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. Although Bhutan did not have any railways earlier, it has entered into an agreement with India to link southern Bhutan to India’s vast network.
The Lateral Road acts as Bhutan’s primary east–west corridor, connecting Phuentsholing in the southwest to Trashigang in the east and also conncets the capital Thimphu to other major population centres such as Paro and Punakha.
Hand-woven textiles, Yatras or Yethras (colorful strips of wool cloth, dyed with natural colors, which are used to create blankets, jackets, bags and carpets), Buddhist paintings (usually made of cloth), stamps with detailed images, bright and lively colors and with a high numismatic value, Dzi stones, Vajra bells, Dorje bells used for religious rituals, cymbals, Bhutanese violins, Tibetan trumpets and prayer wheels are among the souvenirs you may pick up from the markets of Bhutan. You won’t even need svneiers to remember Bhutan, the country is made for memories that linger.