Why should you visit Bhutan? What is unique?

Why should you go to Bhutan?

Whenever people (outside Bhutan) hear that I am from Bhutan, they immediately ask me “where is Bhutan?” followed by if they should go Bhutan. The answer to the first questions is simple and now growing roots in the minds of many outsiders as many Bhutanese venture out. They now know that Bhutan is somewhere in the Himalayas and not in the Pacific.

The next question: “So why should I go to Bhutan?” I have been asked this questions several times now that I am living outside Bhutan. In fact, if I got a dollar every time someone asks me this question I think I would be a rich man by now. So here I will try to reason out why you should go to Bhutan.
Bhutan is a tiny country (only about 46,000 sq. km) with [less than about 1 million people.] It is situated in the foothill of the world’s greatest mountains, the Himalayas. It is bordered on the north by Tibet (now part of China) and on the other sides by India. Bhutan is a very INDEPENDENT country. It became a kingdom in 1907 (i.e. 40 years before India got independence from British rule). Before that different parts of Bhutan were ruled by different local governors. I am so happy to point out that Bhutan was never colonized either by British or Japanese. Although small, Bhutan has lot to offer the travelers. Some of these reasons why you should visit Bhutan are listed below (not in any particular order though):

1.Bhutan is great place but you must love mountains. If you love nature and wilderness, then there is no country better than Bhutan for you. Bhutan is not at all industrialized and the wilderness will just take your breathe away. About 60% of Bhutan is covered with forests. It is the government’s policy to keep it that way at all times to come. Due to the strict environmental policies of the government, many rare plants and flowers are found in the Bhutanese forests. Recently, Bhutan has been ranked within top 10 in biodiversity in the world.

2. If you are looking for a happy country then you have to go to Bhutan. Bhutan acquired 13th position in Happiness Index (in a survey conducted by the New Economics Foundation). With it number, Bhutan is formally the happiest country in south Asia. This is no surprise because Gross National Happiness (GNH) is the official policy of the government of Bhutan. In fact, Bhutan is the only in the world where the happiness of the citizens are incorporated as part of the government policy. So do not be surprised if you see all smiling and happy people wherever you visit in Bhutan.

3. If you are searching for inner peace or spiritual enlightenment, then Bhutan is the right place for you. About 90% of the people in Bhutan are Buddhists. There are many monasteries, where you can spend some time to find peace and inner strength. If you belong to other faiths you have nothing to worry, the Bhutanese constitution grants equal rights for all religions. So you are free to practice whatever religion you want in the peaceful mountains of Bhutan.

4. If you are a physically adventurous type then Bhutan is the place for you. The Bhutan travel guides especially mentions that Bhutan is not for the “faint hearted”. This is true because most places in Bhutan are above 2000 m above the mean sea level with harsh climate and rugged terrain. However, if you like mountain trekking then you are in the right place.

5. Bhutanese government is very careful about environment pollution and that is why you will surely enjoy pollution free environment no matter which part of the country you visit.

6. Currently, well developed infrastructures are limited in Bhutan. In addition, Bhutan believes in sustaining the environment. Hence, the number of tourists is restricted. On the plus side, this has resulted in low volume but high quality tourism. Bhutan is not over run by tourists.

7. Bhutan is a safe and politically stable country. In Bhutan, riots and vandalism are unheard of. The government goes to great lengths to ensure the safety of the foreign visitors.

8. Bhutan is a great healing place for the wounded hearts. Demi Moore traveled to Bhutan after divorcing from Bruce Willis. I also heard that Richard Gere went to Bhutan after splitting from supermodel Cindy Crawford. Recently, Senator John McCain also visited Bhutan after losing the election to Obama.

9. If you are a famous celebrity and you want to escape from the limelight and live a normal human life then Bhutan is the place for you. Unless you are a rebirth of a great Buddhist monk (like Dalai Lama), no one will bother to take your picture or ask for your autographs in Bhutan. This was the reason why two super stars of the Chinese cinema, Tony Leung and Carina Lau recently tied their knots in Bhutan.

10. Bhutan has recently become the world’s youngest democracy. The fundamental rights of a democratic nation are all uphold in Bhutan. Although Bhutan became democracy in the last 2 years, the ideals of democracy you see in action in every village and town is highly admirable.

Having visited, studied and lived in quite a number of places around the world and comparing those countries with my own home country, I have come to the conclusion that the main reason that you (as foreigners) should visit Bhutan is that the “Bhutanese people love foreigners”. Bhutanese people are simple, hospitable and totally in tune with Buddhists concepts of kindness, compassion and respect for all living beings. They do not see foreigners as job snatchers, thugs, sex tourists, religious propagandists, inferior beings, dirt, etc. However, I cannot say the same thing about many countries that I have visited. Bhutanese will welcome you wherever you go, with curiosity, sincerity and some degree of innocence. I am certain that this is something that only happens in Bhutan, a remote and yet a very beautiful place. I think we all want to travel to places, where we are welcomed. It would be futile, meaningless and irrational to use your hard earned money to travel to a foreign place with finest of foods, tallest of buildings, grandest of fashion and best of technology, if the locals in that country frown on you like you are a leper.

Many tourists who visit Bhutan are regulars. They keep coming back year after year in spite of the limited tourist’s facilities in Bhutan and high tourist’s fees. I think the main reason why they come back is the sincerity, simplicity, innocence and the smiles of the Bhutanese people that give them hope that world could be better place if only we start to value the simple things in life.

Posted on 21 Dec 2009 by Polat (Source: Kuzu Bhutan Weblog)

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