From Bangkok to Shangri-la: About Bhutan

From Bangkok to Shangri-la by Roger Beaumont*

27th Dec., 2009: I have wanted to visit Bhutan since I was 10 years old after being enchanted by a feature in a National Geographic magazine. So when destiny called on the phone to my studio in Bangkok last May, asking if I would be interested in helping The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) and the United Nations Development Programme with an upcoming Democracy Conference in Paro, I shouted so loud in delight the house cat kamikazed through a glass screen and landed startled in shards of glass on top of a car in the soi below. I haven’t seen it since.

But between that phone call, the missing cat, and seeing Mt Everest and the mighty Jomolhari out of the Druk Air window three months later, it was all a true lesson in Buddhist patience.

At one point, I was asked to send a scan of my passport. I was in England at the time, away from my own computer and gadgets, so a friend of my mother’s offered to help. He is 86, and had just bought a scanner. He had been practising.

“I think we’ve got it,” he said, placing his third glass of wine on the desk. He then pressed send. Three days later, we received an email from the CBS, saying: “Thank you very much for the delightful picture of a tin of Heinz Baked Beans.”

When I arrived in Bhutan, the CBS was unable to find a place for me immediately, so I made base camp in the Thimphu Hotel for the first few days. It was cheap, loud and cheerful; a mix of Tibetan plumbing (no water, an alarming clanging of pipes, then a sudden, scalding torrent), slow service, and big smiles. I bought a small side-lamp; the connection started smoking. Then the toilet flushed on its own volition. I didn’t dare turn the TV on.

ROOM WITH A VIEW: The view from a temple Continue reading From Bangkok to Shangri-la: About Bhutan

Guided visit reveals a lost-in-time Bhutan

By Chris Guillebeau, Special to The Oregoni…

December 11, 2009, 1:57PM
Most visits to Bhutan either begin or end with a half-day trek up to the Taktshang Monastery, also known as the Tigers Nest. Photo by Phuntsho Norbu

You know India, and you’ve heard of Tibet — but you may not be familiar with a smaller country in South Asia that attracts far fewer visitors. To go back in time, you’ll need to get off the typical Asian backpacker route and head to the remote kingdom of Bhutan.

Over five days in late August, I trekked mountains, paid respects at Buddhist temples and saw a country many people back home had never heard of. It’s not the easiest place to get to, and it’s not known as a budget destination, but I found it to be worth the hike and the expense. Continue reading Guided visit reveals a lost-in-time Bhutan

World’s tallest Buddha Statue opening in October ’10-Bhutan

09nov16buddha16 November, 2009 – Sponsors, who are in the country, express happiness with progress on project. Consecration of the 169-foot bronze statue of Buddha Dordenma, Vajra Throne Buddha, being constructed at Kuensel Phodrang in Changbangdu, overlooking the capital city, Thimphu will be completed by October next year, said one of the main sponsors, Wong Kiam Seng. Wong Kiam Seng, who is in the country, along with other sponsors from Hongkong and Singapore, said, “We’re funding it because of our compassion for Buddhism,” adding that they are happy with the progress of the project. Over USD 30 million has been spent on the project so far, said Wong. Continue reading World’s tallest Buddha Statue opening in October ’10-Bhutan

Asian Businessmen & family contributes to His Majesty’s Earthquake Relief (Kidu) fund

09nov16lym 16 November, 2009 – Eight sponsors of the Buddha Dordenma (world’s tallest Buddha Statue) being constructed at the Kuensel phodrang, Thimphu, presented a cheque of Nu 10.09 million (USD 219,200) yesterday to the Prime Minister, Lyonchen Jigme Y Thinley yesterday.
[Note: Keeping in line with our philosophy and as part of our giving back policy, Bridge To Bhutan made a humble contribution to His Majesty’s Earthquake Relief Fund on 20th October 2009] Continue reading Asian Businessmen & family contributes to His Majesty’s Earthquake Relief (Kidu) fund

Bhutan’s rich biodiversity just got richer

Adding to an already rich biodiversity are 21 new species of amphibian, insects and an equal mixture of both flowering and non-flowering plants discovered in Bhutan.

These have been clubbed in a book, “The Eastern Himalayas: where the world collides,” launched by WWF on August 10. Also included in the discovery list are 7 species of grass root parasite, commonly called lousewort, and a unique frog species, Scutiger bhutanensis.

A total of 353 new species have been discovered in the eastern Himalayas – the whole of Bhutan, parts of India and Nepal – from 1998 to 2008, that amounts to an average of 35 new species every year. The list includes 244 plants, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, 2 birds, 2 mammals and about 60 new invertebrates.

Although the book boasts of the new discovery as a result of the richness of bio-diversity in the eastern Himalayas, it pointed out that these species were threatened by forest destruction, shifting cultivation, illegal poaching, pollution and poorly planned infrastructure. Continue reading Bhutan’s rich biodiversity just got richer

The story of Black-Necked Crane Festival

The black-necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis)  is a vulnerable species of Cranes. There are only 5,000-6,000 of them in the world. Each fall, 2-300 black-necked cranes fly few thousand miles from Tibet to two specific locations in Bhutan. They return to Tibet in Spring when it starts to get warmer in Bhutan. The bird is part of the Bhutanese folklore, music, and dance. The villagers celebrate their arrival and they are saddened when the birds depart. The people get nervous when the birds don’t arrive on time since it could mean bad harvest or ill-luck.  The bird is respected and both the people and the government protects the bird’s habitat. Bhutan is also home to one of the most endangered bird species in the world, the White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis). The unique event to mark the arrival of the black-necked cranes, held annually is an attraction to both locals and tourists alike.

Annual Black-necked Crane Festival celebrationNovember 12

bncThe much awaited event of the Year – the Annual Black-necked Crane Festival is here again. The early morning chill is not a deterrent to the members of Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC) as they rise up early in preparation for the festival. PEMC, the local community group was formed nine years ago by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) under its integrated conservation and development program (ICDP) initiative. The committee was formed to promote conservation and guide the prudent management of natural resources in Phobjikha. Over the years, the committee has increasingly taken up responsibilities that they are now the organizers of the festival.

The Annual black-necked Crane Festival is celebrated on 12th November every year and coincides with the birth anniversary of our Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. [Over the years], the crane festival saw a huge crowd such that finding a place to sit was difficult. It also saw a large number of international visitors/ tourists who were delighted to attend such a rare occasion.

The students from two community primary schools in the valley presented cultural items including the most fascinating item, black-necked crane dance. There were also many cultural dance and mask dance items presented by local village folks. One of the unique cultural items was the ‘Pazap’ presented by the folks of Bjena geowg. Continue reading The story of Black-Necked Crane Festival

Conde Nast Dream Trip Finalist


Wanwisa’s Dream Trip
A week in the Maldives with a stopover in Hong Kong 

Dream Trip 2008 Finalists: The 2008 winner(s) snapped a shot of a monastery in Tigers Nest, Bhutan, as they hiked up a long, windy road riddled with shear drops (the young honeymooners were both battling severe fear of heights).

taktsangThis photo was taken at the last viewing point on our hike to Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched on a 900 foot cliff in Bhutan. My husband and I are both afraid of heights and the next part of the path to reaching the monastery from this viewing point involves sheer drops, narrow paths and lots of tourists traversing to and fro. We were probably the youngest tourists (honeymooners) by 30 years and felt quite ridiculous standing there pale with fear as troops of senior citizens passed us on their return from the monastery. One older gentleman told us we would regret not completing the hike, he told us that he has a fear of heights and only has one functioning eye so his depth perspective is not so great. After hearing this, we were inspired to muster up some courage and finish our pilgrimage. 

Had I been asked what my dream trip was a year ago, my answer likely would have involved some remote locale and some exotic itinerary (say a trans-Siberian journey from London to Japan via Mongolia). These days, however, nothing could make me happier than an empty beach and beautiful blue horizons. Continue reading Conde Nast Dream Trip Finalist

Punakha Domchoe concludes


The annual Punakha Tsechu begins today following a three day domche. The Punakha Domchoe ended yesterday with Norb Chu Sha Ne or the symbolic immersion of the sacred relic into the Mochu River. 

Decked in colorful ghos and kiras, the people of Punakha and other nearby dzongkhags flocked to the Punakha Dzong to witness the final day of the Domchoe. The highlight of the final day of the three day Domchoe was the symbolic immersion of sacred relic into the river.

The ceremony brings to life a historical event which took place about 400 years ago. An invading Tibetan force had come to forcibly take back the sacred Ranjung Khasar Pani. The Zhabdrung hid the sacred relic in the sleeve of his robe and threw a fake one in the river. The Tibetan force believing that the relic has been lost for ever went back home.  Continue reading Punakha Domchoe concludes

Eco-trail windfall for local economy

Tourism spin-off uplifts Trongsa farmers’ standard of living

The trail is the source of additional income to farmers

It’s now winter but farmer Thinley of Trongsa is looking forward to next autumn. Not that he’s particularly crazy about the season, though things may seem nicer then. What he’s excited about is the stream of tourists that the fall delivers.

Tourists mean opportunity for work, to make some money.

The 50-year-old lanky man from Nabji village, made about Nu 10,000 in 2008 portering tourist bags and tents and foodstuff using his ponies. Fortunately for him, since the government opened the Nabji-Korphu eco-tourism trail, tourists have been coming to the region. Their numbers are not huge, but enough to keep him occupied- from autumn through winter, the seasons tourists visit. Winter is not bitter cold like in Paro or Bumthang, it’s relatively balmy. Continue reading Eco-trail windfall for local economy

Bridge To Bhutan

Lotay Rinchen obtained MA Degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University. Previously, he worked as a budget officer in the ministry of Finance for the Royal Government of Bhutan. His strong personal passion and professional background in sustainable tourism, community development and youth empowerment have led him to team up with his brother and launch a sustainable travel venture: Bridge To Bhutan (B | | B).

Bridge To Bhutan is a responsive tourism company that focuses on connecting global travelers with the spirituality and vitality of touring the Land of the Thunder Dragon. For more information you can also visit the (B | | B) Blog. Elevate Destinations has partnered with Bridge To Bhutan to offer two spectacular adventure itineraries (Trail Itinerary and Journey Itinerary) in this responsive travel realm. Continue reading Bridge To Bhutan