Thursday, December 08, 2016

10 Reasons To 'Never' Visit Bhutan

Bhutan is awesome. There, I said it. This is why I will give you 10 reasons to never visit the country because, believe it or not, you will fall in love with the place and wouldn’t want to come back.

1. Getting in to Bhutan is easy

For Indians, getting in to Bhutan is superbly easy. You can, literally, just walk in. You can take the longer but beautiful road journey via the border town of Phuentsholing and get your entry permit into the country at the Permit office. Alternatively, you can take a flight directly to Paro Airport and get a visa on arrival stamped on your passport with hardly any questions asked. The same applies for Bangladeshi and Maldivian citizens too. Everyone else needs to pay a $250 per day fee to stay in Bhutan (this includes stay, food, guide charges etc. but is definitely costly). Perhaps, that is why you wouldn’t see many foreign tourists in the country.

The permit office in Phuentsholing, with the Indo-Bhutan border gate visible on the far right. Bhutan, November 2016

2. Bhutan is gorgeously beautiful

Not that I have been to any other country, but Bhutan is gorgeously beautiful. It’s not just naturally beautiful, its man-made architectural beauty is equally stunning. There is uniformity and there are loads of colours everywhere. You just may not find any other place as serenely beautiful as Bhutan if you visit this country first. 

Interiors of the Paro Dzong, Paro, Bhutan. November 2016

3. Bhutan is clean and green

Bhutan is clean. Like really clean. Standing at the road border at Phuentsholing, you can actually see the difference in the two towns separated from each other by a thin grilled wall. Not to be unpatriotic, but I felt shameful looking at the sharp contrast there. There is also a mandate by which at least 60% of land area of Bhutan is to remain under forest cover for all times to come. Right now, the figure stands at 72%. It's a tiny country, but what amazing policies it has!

A morning view of a street in Phuentsholing, just 200 metres away from India. Bhutan, November 2016

4. Bhutan is not crowded

The entire population of Bhutan is about 8 Lakhs (2016 census). Compare it with this: Goa received 52 Lakh tourists in 2015! Yes, there are no crowded places in Bhutan. A few days in the country and you might feel you are among too many people when you come back to India. This also means that your beautiful photos of the country will not be bombed by random passersby or tourists.

The main market area in Paro. Observe the similarity in architecture that makes it so beautiful. Bhutan, November 2016

5. Archery is the National Sport

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and you can try it! Yes, be the Arjun and look the fish in the eye and give your best shot. There are lots of places in the towns and villages of Bhutan where you can easily practise the sport.

I tried my hands at archery too. No, wasn't easy. Pema Gift House, Paro, Bhutan, November 2016

6. Traffic is negligible

Traffic isn’t much in Bhutan. Thimphu is in fact the only capital city in the world which doesn’t have a traffic light. When we crossed the road on the zebra crossing, cars automatically came to a slow halt letting us pass. At the same time, when we crossed the road randomly since there were no cars on the road, a traffic police woman politely called on us and warned us to cross only on the zebra crossing or we could be fined. Well, when in Rome, be a Roman. Traffic is negligible in Bhutan (as compared to any random road in India) but the rules are a lot stricter and definitely are enforced.

The road from Phuentsholing to Thimphu. The building on the left is the 'Royal University of Bhutan'. Bhutan, November 2016

7. Language is no barrier

Thanks to the influence of Hindi TV serials and soaps, everyone in Bhutan recognises TV and film stars and can easily understand Hindi. We didn’t face any trouble in communication across Thimphu and Paro because between Hindi and English, you can easily make your way through the country. You don’t need to know Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, at all.

Prayer flags fluttering happily over the Paro Chu river on the way to Paro, Bhutan, November 2016

8. Women Power Everywhere

Every place we went to in Bhutan, had women working. Be it at the front desk of the hotels we stayed in, the waiters at restaurants and cafes, the shop owners or flea markets. And they were all very calm and sweet, even with our confused banters at times. I read later that in Bhutan, women inherit properties and after marriage the men move into the wife’s house.

The bridge over Paro Chu river to reach the Paro Dzong, Paro, Bhutan, November 2016

9. People are really happy

Every place we went to and the Bhutanese people we met, seemed really happy to serve us or speak to us. Considering the fact that Bhutan is one of the poorest countries in the world, this comes as a surprise. No wonder, the Gross National Happiness that the 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, introduced to measure the growth of the country is doing wonders. (The people of the country love their king and queen and that is the reason every household and public place has their photo. It’s not because of fear.)

The beautiful National Memorial Choeten in Thimphu, Bhutan, November 2016


10.  Bhutan is still in the past

Bhutan struggles to keep its culture intact even in the fast pacing globalisation world. The country feels like it is at least 20 years behind in time from how India is right now. There are no Starbucks or Pizza Huts or even Lifestyle or Shoppers Stops in the country. I didn’t even spot a single shopping mall there, although there are a few supermarkets here and there. The life is slow in this country- no running around to get to work, no traffic jams, the people are calm and humble and innocence reflects from them. Reminds me of my childhood! And this makes the country awesome.

Prayer Flags fluttering fast at Chele La Pass, one of the highest mountain passes in the country. Bhutan, November 2016

Do you have some more reasons to add to the list that makes the little Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan so awesome? In retrospect, I could have titled this '10 Beautiful Postcards from the Himalayan Kingdom'. 

Now read:

14 comments :

  1. Nice Blog Antarik... This gives me 10 reasons to visit Bhutan ASAP.. before everyone reads your blog and ruin the beauty of this place.. :) :)

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    1. Hahaha...book your tickets now. Winter with snow would be a lot better in Bhutan I am sure :)

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  2. We nicely done...The way you took home the point is excellent.....just one correction...the archery picture should be of the man who actually hit the Bull's Eye....I just see him standing behind in the frame :) :) :)

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    1. If not for the last line I wouldn't have known who you are. Sukhi, look at that man and how he is giving me an evil look as if wishing I don't hit the Bull's eye :P

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  3. Reading the title, I was shocked... I have plans to visit Butan....
    After I read the post, now discussing with family members about our plans to visit this beautiful country :)

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    1. After reading the post I am sure you know why you must make those plans soon. Thanks for stopping by Ranjana :)

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  4. Whaatt?? $250 per day?? This is crazy!! That's the only point that holds the essence of this post's topic ;P The rest of the info. is so pushing me to head over to that place. No traffic, not much population, least pollution and calm people... this is the package one needs to get away from their busy life. Thanks for sharing this info. Antarik :D

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    1. Well that was the intention Tara :)
      And don't worry about the 250 dollar entry thing as long as you are an Indian and Indo-Bhutan ties are good.

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  5. Haha, what a clever title!

    Lovely points and the photographs are gorgeous. Cheers

    Travelshoebum

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  6. Very well captured, Antarik. I have been to this awesome place twice, though not as tourist. I stand by everyone of these 10 reasons that makes Bhutan, what it is - out of the world. Keep writing. We enjoy every bit of it. ... And no alcohol or cigarettes in public. If caught heavy penalty including jail.

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    1. Thank you so much Uncle. Glad to see you here :)
      I wasn't aware of the alcohol part- almost all shops tend to sell it quite freely unlike how it is in India. Their set of rules do make a lot of sense, and even better is they do get implemented.

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