Bhutan’s Happiness Quotient is visible everywhere

Bhutan has consistently been rated as the country with the highest Happiness Quotient in the world. Hardly surprising, when you consider that the Bhutanese invented the concept of quantifying a peoples’ happiness as an indicator of the country’s socio-economic (rather than purely economic) growth. As in Sikkim, not once during our stay did we see an angry face, hear an impatient voice, or witness an argument. Perhaps  I had my rose-tinted spectacles on, but time seemed to slow down in Bhutan, and the Bhutanese we met seemed to exude an air of contentment. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t ambitious or worldly wise; it’s just that they seem to lead a simpler existence. There’s still an innocence. People are hard-working, even-tempered, and accommodating. Perhaps Bhutan’s less-than-friendly terrain and climate make these traits a necessity. As Mr. Small put it: Bhutan is a cold country populated by warm people. …Keep reading

Bhutanese Cuisine

My Bhutanese alter ego 🙂

Bhutan, the last true Himalayan Kingdom, has worked hard to retain every aspect of its cultural identity. Every home that is built must conform to guidelines that mandate traditional woodwork and craftsmanship on the facade. Whenever a Bhutanese citizen sets foot on the  premises of a government office, a school, or a college, they are required by law to don traditional attire – the gho (for men) and the kira (for women). The Kingdom of Bhutan not only keeps its traditions alive from within – it also takes active steps to limit outside influence while reaping the economic benefits of tourism. Only 21,000 foreign tourists are allowed to visit each year, and each of these tourists is required by law to a) book all travel through a licensed Bhutanese or international travel agency; b) spend a minimum of US$ 200 per day, paid in advance, for food, transport, sightseeing and accommodation; and c) enter the country via air, thereby filling the coffers of DrukAir, Bhutan’s state-owned monopoly airline (as of August, Buddha Air, a Nepalese airline, is also being allowed to operate flights into Bhutan).

Happily, thanks to the bonhomie between our two countries, none of these strictures apply to Indian citizens. Indians are allowed to enter Bhutan by road, without a visa (you need a permit-on-arrival, though); make their own travel arrangements; and spend however much (or however little 🙂 ) moolah they choose. … Keep reading