I recently had a friend who lives in Singapore return from a trip to Bhutan, a country I have been fascinated with for years (and I travel to Asia often!). Looking at his pictures I was in awe of the sheer beauty of this little country only the size of Switzerland, a little gem hidden in the Himalayan Mountains.
Bhutan, also called the land of the Thunder Dragon, became an official kingdom in 1907, and until the ’70’s their doors were closed to foreigners. How lucky we are to live in a time where we experience its beauty and be able to visit such untouched beauty and strikingly pristine blue skies.
Even today, the Royal Government of Bhutan is approaching tourism cautiously in an effort to avoid any negative impact to its culture and environment. Last year the number of visitors was a mere 27,196 people! In 1999, the government lifted a ban on television and the Internet, making Bhutan one of the last countries to introduce television.
As I was looking through his pictures, one especially caught my eye of a banner which said: “100 Years of Peace, Unity & Happiness” as my friend disembarked from the plane. It amazed me how different their priorities are from ours – according to their philosophy the happiness of their people precedes the Gross National Product!
Everyone I know that has visited Bhutan has come back touched by the hearts of its people, the philosophy by which they live, and the endless beauty of its landscape. Wherever you look you feel embraced by the warmth of the Bhutanese people; their happiness is contagious as it is part of their nation’s belief in Gross National Happiness.
There is a beautiful picture I recently saw of monks gathered in a square in Bhutan, bowing to each other with big smiles, exuding love, gratitude and reverence – to me this picture perfectly reflects the spirit of this nation.
Journeys to Bhutan are an intimate experience with its people as you will experience them interacting in their daily lives, whether your are receiving the blessings of a Buddhist monk or watching one of the country’s best weavers and dyers creating a beautiful piece of art. The majority of people in Bhutan still live in small rural villages and small family farms are the predominant way of life.
Literally hanging off the side of a mountain, the highlight of every visit to Bhutan is a hike or pilgrimage to Taktsang Monastery (also called Tiger’s Nest) – one of the most sacred places in Bhutan. The legend says that in the eighth century, Guru Rinpoche made his trip from eastern Bhutan to Western Bhutan on the back of a flying tigress to subdue the evil spirits who hindered Buddhism. After defeating them, he blessed them as guardians of the doctrine.
It is also said that Guru Rinpoche meditated for 3 months in a cave where the monastery was later build, and according to legend this cave is to be the origin of Buddhism in Bhutan. Today it is the only country in the world to retain the Tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism as its official religion.
There are so many opportunities for you to take advantage of the beautiful energy and spiritual atmosphere here. And if your body is aching and needs some loving care, there are now several amazing 5 star hotels offering wonderful spa treatments, yoga and healing massages to help you relax and rejuvenate.
Some of my favorites are: the Aman hotels in Paro, Thimphu, Bumthang, Gangtey and Punakha and also Uma Paro and Taj Tashi (in Thimphu). These hotels have gone over the top to create architecture and an atmosphere that will have you feeling like royalty.
In 2013 we will offer a special group journey to Bhutan again but if you prefer traveling at a different time or privately I’d be more than happy to make arrangements just for you or your favorite group of people to travel together.
Contact us today, for a complimentary consultation and to show you the possibilities of experiencing this fascinating country.
Please let me know if you have any questions – or if you have been to Bhutan, leave a comment below and share your experience with us!
May all your travels stir your soul and change your life forever – Ales.