I had been excited at the chance to visit Bhutan for some months, and having just returned, I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed at all. In fact, it was better than I dared hope.
The whole country is a photographer’s paradise. The dzongs and monasteries are all beautiful. But so are the people. So calm and friendly. (And more stunningly gorgeous women per capita than anywhere else I’ve seen!)
Part of that is surely helped by the fact that the total population of Bhutan, in a country the size of Switzerland, is only around 600,000. The population of the capital Thimpu is about the same as that of a small town (approx 30,000). While this is surely a disadvantage for building infrastructure etc, I suspect it has its upside too. Every time I went anywhere with Bhutanese people we bumped into others that they knew. I’m sure this helps make the place seem safer and less isolating/depersonalising than any other capital city I’ve visited.
People you meet look you in the eye, and have a ready smile.
I was also amazed at the degree to which Bhuddism is integrated into the daily lives of the people – even when they watch Western television all the time.
The only trouble with this is that it is so hard/expensive to return. I was there at the invitation of a government department for a regional consultation on local language computing, but to visit as a tourist you have to be on a package tour that will cost you in the region of 240 USD per day. This keeps the number of tourists down to around 17,000 last year, 14,000 the year before (although that figure will rise significantly this and next year). All that, however, is probably a very good thing. I’d hate to see the place spoiled by tourism. I do hope I’ll make it back some day.
I have only just begun uploading my photos, though I started with a bang. My first batch are of Dochu La (Dochu Pass). At around 3,100 metres, way above the clouds and with a thin layer of snow over the colourful chortens, I felt a bit like I was in heaven. More to come over the next couple of weeks or so…
Here is the final set: