Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bhutan - Land of the Thunder Dragon

I have enjoyed the reaction I get from friends and acquaintances when I mention our plans to go and live in Bhutan next year. A few people have a surprising connection with the country - a neighbour who has travelled there, an uncle who has worked there for 20 years on and off, or even a best friend who trained the Bhutanese Olympic golf team!


Generally though, Bhutan is a bit of a mystery - even where it is located confused some ("is that in Africa?"). Some people have heard Bhutan's famous marketing catch phrase  'Gross National Happiness'.

I wanted to list ten important things I have found out in my research on Bhutan - Land of the Thunder Dragon -  in the past year. Of course, I don't profess to be an expert, but believe me when I say I have read every book I could get my hands on about Bhutan (they have an excellent selection at the Gold Coast library). I have been addicted to the blogs of the current teachers living in Bhutan and we've watched movies, documentaries and youtube clips on all manner of Bhutan-related topics.

Altogether the research paints a picture of an enigmatic country I can't wait to know personally. But in the meantime, let's just clear up a few things:

1. Bhutan is not in Africa! It is in the himalayas, bordering India to the south, east and west and China to the North. The geography varies from sub-tropical lowlands to himalayan peaks reaching above 7000 metres.

3. The capital city of Bhutan is Thimphu. It has a population of approx 80,000 and is famous for being the only world capital without traffic lights.

4. The national language is Dzongkha, however a variety of other languages are spoken throughout the country. English is the medium that all school is taught in.

5. Bhutanese love eating chillis and their national dish is a curry made with chillis and local homemade cheese. Rice is the main staple, and a variety of vegetables and fruit are sold at markets. Butchering meat or fish in Bhutan contradicts the Buddhist view that all sentient beings' lives are precious, however I have read many reports of meat and fish on the menu so I suspect the rules might get broken occasionally!

6. Locals enjoy archery as their national sport, and they competed in the recent Olympics.

7. Up until 2008, Bhutan was an absolute monarchy, however the King himself put the wheels in motion to transition to a constitutional monarchy headed by his son, the current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

8. Bhutan places great value on the natural environment and at least 60% of land area is under forest cover, and more than 40% of the country is national parks, reserves and other protected areas.

9. Consequently Bhutan has maintained an environment that is home to an incredible number of birds, animals and plants including animals such as the tiger that are endangered in all their other habitats. Go Bhutan!!!!!

10. Bhutan values the Gross National Happiness of its people over the Gross National Product of the economy.

Ok, so by now you might be thinking "Hey I think I'd like to go and visit them over there in Bhutan!" We would love to have visitors while we are there, but be warned, Bhutan charges tourists a daily tariff of $250pp per day to restrict tourist numbers to protect their culture and natural environment

After so much researching and dreaming, I can't wait to hear  the roar of the Thunder Dragon for myself.

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