Headline, March09, 2014

"' BHUTAN : 


From the air, Bhutan looks so disconcertingly like Switzerland. Same snowcapped  peaks, same wide, lush valleys, same tidy lodges peppering the mountains.

Once you hit the ground, you realise that there are no stainless steel banks, no expensive diving watches and hardly any chilli-free cheese:

But you still feel as though you have ended up in Alps. But now instead of billboards there are dozens of clusters of  prayer flags strung from poles, snapping in the wind:

Inviting you on a voyage of  self-discovery. ""You have also landed at one of the most beautiful airports in the world"".

Bhutan : small Buddhist kingdom in the eastern Himalayas, home to districts such as:

'Rainbow District of Desires'  -  'Lotus Grove of the Gods'  -  and  'Blooming Valley of Luxuriant Fruits'  -and believe me, nobody here is making this up!

Bhutan  : squashed 40 million years ago between the Indian subcontinents and Asia.

Its still illegal to fell a tree here, or kill a fish, and the population is so good at the national sport, archery. Interestingly,  --some years ago, the manufacture of targets had to be suspended:

Until they made the bull's-eyes smaller. In years ahead, they reckoned, they were going to make them smaller still.

Closed to the outside world for centuries,  some 47 years ago, the economy was still based on  barter  and money was virtually non-existent. There are only 700,000 plus people here  and  15,000  to  20,000  are monks. 10,000 in the Army.

In a country the size of, well, Switzerland. Most nationals are still farmers, although increasingly people are working in tourism.

""There is also virtually no crime,  -which until recently had almost been eradicated. However,  graduates educated in India are returning to a country that has no jobs for them, -so they drink instead, and fight and steal. And get arrested"".

Television has been in Bhutan since  1999 and has had a predictably tumultuous effect, especially on the young. Western music and fashion has changed the way  teenagers  consume,  and children now run around with plastic guns imported from Bangkok.

The government has tried to ban certain channels   -namely pornography and wrestling   -which many found bizarre because like everyone else in the world, people here seem more interested in watching the Premiership than anything else. Especially Manchester United.

The Western influence is on the streets too, with the men wearing Ray-Bans and Nike trainers along with their traditional  "gho"  costumes.

From one of the Amankora resorts you can explore the dense pine forests and rolling valleys, either across country by foot,  or, if you've really got time on your hands  -by road. And remember,  a broken down truck can affect traffic 30 miles away.

One of the most memorable things you can do here is visit Punakha Dzong, a  16th century fortress set on a promontory at the convergence of two rivers, a monastery where 5,000 red-robed, shaven-headed monks live and pray.

Far, very far from the madding crowd, the good people of this Himalayan kingdom inhabit a land of peace, tranquillity and serenity.

The view from   Taktsang Monastery   is one of Bhutan's wonders. 

So, Here you feel like a real visitor, a real-traveller, and not some bussed in schmuck lining up for a photo opportunity with a bunch of grimacing, ready to-be-tipped guides in a freshly pressed fancy dress.

In fact, everywhere and everything in Bhutan makes you feel privileged.

The people, the food  -if you like chillies, that is  -they use it in almost all dishes  -the architecture, the lot.

Obviously,  it's not the most obvious destination, as there are no beaches, little sun, and you're so  high up  that air is noticeably thin:

But you do feel very,  very far away from everything. But no matter what you do, you get waited on like a King.

Or at least someone who is wealthy enough to be able to pretend to be one.

With respectful dedication to all the Students, Professors and Teachers of Bhutan. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"' A Starting Point To Move Up "'

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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