Friday, March 26, 2010

Country snapshot: Bhutan (不丹)

Once we arrive in China, my husband has about a month to come up with a rough draft itinerary of our travel plans for the year. Since it is such a daunting task, we've already started to gather ideas of places we want to see and things we want to do.

China, and Asia in general, has many amazing places that most people don't even realize exist. I decided I wanted to draw more attention to all the wonderful places that most people never get the chance to see. To do this, I am going to occasionally do a "country snapshot" or a "city snapshot" of places we plan to visit and places that I just want to highlight for potential travelers. This is the first one, and I am choosing Bhutan because prior to taking this Chinese course, I had never even heard of the place, let alone wanted to visit it. Bhutan is definitely on our short list of MUST SEE places! Even though Bhutan is not a part of China, I chose to start my "snapshots" series with Bhutan just because I think its a really unique place that is virtually unknown to many people.

I will also try to consistently spell it Bhutan, but in Chinese, the sound system we use (called pinyin) spells it Budan - so its hard for me to type it how we would spell it in English - Bhutan. I'll try to be consistent though!

According to this article, the Fourth King of Bhutan announced that he measures Bhutan's progress not in terms of GDP, but in terms of GDH - Gross Domestic Happiness. Apparently, Bhutan has been rated the 8th Happiest Country in the world.

So, where is Bhutan?

As you can see, Bhutan is right on the border of China and India. It is a small, deeply Buddhist country located in the Himalayan Mountains.

(From The Star)

(from National Geographic)

The government of Bhutan wanted to ensure that Bhutan would maintain its history, culture, and identity, which may be why most people have probably never heard of this country to begin with. In order to do so, the government has made it hard for most people to travel to Bhutan, striving to keep out low budget backpackers. Bhutan is currently one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit. For Americans to visit Bhutan, the visa fee is $230 per day, per person. This is all inclusive though - it includes lodging, all meals, a private guide, and a driver.

Everything must be done through a tour guide. Several that have been recommended include:

And, how do I get to Bhutan?

There is only one airline that flies into Bhutan, and there is only one airport. The airline is Bhutan's own airline, Druk Air. Tickets on Druk Air are apparently arranged by the tour guide you choose. You must fly into Bhutan from Bangkok, Kathmandu, Delhi & Calcutta and sometimes Dacca (Information found here).

Apparently, the descent into Paro, the city where the airport is, is considered one of the scariest landings in the aviation world. According to Travel & Leisure, only 8 pilots in the entire world are trained to land in Paro.

The only option other than flying is to come in by land through India, though its not recommended at all from what I can tell from my research.

The best time to go to Bhutan is reportedly during festivals - apparently Bhutan loves its festivals! But one of the most famous is Buddha's Birthday, known as Vesak, and is on June 1st.

And now - pictures of Bhutan. These pictures are all from National Geographic.

And this picture is from here. Its a picture of Paro Taktsang, also known as Tigers Nest. It is a 17th century monastery that every Bhutanese must (is required to) visit once within their lifetime.

Hopefully I will be able to add pictures of my own one day!

*Special thanks to Tarinay and Dahab for some of the information


  1. oh my gosh--how amazing will this trip be?! I have no words.

  2. I'm so jealous!!
    I can't get over that visa fee! You definitely need to fly in so you can tell us all how the landing was :)

  3. I know right, that visa fee is killer. If we don't get the chance to go, its because of that fee! We really hope to get the opportunity though, if anything on our way home at the end of the year. we'll see! I will definitely need a xanax for THAT flight LOL! I kid, I kid :)

  4. OMG AMAZING!! I am SO excited for you! And jealous! I cannot wait to go back to china. I don't think I have ever had SO much fun!! You are going to have an AMAZING time!

  5. Yea! I'm so excited that you're doing these snapshots. (and going to these places) I'll have some ideas to start my own list!

  6. These photos are amazing, and Bhutan sounds like an awesome place to visit. I love the idea of a Gross Domestic Happiness!

  7. these are great photos! i follow you now; feel free to follow me too.

  8. Hi, just happened upon your bio via the nest boards. We actually just got back form living in Asia for 3+ years. We visited Bhutan almost 5 years ago. It was a great trip and you will enjoy it. The drop into Paro is incredible & scary. We did a 6 day hike in the Himalyas, from Paro to Thimpu. And we also visited Punaka Valley. Have a good trip if you make it really is a beautiful country. There's a book called beyond the sky and the earth by jami zeppa, who wrote about her experience living there if you're intersted.

  9. Have you seen the Current TV documentary "Lost in Democracy"? Really good overview of Bhutan and their way of life, and how it changed when their king changed the government to a democracy.

  10. Oh its not Gross Domestic Happiness but Its Gross National happiness (GNH)

  11. Nice picture and site and if you have time please visit our website
    Bhutan Travel Agents,Bhutan Tour Operators,Bhutan Tour Package,Bhutan Tourism,Bhutan Travel Guide,Bhutan Travel and Bhutan Tour

  12. All the snap shots of the beautiful Bhutan is looking fantastic. Thanks for this post, the adventure of trekking to Bhutan is really very unique.