BHUTAN - THE LAND OF SPICE AND SURPRISES
Bhutan is the last great Himalayan Kingdom and is not an ordinary place. It is full of mysteries and magic. Its pristine environment and harmonious society has given the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan the name "The Last Shangrila." The first humans probably arrived sometime after the Ice Age. Historical records began with the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century, when Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) visited Bhutan and established monasteries. Today, it is the world’s last remaining Buddhist Kingdom. It transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk as its king and Tshering Tobgay as its prime minister. It has developed the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, where development is measured using a holistic approach of well-being, not just based on gross domestic product. They pride themselves on a sustainable approach to tourism in line with the philosophy of Gross National Happiness.
The Bhutanese are well educated, fun loving and well informed about the world around them and it is this quality of the ancient and modern that makes Bhutan so fascinating and it has many many surprises up its sleeves. Those who come seeking a place of solace, rest and recuperation, a session of peaceful, contemplative meditation, a relaxing soak in a mineral hot spring bath or the all natural remedies of our traditional medicine Bhutan has just what you need to revive and rejuvenate your body and spirit. Most of the hotels provide yoga sessions, retreats and meditation facilities as well within the hotel premises. Bhutan is rapidly moving towards becoming one of the top premier destinations, for adventure sports. The adventure seekers have plenty to keep them busy, from a day hike or a grueling 31 day adventure. Whether it’s rafting down crystal clear, glacier-fed rivers or trekking through lush, virgin forests Bhutan offers a one-of-a-kind experience for travelers seeking adventure in an unspoiled and unexplored environment. Bhutan, despite having a small landmass, has a remarkable abundance of flora and fauna and is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world. The northern regions of the country consist mostly of snowy mountains and glaciers. The wide-range of climatic conditions gives way to wide variety of vegetation and wildlife to thrive within Bhutan.
Bhutan, though being a small country, has a diverse and rich culture, and is one of the reasons why so many tourists want to pay a visit to this place. Because of its largely unspoiled natural environment and cultural heritage, Bhutan has been referred to as The Last Shangri-la. The main religion of the country is Buddhism, apart from that Hinduism is also becoming popular which forms one third of the population and the remaining one percent form other religions. Since the country is culturally diverse, it is colorful and joyful most of the year as they celebrate their festivals. Every village is known for their unique festival though the most widely known is the annual Tshechu, meaning a religious festival. Bhutanese are very religious people and they offer extensive prayers following strict rituals and traditions on almost every other event, like in the event of birth of a child, marriage and funeral. One of the most distinctive features of the Bhutanese is their traditional dress and unique garments. Men wear the Gho, a knee-length robe somewhat resembling a kimono that is tied at the waist by a traditional belt known as Kera and women wear the Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego with an inner layer known as a Wonju. But, the tribal and semi-nomadic people like the Bramis and Brokpas of eastern Bhutan generally wear clothing that differs from the rest of the Bhutanese population. The Brokpas and the Bramis both wear dresses woven either out of Yak or Sheep hair. Bhutanese still wear long scarves when visiting Dzongs and other administrative centers. The scarves worn vary in color, signifying the wearer’s status or rank. The scarf worn by men is known as Kabney while those worn by women are known as Rachus. The national language is Bhutanese also called Dzongkha. The cuisine of Bhutanese is all about spice. They love spice so much that almost all their food contains chilies, and they wouldn’t like it if there are no chilies in any dish. Rice forms the main part but their rice unlike ours is red in color. Bhutanese red rice is a medium-grain rice. is a red japonica rice. It is semi-milled—some of the reddish bran is left on the rice. Because of this, it cooks somewhat faster than an unmilled brown rice. When cooked, the rice is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky. This rice became available in the United States in the mid-1990s when Lotus Foods began importing it. It is currently the only agricultural product exported from Bhutan. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes according to your taste, if you prefer vegetarian or non- vegetarian dish. But you will hardly come across a vegetarian Bhutanese. Their signature dish is Emmadatshy, it’s like you have not visited Bhutan if you did not indulge yourself in this dish even after visiting Bhutan. Other common dishes include momos, thukpas, jasha maroo, phaksha pa, etc.
PLACES TO VISIT IN AROUND BHUTAN
Famous sacred site. The monastery was built in 1692. Guru Padmasambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century.
It means, "the palace of great happiness or bliss”. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures.
This is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, originally built in the 7th century. In the 8th century the temple was visited by Padmasambhava and it is believed he concealed many spiritual treasures here.
It houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag and is also listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.
National Museum of Bhutan
It was established in 1968, above RinpungDzong underthecommandofHisMajesty,theKing JigmeDorjiWangk The National Museum has in its possession over 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan's cultural heritage.
Dechen Phodrang Monastery
It means “Palace of Great Bliss" and is situated in Thimpu. In 1971 it became a monastic school and currently it has 450 student monks enrolled in eight-year courses. The monastery contains a number of important historical Bhutanese artifacts including 12th century paintings monitored by UNESCO and a noted statue of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on the upper floor.
It is located in the Wangdue Phodrang District in central Bhutan. The Monastery is one of the main seats of the religious tradition based on Pema Lingpa's revelations and one of the two main centers of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism in the country.
Thismonastery is located in the upper parts of Bhutan. In the early 1950s, Drukgyal Dzong was almost completely destroyed by fire and is also listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery hangs on a cliff and stands above an enchanting forest of blue pines and rhododendrons. This beautiful and very exceptional monastery is a sheer climb the of the 900 meters hill, a pony can be arranged for the ride up, but only until the cafeteria. From where, it is another steep walk and some narrow stairs towards the monastery itself. The view of the Paro valley from here is breathtaking, and will be embedded in your memories for eternity. The atmosphere here is very holy. This is that place where every Bhutanese will definitely come at least once in his or her lifetime.