Our Trip To ‘The Land of Thunder Dragon”-Bhutan:
All A & T ians would be aware of the term GNH (for those who don't ,means you haven't really paid heed during the A & T Profile/Culture presentation during induction) Gross National Happiness .It was because of this unique concept that we got interested in visiting Bhutan, It was my first foreign trip (though visa is on arrival and Bhutan shares Open border with India, so its actually not Foreign as it seems) Any ways we were excited. We went to Kolkata and from there took a flight to Paro (the only airport in Bhutan).Just before landing we were dumb struck to see the Himalayas and the Kanchenjunga and Mt.Everest. It was wow. The landing too was awesome as the pilot had to maneuver the aircraft thru the hills to make a safe landing.
We had a ‘Home stay’ experience on the 1st day that is we stayed in one farmer’s house, old typical Bhutanese house made from wood and glass and full of beautiful carvings. Our host served us ‘Butter Tea” called Po Cha, oh my god! That was one thing that made me sick and gave me the opportunity to experience Bhutan’s hospitality to the core. I was hospitalized in the Paro Govt. Hospital. The hospital was spike and span, very clean and neat and free of cost. Medical expenses are borne by the Govt.there.
We saw places like the Paro Dzong (Dzong meaning a place where monastery– Buddhist temple and Govt.Offices reside together) the National Museum ,Drugyal Dzong,etc.One place we missed visiting because of my illness was ‘The Tiger’s Nest’ or Taktsang Lhakhang.Its breath taking view is something one cannot forget in lifetime. It’s a steep climb taking about 3-4 hrs.
After Paro the next place we visited was Punakha,via Dochela Pass ,a beautiful valley with a magnificent Dzong also called ‘The Palace of Happiness’ built in 1637 on the confluence of 2 rivers, Pho Chhu (father river) and Mo Chuu (mother river). This is the place where the Coronation of the king takes place and the blessings received.
Ema datshi is the national dish made from chilies and cheese, The National dress for male is called Gho and for ladies is called Kira. The importance of the national dress is not merely in the constitution or in the books, each and everyone respects it and wear only Gho while on official duty(even our driver and guide wore Gho) they aren't allowed to enter the Dzong without this dress. Even small girls and boys wear it. Even the youth present there, respects this tradition (unlike our country Youths, who are attracted towards the western culture)
Next stop was the capital city of Thimpu, we saw the Takin Preserve Centre (Takin is the National animal of Bhutan, it resembles a mountain goat)
The Majestic Shakyamuni Buddha – a 51.5.metre big statue made from bronze and gilded in gold and installed on the mountain top over looking the Thimpu town, It houses 1 Hundred thousand smaller Buddha Statues.. There is a hand made paper factory, the Choki school of traditional art school (where Drishti had few friends),To watch the young generation carry forward their traditional art and culture was highly appreciative, youngsters were not glued to ipads or mobiles but drawing boards ,chisel and embroidery rings.
We had the rare opportunity of meeting the Ex- Education Minister H. H. Mr. Thakur Singh Powdyel, its was a pleasure listening to him for about 2 ½ hrs talking about the GNH(Gross National Happiness) concept and the Green School concept. He was so humble that he even came till the entrance to leave us till our car and asked the driver whether or not he would have tea. We even went to see a Bhutanese Movie.
We flew back to Kolkata with lovely memories of the humble people, their rich culture and tradition and beautifully rich monasteries.
Truly the land of Shangri-La.