I started looking at the map once again to find my next destination. I had lot of parameters to balance this time. Since I hadn’t planned much in advance, I was looking for a place which is affordable, has good weather to escape from heat of Hyderabad, doesn’t have complex entry formalities and is also unique in some way. After lots of researching, I was going to finalize Meghalaya and then my eyes noticed a small land locked country in Himalayas. I spent a day researching about Bhutan and realized it suited all my needs. So without much planning (in-fact no planning), I fixed the place and traveled. This was the first time I was going to travel to a new country without any bookings/itinerary and had left everything for on the spot decisions. Except few small setbacks the entire journey turned out quite well. So presenting to you some of my experiences :
1. Bhutan is a democratic monarchy which means it’s ruled by King and parliament both. Parliament consists of elected candidates which functions along with the kings. King and his family is highly respected in Bhutan.
2. Life in Bhutan is relaxed and moves at a slow pace. You will not observe any one rushing to reach their destination or in a state of hurry. It’s good for most of the parts except services in Restaurants :).
3. More than 60% of Bhutan is covered with forest and they are trying to improve this number to fight against global warming. Yes, the country with so much trees is still not contented and striving hard to make environment better.
4. This is the only country where Indians have more privileges to enter than rest of the world. Indians can enter the country by road and permit is issued on border itself. Moreover people from most of the nations have to enter country only via a travel agent by paying more than 200 USD per day. On the contrary Indians do not have any such restrictions and can move around freely.
5. Majority of revenue for country is generated from Tourism and Hydro Electric Power Stations. Bhutan sells electricity to India and even has a dedicated Power Station only for export (as communicated by my guide).
6. Bhutanese have their national dress which is compulsory to be worn in government offices, schools and other official places. You will find people wearing them everywhere. The dress for men is called Gho and for women its Kira, a long, ankle-length dress accompanied by a light outer jacket known as a Tego. The dresses are very colorful which make them more likable. They are not easy to tie so if you plan to buy them then learn how to wear from a local person. Your guide/shopkeeper/hotel staff may help you in that.
7. Prices of petrol and liquor are cheaper in Bhutan whereas prices of most of the other commodities and services are more compared to India. To give an example taking a xerox would cost you Rs. 5 at most of the places. So take multiple xerox of your documents which you might need before entering Bhutan.
8. Bhutanese Currency (Nu) exchange rate is equal to INR. Indian currency is accepted everywhere including Rs.500 and Rs. 1000 notes. You can withdraw local currency from ATMs at Rs.20 per transaction fees.
9. Hindi movies and television shows are widely watched across Bhutan. Hindi is spoken/understood by almost everyone so in terms of communication, I didn’t have any problem what so ever.
10. Food in Bhutan is quite spicy and Bhutanese dishes contain a higher content of chilli. Indian restaurants are easily available in Thimpu although in Paro I didn’t see any because of limited time.
11. Road conditions are excellent on most of the routes. The only rough patches I found were on way to Phunaka from Thimpu. Even there it was not very uncomfortable considering the mountain region.
I traveled only in Western Bhutan, so the experiences are tied to this region, however I assume most of the things would be applicable in other parts of country as well. I came across lots of interesting things throughout my stay and will share them in rest of the posts. I was fascinated by how the country is being managed well with so less population. There were many instances where I found myself comparing my country India with Bhutan. I will be writing a separate posts on that later. For now I can conclude that if you are looking for a tranquil place in the lap of nature, Bhutan will not disappoint you.