Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a quaint and chivalrous country about the size of Tasmania, tucked into a fold in the Himalaya just below Tibet. It is quite difficult to visit since it only admits about two thousand visitors a year and both they and their itinerary must first be approved by the government. Most people come in organised tour groups. All charges including airfares are set by the government and no one may travel without a guide and a driver.
Sonam - The guide. Behind him is Paro Airport, one of the few flat spots and the only way into Bhutan
Both young men wear the national dress of Bhutan as do the waiters and service staff in the hotels
Most men still wear the Gho with it's white sleeves representing the pure heart of the Bhutanese. Girls wear the Kiri, a sort of tartan sarong.
In December 2006 King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck resigned from being an absolute monarch and paved the way for Bhutan's first democratic elections. These were held shortly after I left, on March 24, 2008. Not everyone was in favour of democracy, only two parties were allowed to stand and not everyone was allowed to vote, but on the whole, the international community is pleased with the outcome.
Although Bhutan remains one of the world's poorest countries on a per capita basis, it is spiritually and cuturally rich and the King has always tried to govern in the interests of "Gross National Happiness." Thus all Bhutanese enjoy universal free education and medical services and as Sonam proudly explains "No one in Bhutan goes to bed hungry and every man owns a piece of land."
Girls learn to spray paint at the Trades School - without masks or safety glasses. There is no eye or hearing protection in the engineering and grinding sections either. I'd like to do something about that. Any thoughts?
Although men may take four wives, the same right extends to women who are surprisingly outspoken and liberated, particularly when compared to those in countries on either side. Many of them run small businesses in the villages but they are also well represented in the trades schools. The one thing which mars this picture is the sight of men and women from Bangladesh doing the hard dirty work of building roads by hand.
Archery is a very popular sport in Bhutan. These men are shooting at a target 500m away.
The man in brown to the right of this archer wins.The only Olympic medal ever won by Bhutan was for Archery
Tashi Delek Druk Yul!