Small Buddhist kingdom nestled in the Himalayan fortress, the same size than Switzerland, Bhutan is wedged between two giants, India and China.
Before its opening in the 70s, this small country used to be, during a very long time, isolated from the rest of the world. From March 2008, the country has entered into a new era. The former monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck organized the first democratic elections. This is not his first action because, since 1972, aware of the importance of developing his country, he introduced a new concept, a new standard estimation of Prosperity: The Gross National Happiness (GNH).
This latter is based on four criteria of wealth beyond calculations and economic criteria:
- The socio-economic development,
- The maintenance of traditions,
- The preservation of the environment,
- Good governance
Despite abundant natural resources, Bhutan was then emerged as one of the poorest countries in Asia, refusing to be engaged in the pursuit of profit at all costs. During a long time, the idea of GNH invented by the King of Bhutan made laugh. Today, many scientists and politicians are interested.
So what makes this small country so special? Why do we calculate GNH and no GDP as in all other countries?
Until the 1960s, Bhutan was accessible only by feet. Before you get there, you had to walk several days in the mountains. At that time, the country didn’t knew neither phone nor plane, nor television. It was in 1980 that the airport, situated 50 kilometers from the capital Thimphu has been built. Concerning television, it appeared in 1999.
Facts rare until recently, thefts, crimes, drugs or hard alcohol didn’t exist in the country.
The importance of traditions
Seen, Bhutanese people are very attached to their religion, their culture and all these habits from the past.
The country's leaders are so keen to protect their culture that they tend to reject anything that comes from abroad. So no way to eat a pizza, pita bread, chips or noodles. For now, Bhutanese people open themselves to the world but very timidly: they are against what is called globalization. Why? Because they are convinced that globalization prevent their country to progress.
Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, Bhutan remains a very green country with 72% of forest cover, slightly distorted by man. National parks, botanical gardens, rivers and hot springs make it an ideal place for lovers of walking, trekking, climbing or cycling. Rafting, kayaking, fishing and golf can be practiced. The observation of butterflies and certain rare or endangered animal species complement your stay.
Last bastion of Vajrayana school of Mahayana Buddhism, Bhutan remains a country where spiritual and mystical religion stay prominent. The country is gradually opening up to the outside world, festivals and traditions persist. Pilgrimages, religious songs, folk dances are at the heart of local life.
Visit Bhutan is a real discovery: it is immersed in a very different culture from ours and traditions at the heart of which the country's leaders are particularly attached.
Anecdote: In the east and center of the country, the Ara alcohol at 20 °, is very popular, however, the sale and consumption of alcohol is prohibited on Tuesday, declared "dry day".