I love colour! Bright, vibrant, happy colours that reflect a positive energy. The devout Buddhist nation of Bhutan is abundant in bright, happy colours that are also reflected in the personality of its people. Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world, about the size of Switzerland, and offers the tourist a rich cultural diversity.
Artefacts found in Bhutan trace its first inhabitants back to 2000BC. Buddhism was first introduced in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo and further strengthened by the arrival of Guru Rimpoche, a Buddhist Master that is widely considered to be the Second Buddha.
In his 1971 address to the United Nations, His Majesty the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck declared that one of his development goals for Bhutan was to make his people prosperous and happy. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index was born and continues to generate discussion and debate internationally. Bhutan’s fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck said that the rich are not always happy while the happy generally considered themselves rich.
Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, Bhutan has strict controls on the number of tourists allowed to visit each year. For the tourist who is fortunate enough to be granted a visa, the country offers magnificent scenery, a stunning array of mountains and valleys and some of the world’s rarest flora and fauna in a largely unspoiled environment.
The people of Bhutan love their food and every region has its own specialty. The country’s flagship dish is ‘Ema Datshi’, a vegetarian dish of chilli and cheese which will leave your taste buds quivering. The Bhutanese love chilli and you will see them everywhere, spread on rooftops, roadsides and courtyards, adding further colour to the already rich landscape. They also love meat, in particular Yak meat and rice, which makes its way into nearly every meal. In fact five kilograms of rice is consumed per head per week in Bhutan. Yak is a common sight in every household. Not a single part of the animal is wasted. Their milk is dried and made into cheese, even the skin is fried and served as a snack with drinks. Yak herders come down from the highlands in autumn and sell meat, butter and cheese to villagers in exchange for rice to last them a full year.
Meditation and meditation retreats are a common practice amongst Monks and Buddhist practitioners in Bhutan. Small retreat centers and hermitages are located all over the country, usually next to temples, monasteries and monastic schools. Devout Buddhists will venture into the mountains for months at a time to meditate. The beauty and serenity of the landscape can be appreciated more experientially in the silence of a meditation or yoga practice.
There are thirteen ancient Bhutanese arts and crafts, a legacy from the 17th century masters, that are still practised today and provide wonderful souvenir options for tourists. These include:
Thag-Zo – a traditional form of textile weaving
Tshar-Zo – woven cane and bamboo products
Shag-Zo – traditional wooden cups and bowls made from wooden knots
Lha-Zo – paintings of Bhutanese landscapes and ancient monasteries and temples
Shing-Zo – traditional woodwork
Do-Zo – the art of traditional stone work used in Dzongs, Chortens and farm houses
Par-Zo – unique and distinctive artworks carved out of stone, wood and slate
Jim-Zo – Clay statues of deities, gods and goddesses and other prominent religious figures
Lug-Zo – bronze casting of cups, urns, and vases, weapons and armor
Gar-Zo – introduced by a Tibetan saint known as Dupthob Thangtong Gyalpo who is revered by the Bhutanese people as a master engineer for his skill in casting iron chains and erecting them as bridges over gorges
Troe-Ko – beautifully crafted jewellery using precious stones and metals such as corals, turquoise, silver and gold
De-Zo – traditionally crafted paper made from the bark of the Daphne tree
Tshem- Zo – the art of traditional embroidery and applique and the art of traditional Bhutanese boot making normally practiced by monks.
For those wanting a holiday destination with a difference that enriches the mind, body and spirit you can go no farther than the majestic and serene beauty of Bhutan! Join Quest for Life founder Petrea King to experience beautiful Bhutan. We’ve done all the work for you! You choose your own path to happiness – take off on an unforgettable five-day trek through the Bhutan wilderness or deepen your yoga and meditation practice with a five-day immersion in the charming town of Paro. You can download an information pack here.
Thank you to the Tourism Council of Bhutan for much of the content contained in this article.