Suitcase and World: Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Bhutan is a small kingdom nestled in the Himalayan mountains. This tiny country, which is about the size of the state of Indiana is bordered by its husky neighbors China to the north and India to the south. On its southwestern border is the Indian state of Sikkim. To its north is Tibet. Almost the entire country is mountainous. The southernmost part begins in the humid jungles of India's Assam Plain, but soon climbs high into the Himalayas.

Bhutan's capital is Thimphu (pronounced “Tim - Pu”), a thriving metropolis of around 40,000. The population of the entire country is around 700,000. This is a tiny nation indeed!!

Bhutan is also one of the most isolated and least developed countries in the world and yet, it has the reputation of being one of the happiest places on least as voted on by its own populace. Its people still proudly revere iss rich historical past which is steeped in traditions marked by unique customs, manners, language, modes of dress, arts, and different types of dances and folk music. It is also one of the last places on earth where the Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism) form of Buddhism is practiced.

The name Bhutan is probably derived from the Sanskrit word Bhotant meaning “the end of Tibet” or Bhu-uttan meaning “high land.” The Bhutanese, however, refer to their country as Druk Yal, “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” and the Bhutanese flag, with its rampaging dragon, proudly reflects that.

Bhutan has long been on my list of places I wanted to travel to but part of the reason I never went was because it was seemingly prohibitively expensive. That's because in an effort to preserve its culture and environment, the government has put limits on tourists visiting Bhutan and it partly accomplishes this by imposing a per person daily tariff. Per the 2010 tariff table, I will be paying $200 per day just to set foot in the country.  For some people, that alone would be reason not to go but the way I see it, it means I will be able to see a country and not be crushed by hordes of tourists.  I'm willing to pay the price!

Government restrictions prohibit travel within Bhutan as a solo traveller. You have to travel with a company that has been granted approval by the goverment to conduct tours so that's how I'll be going.  I've got a few more months to go before I leave for Bhutan which leaves plenty of time to plan my trip and to learn more about this fascinating country.  Of course, I can't wait to get there and see if for myself!