11 Things you need to know when on travel to Bhutan | Bhutan Travel

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Singapore to Bhutan Flights are on Thursdays & Sundays: Druk Air is the only Bhutanese airline that flies to and from Singapore to Bhutan. There are two flights a week i.e on Thursdays and Sundays. Singapore to Bhutan flight time is at 6:30 Am and arrives Paro, Bhutan at 10:30 Am, Flight No. KB 541.

Bhutan to Singapore Flights are on Wednesdays & Saturdays: Flight No. KB 540 departs from Paro at 7:30 Am and arrives Singapore at 3:35 Pm.

All the above flights will have a lay over at Gauhati, India for 45 Minutes. Flight from Singapore to Bhutan duration is 5 1/2 hours.

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11 Things you need to know when on travel to Bhutan | Bhutan Travel

A brief description of Bhutan

11 Things you need to know when on travel to Bhutan | Bhutan Travel

If you are a Singaporean and intend to book Bhutan tour packages or Bhutan travel from Singapore, the underlining basic understanding that you need to know is: Bhutan is a small, mountainous Buddhist kingdom (38,816 sq km), with a sparse population of just 7,50,000 with 20 districts,  about the size of Taiwan, landlocked and sandwiched between two classic Asian giants – China on the north and India in the west, east and south high in the eastern Himalayas. The Bhutan standard time is 6 hrs ahead of GMT.

Bhutan is also called “Druk-Yul” or “The Land of the Thunder Dragon”. Bhutan’s landscape ranges from the sub tropical foothills (150 m) in the south to alpine forests and snowy mountains (7000 m) in the north. It’s about 300 km from west to east and 150 km from north to south. About 70% of the land is still under forest cover as mandated by the country’s constitution, so it naturally has a well maintained rich biodiversity with more than 700 species of birds, 50 species of rare rhododendrons and an estimated 300 species of medicinal plants and orchids.

Singapore-to-Bhutan-Tour-Packages

That’s the main reason why Bhutan is one of the ten biodiversity hotspots of the world. It emits less carbon than what it consumes making it the first carbon negative country of the world. Singapore is the greenest city of the world but you can still find the difference when you book Bhutan trip packages from Singapore. Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu city (2320 m) is the third highest capital in the entire world. Here Gross National Happiness (GNH) is given a higher platform than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and religion, tradition and age old culture has been  preserved  for centuries. The national language is Dzongkha, but English is widely spoken throughout the country. Your guide will speak fluent English as most young Bhutanese do.

Singapore to Bhutan Tour Packages:

As there are just 2 Druk Air flights in a week to and from Singapore, the highly recommended tour to Bhutan from Singapore is 6 nights / 7 Days. This is a short tour covering Paro, Thimphu, Wangdiphodrang and Gangtey. The high lights of the trip are visit to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Punakha Dzong, the Dochula pass and the Phobjikha valley, the roosting ground of the Rare black necked Cranes.

For a longer duration visit, we have 9 Nights / 10 Days Singapore to Bhutan Tour packages covering Western and Central Bhutan till Bumthang, which is the Cultural hub of Bhutan. We advise you to coincide your Bhutan Tour package from Singapore with one of the Spectacular festivals of Bhutan. Links to the Bhutan Festival dates for 2019 and 2020.

Places of tourists’ interest and things to do in Bhutan

It would really depend on what you hope to see and experience during your travel to Bhutan from Singapore. The magnificent fortresses known as Dzongs which are in fact very ancient and the Buddhist Monasteries, the stunning, pristine and virgin valleys and mountains, the ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, the unique architecture, the cantilever wooden bridges,  the colorful mask dances at Tshechu festivals, and the Bhutanese culture and tradition that is intact and preserved even today. Thanks to preservation efforts by the government, Bhutan is still a thriving and living museum even now as most visitors acknowledge. Bhutan’s landscape and culture are so diverse across different regions of the country and they do present their distinctive charm and facets for exploration and experience to the inquisitive and spirited visitor.

1. Western Bhutan:

11 Things you need to know when on travel to Bhutan from Singapore-Taktshang-Monastery

Western Bhutan is considered and recognized as the gateway to Bhutan with the tourist circuit starting from  Paro city (2280 m), as it has the only international airport of Bhutan,  Thimphu (2320 m), Punakha (1310 m), Wangdue (1320 m) and Haa (2670 m) districts. Paro is also home to the spectacular Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) situated 900m above the Paro valley (one has to hike to reach the Tiger’s Nest and the famous Drugyel, Rinpung and Ta Dzongs. Paro valley is also considered the “rice bowl” of Bhutan. Thimphu, the capital city, is a modern and vibrant cultural centre where one can see and feel tradition and modernity equally blended.

Punakha, the former ancient capital of the country, enchants tourists with the magnificent Punakha Dzong at the confluence of the Pho-Chu and Mo-Chu (the Male and Female rivers). And the Gangtey Monastery on a ridge overlooking the bowl shaped alpine wetland valley of Phobjika (3000 m), where the black necked cranes migrate in winter from the cold Tibetan highlands come November at Wangdue district. The west is also the starting point for many of Bhutan’s famous treks, the Jhomolhari Trek, the Druk Path Trek, the Dagala Thousand Lakes Trek, the world famous Snowman Trek to name a few, which traverse to the north of the country. Laya, Gasa, Lunana, the northern reaches of Bumthang and Trongsa complete this circuit. There are three domestic airports at Bumthang (central), Gelephu (south) and Yonphula (east).

2. Central Bhutan

11 Things you need to know when on travel to Bhutan from Singapore

Central Bhutan can be literally called the spiritual heartland of Bhutan and comprises the four valleys of Bumthang district and the district of Trongsa. After  having toured Western Bhutan, you you get into the real veins of the country. This is where you get to understand real gist and essence of Bhutan. Bumthang was where the first mask dance festivals were initially started way back in the 8th century. Kurjey Lhakhang in Bumthang was from where Buddhism actually started to take root in Bhutan. Your travel to Bhutan will never be complete if you don’t visit the Bumthang valley. The world famous “Yathra” and “Mathra” fabric from yak hair and sheep wool are woven in Bumthang. The massive Jakar Dzong, Jambay Lhakhang, temples and festivals of Bumthang and the historical grandeur and significance of the Trongsa Dzong showcase a rich and lively cultural heritage. Trongsa in ancient times used to be the gateway between western and eastern Bhutan and was the capital during the reign of the second King. Before being crowned King of Bhutan, the crown Prince has to be the existing Governor of Trongsa.

3. Eastern Bhutan

Bhutan Travel from Singapore

Eastern Bhutan, a congregation of six eastern districts, is actually itself a world away from the world, be it the distinct way of life of Brokpas of Merak and Sakteng or the woven fabric, art & craft and woodwork in Trashigang and TrashiYangtse or the kishuthara fabric weaving of Lhuentshe. The Drametse Monastery at Mongar district where the famous Drametse mask dance is performed is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Our destination specialists will make the best recommendations for you as per your travel preferences, and you can in fact choose the exact Bhutan tour packages from Singapore to Singapore from our tours in Bhutan program. Many travelers incorporate Paro (2280 m), Thimphu (2320 m), Punakha (1310 m), Wangduephodrang (1320 m), Gangte (3000 m), Trongsa (2316 m) and Bumthang (2800 m), though some travel solely for trekking in the Himalayas.

How to travel to Bhutan from Singapore:

1. Bhutan visa Singapore: Formalities and procedure for travel to Bhutan

It’s a government regulation that you must and always use a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator (Yak Holidays Int’l) or one of their international partners to book your travel to Bhutan.

Every visitor requires a passport, valid for at least 6 months longer than their journey, and an entry visa/visa clearance for Bhutan which must be pre-approved prior to your arrival in Bhutan. Applications for tourist visas are submitted by your tour operator and takes at least 10 days to process. Air tickets to Bhutan cannot be purchased without a visa clearance. Your Bhutan visa will be arranged by Yak Holidays Int’l (www.traveltobhutan.travel), your tour operator, and all we usually need is a quality scan or photo of your passport photo page. Please be sure you carry the same passport that you submitted for your Bhutan visa or you will be denied entry. Bhutan visas generally cost $40 USD but are sometimes built into your travel package.

A visa authority letter is finally  issued after the prepayment for your travel arrangements but the actual visa is entered into your passport on your arrival at Paro Int’l Airport. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are the only airlines that fly into Bhutan, please make sure you check with the Druk Air office at Singapore for availability of flights to Bhutan. When you check in at the airport starting in Bangkok, Singapore, Delhi, or Kathmandu, you must show your approved visa authority letter for Bhutan (that has been sent to you via email by the tour operator). When you arrive at Paro Int’l airport, all visitors are now required to provide bio-metric fingerprints and a facial image which is a smooth process and you’ll get through quickly.

Bhutan to Singapore Flights

Druk Air provides it’s standard baggage allowance of 20 kg for economy class travelers and 30 kg in business class. The allowance for carry-on bags is 5 kg. Just prior to landing at Paro airport @2280 m, as the Druk Air plane makes the descend from amongst the clouds, you will get wonderful views of the beautiful, serene Himalayan mountain ranges. This special occasion/chance to view these mountains from above them would more than justify your Druk Air fares.

This particular experience is “priceless” and it won’t happen to you every other day. For the best views and pictures/videos of the landscape, please check-in early for your Druk Air flight and reserve your seats on the left side of the plane if you are flying in from Singapore or Bangkok. Likewise on your return flight, pl request for a seat on the right side of the plane to get the best views. Seats on Druk Air are allocated on a “first come first served” basis. Yes, we promise, fulfillment of sublime satisfaction will be at hand. Simple as that.

2. Singapore to Bhutan flight schedule:

Singapore to Bhutan Flight Timing:

Sector Flight No Departure Arrival Week Days
SIN – PBH KB541 6:30 Am 10:30 Am Thursday
SIN – PBH KB541 6:30 Am 10:30 Am Sunday

(Includes a 45 min layover at Gauhati (Assam), passengers don’t need to disembark though)

Bhutan to Singapore Flight Timing:  

Sector Flight No Departure Arrival Week Days
 PBH – SIN KB540 7:30 Am 03:35 Pm Wednesday
 PBH – SIN KB540 7:30 Am 03:35 Pm Saturday

(Includes a 45 Min layover at Gauhati (Assam), passengers don’t need to disembark though).

Singapore to Bhutan flight price:

  • Economy Class: SIN – PBH – SIN: US $ 1000.3
  • Business Class: SIN – PBH – SIN: US $ 1657.3

What is the cost structure of the daily tariff when you travel to Bhutan from Singapore?

During the low season months (Jan, Feb, Jun, Jul, Aug and Dec), it costs US $180  per person per night and on the high season months (Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct and Nov), it costs US $225 per person per night for groups of three or more.

For groups of two, it costs $255 USD per person per night and for a single traveler, its US $265 USD per person per night. Bhutan visa fee is US $ 40 and is payable only one time.

So on the face of it, Bhutan may seem like an expensive destination than nearby Nepal, India, Maldives or elsewhere, but on a broader perspective it’s actually not such a bad deal, considering all that is included and packaged within that fee. This fee actually includes a 3 star accommodation, all meals, a licensed Bhutanese tour guide and a driver for transportation, entrance fees to sites, camping equipment & haulage for trekking tours during the entire course of your stay within the country. Also included within the fee is a $65 per day royalty that goes to the government towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. Healthcare is free even for tourists.

The philosophy behind the mandatory minimum fee being that it creates a “high-value/low-impact” tourist environment, as envisioned by the government of Bhutan. The government executes and regulates this minimum fee  in order to manage tourism in a more sustainable way, to grow and blend sensibly with the world, without taxing the local environment and more importantly, highlight and conserve the unique ‘culture and tradition” of the country.

What our Singaporean Clients have to say about our Services?

My boyfriend and I just completed a 9 Nights / 10 days tour package of Bhutan with Yak Holidays Int’l in early November. Bhutan as a country is truly magical and amazing – it is one of the most beautiful and lovely place I’ve ever been. However, it is the simple but genuine hospitality of the Bhutanese people that truly sets the country apart.

Our entire experience was smooth and very pleasant right from the start. Before our trip to Bhutan, Sithar from Yak Holidays Int’l provided us with all the information we needed (including a detailed itinerary) and was very prompt in his email responses.

Peiyinn
Singapore

11 Things you need to know when on travel to Bhutan from Singapore:

  1. Currency/Money

Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum (Nu). Its value is pegged to the Indian Rupee which is also accepted as legal tender. However Indian Rupee notes in 500 and 2000 denominations are not acceptable in Bhutan. US Dollars are widely accepted.

Here are some useful tips on currency & credit cards.

  • Consider a budget of US$30 per person per day to cover tips, drinks & handicrafts.
  • US$100 bills do receive a better exchange rate at local banks.
  • US dollar bills issued before 2000 will often NOT be accepted!
  • ATMs are available for use by visitors in western & central Bhutan.
  • ATMs generally only offer small sums (around $100-200USD)
  • You may need to try different bank ATMs to accept your card.
  • It is best to obtain some Bhutanese Nu from the Paro airport ATM (right of exit door).
  • ATMs accept Visa & MasterCard (debit & credit).
  • Traveler’s Cheques (Amex) are accepted, but we don’t recommend bringing them as the exchange rate isn’t very good.
  • Visa, MasterCard & American Express are now frequently accepted in the larger handicraft shops and in most hotels. When using your credit card please ask the merchant if there is a fee surcharge (usually 3-7%).
  1. Food and Cuisine

There are 2 things you need not worry about when traveling in Bhutan. This is particularly true if you are used to Singaporean/Chinese food which is highly likely. [One], You will “Never get Hungry”, the Bhutanese dish courses are quite a handful to negotiate and [Two], Bhutanese food tastes pretty much like Chinese/Southeast Asian food, except that it’s a bit more chili and cheese on top of it. You might miss out on your Nasi Lemak, Ikan Bilis, Satay and Sambal, Fish Head Curry, Rojak, Black Pepper Crab etc. but  if you happen to be a jalapeno or hot sambal lover, you can consider yourself lucky, because typical Bhutanese cuisine revolves around chili and cheese.

Bhutan-Food-and-Cuisine

The Bhutanese equivalent of hot Southeast Asian sambal is Ezay, a fiercely fiery one in its own right. But you may not get your usual satays though. Rice (white fluffy Indian basmati rice or the indigenous Bhutanese red variety), is the main dish, accompanied by several side dishes of pork, beef, yak meat, lamb, chicken, fish and veggies and “Emma Datshi”, the national dish with lots of chilies n cheese. You can also try “Momo”, the Tibetan dumplings and the various noodles on offer. But most hotels, restaurants and eateries do modify the cuisine to make it more palatable for visitors and also do Chinese, Continental and various Indian dishes.

  1. Climate and Weather

 

MONTH PARO THIMPHU PUNAKHA TRONGSA BUMTHANG
JANUARY 9.4 / -5.8°C 12.3 / -2.6°C 17 / 4.3°C 13 / -0.2°C 10.8 / -5.1°C 15.5 / 8.2°C 20.4 / 10.5°C
FEBRUARY 13 / 1.5°C 14.4 / 0.6°C 19 / 7.8°C 13.9 / 0.4°C 10 / -1.4°C 15.9 / 8.3°C 21.7 / 11.5
MARCH 14.5 / 0.6°C 16.6 / 3.9°C 22.8 / 10.4°C 16.7 / 4.4°C 16.2 / 3.5°C 20 / 11.6°C 24.8 / 14.4°C
APRIL 17.6 / 4.6°C 20 / 7.1°C 26.2 / 12.9 20.1 / 6.6°C 18.7 / 3.9°C 22.8 / 14°C 28.3 / 17°C
MAY 23.5 / 10.6°C 22.5 / 13.1°C 29.1 / 17.7°C 21 / 11.6°C 21.3 / 9.5°C 25.1 / 17.4°C 30 / 22.6°C
JUNE 25.4 / 14.1°C 24.4 / 15.2°C 29.2 / 20.1°C 22.2 / 13.6°C 22.5 / 13.5°C 26.1 / 19.5°C 30.7 / 22.6°C
JULY 26.8 / 14.9°C 25.9 / 15.6°C 30.4 / 20.5°C 25.3 / 15.3°C 24.1 / 13.6°C 27.1 / 19.8°C 31.5 / 23.1°C
AUGUST 25.3 / 14.7°C 25 / 15.8°C 29.1 / 20°C 23.8 / 15°C 23 / 13.7°C 25.4 / 19.6°C 30.2 / 22.7°C
SEPTEMBER 23.4 / 11.7°C 23.1 / 15°C 27.5 / 19.1°C 22.6 / 14.2°C 21.6 / 12.1°C 24.7 / 19.4°C 30 / 21.9°C
OCTOBER 18.7 / 7.4°C 21.9 / 10.4°C 26.1 / 14.7°C 21.8 / 11.7°C 19.5 / 5.9°C 22.7 / 15.8°C 29.1 / 17.7°C
NOVEMBER 13.9 / 1.4°C 17.9 / 5°C 22.6 / 9.6°C 19.8 / 6.4°C 16.1 / -0.5°C 19.9 / 11.2°C 26.1 / 13.6°C
DECEMBER 11.2 / -1.7°C 14.5 / -1.1°C 19.1 / 6.3°C 18.2 / 2.5°C 12.3 / -2.3°C 17.7 / 9.5°C 23 / 11.6°C

Bhutan has four distinct seasons: Spring, Monsoon/Summer, Autumn and Winter. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit and travel to Bhutan (end of Feb till May) and (Sep till Nov). Summers are usually warm (avg. temperature ranging from 20-25 degrees Celsius), while winters are cold (usually below 10 degrees).  Bhutan can be visited all the year round! Even in the busy seasons it is not terribly crowded with tourists and naturally there are even fewer tourists in the off-peak seasons. One reason we recommend travel to Bhutan/ Bhutan Travel during the summer/monsoon season is for cost reasons. Since it’s considered the low season, you can save as much as 20% of your daily tariff! Furthermore, most of the time, you will have the whole place to yourself e.g. restaurants, hotels, sightseeing, so no sundry waitings at long queues. For example, during your visits to most places, you will be surprised that you may be the only guests in the entire hotel and can land yourself the best rooms with the best views they have on offer.

  1. Clothes, Travelling Kits and other Paraphernalia

As a Singaporean from 1 degree north of the equator on travel to Bhutan/ Bhutan Travel for the first time, from a country with an average elevation of 15 meters above sea level (Bukit Timah is your  highest point at 165m) to almost 3000m at most times, you may want to bring lots of warm clothes and comfortable shoes to negotiate with the variable cold weather and the rugged mountainous terrain. With high attitudinal variations, weather can be quite erratic in the cold sense in Bhutan. So please be prepared to brace the erratic weather as you venture outdoors.

You might even consider what to wear when hiking, trekking and sightseeing, as well as for dinners, appointments and functions. A pair of sunglasses, sunscreen lotion and a hat; antiseptic cream, anti diarrhea pills, altitude & car sickness medicines (induced by the winding roads); insect repellents, flash light, umbrella, camera and accessories etc. Visitors are expected to dress modestly and respectfully especially when visiting monasteries, Dzongs and religious institutions. As a mark of respect, please remove hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises and institutions or in any other place where the national flag is raised.

  1. Tobacco & Smoking

Tobacco-&-Smoking

It is against the law to sell or purchase cigarettes or tobacco products while travelling in Bhutan.  It is, however, not forbidden to smoke in appropriate areas. You may carry a small supply for personal use. Please note a 200% duty applies to all imported tobacco products and you must show a valid receipt of purchase to avoid confiscation.

The following are the allowances per person when entering Bhutan:

  • 1 liter bottle of spirits or wine (rigidly enforced)
  • 250 mls. of perfume
  • 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams tobacco. A 200% duty fee will apply to bring cigarettes and tobacco products into Bhutan. If you do not have your receipt, you will not be able to bring it into Bhutan.
  • Currency – no restriction
  • Gifts/Souvenirs – no restriction
  1. Communications & Internet

The country has a good network of modern communications facilities. Almost every town has an internet café and IDD calling booths from where you can log and connected to the world. You can also purchase a local SIM card that would give you connectivity outside the hotels or when you are traveling, if you want to. Bhutanese SIM cards are available at a SIM counter located in the post office (to the right of the terminal exit door) at Paro Airport. Here you can purchase and get assistance for activating your new SIM cards in your devices. The cost for the SIM is approximately US$2.00 plus call credits.

  1. Electricity

 Bhutan operates at 230 volts, 50 cycles AC system, which is generally reliable, although power outages can occur. The standard socket is the Indian-style round pin socket. We always suggest bringing a universal plug adaptor.

  1. Photography

Bhutan is an ideal place and a frequent haunt of photographers and offers immense opportunities for photography, especially during outdoor sightseeing trips. However on the other hand you may need to check with your guide for indoor photography as it’s not allowed inside Dzongs, temples and monasteries or religious institutions.

  1. Health Inoculations

Before embarking on a tour to Bhutan it’s advisable to have tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A inoculations.

  1. Safety Precautions

Bhutan still remains an extremely safe destination with an exceptionally low risk of theft or harassment. Foreign tourists are usually held in high esteem and respected. However we do recommend you to keep all cash & valuables either on your person or in your vehicle where they will be safely managed by your driver and tour guide whom you can trust implicitly. Please do not leave cash or valuables on display in hotel rooms. Your guide and driver can be your best safety advisors.

  1. Some useful words in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan

Kuzuzangpo La –  Respected Greetings.
Tashi Delek – May all good things come to you. (please use this as a farewell)
Kardenche La – Thank you.
Goempa – Meditation Centre.
Lhakhang – Temple.
Chapsa – Toilet.
Chuu – Water.
Bang Chhang – Rice Wine

Toh – Food/Rice

Our guide can even arrange a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse visit for you, wherein you can get to see and experience exactly how the local people lead their daily lives through self-subsistence farming and with the bare basic amenities; where you can blend yourself with the real Bhutanese way of living. Sitting cross legged on the floor of a traditional kitchen to have dinner can be quite an experience. It can indeed be an eye-opening experience for someone on travel to Bhutan from Singapore. Seeing exhibits at grandiose museums is one thing but experiencing the Bhutanese culture and tradition first hand in the true Bhutanese sense and at real time, can be quite another!

So an opportunity to travel to Bhutan, considered a “special destination” by even the most privileged travelers, can be the experience of a lifetime. Bhutan is often described as the last Shangri-la on earth, and this holds true in many ways than one.  It’s a secluded location, so secure and pristine in her own domain and is still a magical kingdom of the past in many ways. Preservation efforts have shielded many from visiting this jewel of the Himalayas. Bhutan opened its doors to tourism in 1974, with the number for tourists kept to an alarmingly low and at an environmentally sustainable level through government structured tourist regulations. We at Yak Holidays Int’l, make our best efforts to see that your tour to Bhutan/Bhutan Travel from Singapore translates and manifests itself into a very successful and memorable one. The Bhutan experience and takeaways you will share with friends and relatives will be bestsellers, that’s for sure.

Welcome to Bhutan!!

Dee & Martin Visit to Bhutan

Dee and Martin David visited Bhutan from 10th Nov to 18th Nov, 2016

Dear Sithar and Bhim,

Greetings from England

It was very good to meet you both the other day and we thank you for the kind gift of the book on Bhutan, it has pride of place on our coffee table in our lounge and has already been admired by family and friends.

We would also like to thank you very much for the excellent arrangements that made our tour so very memorable. It is the first time we have arranged this type of holiday directly with a tour operator in the country we are visiting, however you not only made it very easy, the communication was always clear, concise and timely. This gave us great confidence and we loved the flexibility in putting the itinerary together.

I know originally we were going to fly back from Bumthang to Paro but flights were not available because of the festival. We are really glad this was the case in the end as it gave us more time to spend with Lal and Dawa and it would have been an anticlimax to part in Bumthang.

Both Lal and Dawa are a credit to Yak holidays, they made the trip very special and even the long drives were filled with laughter and didn’t seem long at all. We have made 2 friends there and are keeping in touch.

Dowa’s driving was very safe and comfortable and at the same time we made good progress. We very much appreciate Lal’s guiding skills and know we got to do and see more than many other tourists.

We were treated as friends, not just guests, at every hotel both Lal and Dawa ensured we had the best possible room and ensured we were settled in before they left us. Lal briefed us both each evening and first thing the following morning ensuring we were happy and to discuss anything we wanted to see or buy during the trip.

We appreciate the hard work by all at Yak holidays, many thanks from us both.

Kind regards

Martin and Dee

gross national happiness bhutan

Gross National Happiness

GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS: Bhutan abounds in monasteries, prayer flags and scenic beauty. And the outside world wasn’t aware of this until five decades ago. It was only in the 60s that Bhutan opened its doors to the outside world after centuries of isolation.

Ever since, it has gained an almost mythical status as a real-life Shangri La and generated a lot of curiosity around the world largely for its developmental philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Bhutan is the only country that has rejected GDP as the one and only way to measure progress. In place of it, it has championed a new approach to development that is guided by the philosophy of GNH. Envisioned by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the developmental philosophy simply strives to balance material growth with mental and spiritual enrichment within a stable environment.

In short, GNH suggests that happiness is the ultimate objective of development. And because it recognizes that there are many dimensions to development other than those associated with GDP, development needs to be understood as a process that seeks to maximize happiness rather than just economic growth.

To explain it in a nutshell, GNH focuses on four pillars, namely: Sustainable and equitable economic development, Conservation of the environment, Preservation and promotion of culture and, Good governance. This very essence is based on the principle that true development takes place only when material, emotional and spiritual well-being occur side by side to complement and support each other to promote development, environmental sustainability, cultural integrity, and good governance.

Conventional approaches to development tend to focus only on the means, in the belief that an increase in GDP will automatically result in the attainment of happiness. However, this may not be the case. As we have witnessed, such approaches have not been able to avoid the unintended consequences of irreversible damage to the environment and to cultures.  Not only are countries continuously destroying the ecosystem services that form earth’s life support system, they are pursuing material gains and economic growth at the cost of human security.

Therefore, for a holistic growth of the individual and society, the Bhutanese believe it is essential that development achieves a sustainable balance between the economy, and the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural needs of the people. This has led to the objective of viewing development as a continuous process towards achieving a balance between the material and intangible needs of individuals and society.

In a world beset by collapsing financial systems, gross inequality and wide-scale environmental destruction, Bhutan’s developmental approach is attracting a lot of interest. In 2010, the United Nations adopted Bhutan’s call for a holistic approach to development – a move endorsed by almost 70 countries, and included happiness as the Ninth Millennium Development goal. A UN panel was also formed to consider replicating Bhutan’s GNH model across the globe.

Attractions in Thimphu

Attractions in Thimphu

Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, sprawls along a valley at an altitude of 2,300 meters. In 1961, Thimphu replaced Punakha as the capital. It is estimated that about 100,000 people reside in Thimphu making it is the most populated Dzongkhag in the country. Thimphu is a mixture of residents from all over the country as Thimphu is the center of government, religion and commerce.

The city is unique. After Pyongyang, North Korea, Thimphu is the only other national capital in the world with no traffic lights. Small and secluded, the city is quiet and the traffic jams are hardly a thing of concern. There is so much to see in Thimphu that you can spend several days here. The proximity of many of the sights makes it possible and easier to travel in the town on foot and provide you with the chance of observing the culture and the Bhutanese way of life. Unlike many modern cities, Thimphu has kept a strong national character in its architectural style.


Memorial Chorten

This chorten was built in 1974 in the memory of the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The paintings and Images inside the monument provide a very rare insight into Buddhist philosophy. The National Memorial Chorten is situated near the Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital, next to the Jangchhub Lam. It is a good place to visit in the evenings when the chorten is crowded with people doing koras (rounds) of the Chorten for their religious beliefs, while some come for the healthy brisk walk.


Tashichho Dzong

The Tashichhodzong is the largest dzong in Bhutan and is situated near the Wang Chu River. The Dzong which was initially built in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, was rebuilt in early 1960s by the third King, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, as the permanent capital of Bhutan. It houses the secretariat and the throne room of the King of Bhutan. It is also the headquarters of the clergy in the capital along with being the summer quarters of the monk body and the Je Khenpo, the spiritual leader and head of the monk body. The dzong is open to visitors during the Thimphu tshechu.


Simtokha Dzong

The foundation of the dzong was laid in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and was built by Tango Chhoje Mipham Tshweang Tenzin. It was completed in 1631, making it the first dzong ever built in Bhutan.  It was rebuilt in 2008, with great emphasis on retaining the original architectural structure intact. At present, it is used as the Royal Institute of Dzongkha Language where Buddhist studies are conducted.

It nestles on a lofty ridge about six kilometers south of Thimphu.


The National Library

Built in the 1960s, the library is located in Chubachu above the golf course and was established to preserve the literary treasures of the Kingdom. The library has a vast collection that includes thousands of manuscripts and ancient texts of Bhutan along with other foreign books. The largest book in the world about Bhutan is also on display.


Indigenous Hospital

Bhutan was once known as Lho jong men jong, literally the ‘’southern country of medicinal herbs’’, as Bhutan has an abundance of medicinal herbs. In an attempt to preserve the rich culture and tradition and for the welfare of the people, an indigenous dispensary was opened on 28 June, 1968 at Dechencholing. In 1979 it was upgraded as the National Indigenous Hospital and was shifted to Kawajangsa. In 1988 it was renamed as the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. In 1998, it was upgraded as the Institute of Traditional Medicine Services. In the institute patients are treated using the various traditional medicines and age old methods. The Institute also imparts the art of herbal medicines to students.


Zorig Chusum, School of 13 Traditional Arts

The school was established in 1971 to preserve the 13 traditional arts of Bhutan. The Zorig Chusum which literally means the 13 arts, includes paintings, carpentry, wood carving, sculpture, casting, metal work, bamboo carving, gold and silver work, weaving, embroidery, masonry, leather work and paper making. However, at the school only seven of the 13 are undertaken. It is located above the National Library and is open to visitors interested in observing Bhutanese traditional art. There is also a small gift shop selling the art work of the students.


The Centenary Farmer’s Market

Thimphu’s weekend market is the biggest market in the country, operating from Friday afternoon till Sunday. A wide range of agricultural produce and other food products from Thimphu and other parts of the country are brought here for trading. A variety of local arts and crafts are also sold at the market. Prices are inflated on Fridays as the vegetables are fresh and as Sunday approaches the prices usually come down. Chilies are the most common of the vegetables sold and one can witness the wide range of in the market.


The Textile and Folk Heritage Museum

Both the museums, opened in 2001, are dedicated to the traditions and lifestyle of Bhutanese. While the Textile Museum beautifully displays the Bhutanese garments from the 1600s up to the present, the Folk Heritage Museum delves into portraying the daily life of the rural folk and allows you to examine a traditional Bhutanese home.


Zangtopelri Lhakhang

Zangtopelri temple is located next to the Changlimithang Stadium. It is thought of as one of the sacred passes to heaven according to the sacred books of Guru Rinpoche.  Renovated in 1960s, the temple possesses some impressive murals and art treasures. The site was a former battleground in 1885 that was crucial in proving the political supremacy of Sir Ugyen Wangchuck, the first hereditary king of Bhutan. Therefore, the temple was built to appease all kinds of evil.


Takin Preserve

This unique animal, with an appearance between a cow and a goat, is the national animal of Bhutan. There are a number of Takins in the zoo which is located in a serene, natural environment in Upper Motithang. The walking pavement all around the area offers a tranquil leisurely walk. Legend has it that the animal was created by the great Buddhist yogi, Drukpa Kinley.


Changangkha Lhakhang

Constructed in the 15th century, the lhakhang is considered as one of the oldest temples in Thimphu. Only a few minutes of walk up from the road, it offers a magnificent view of the city below. The main chamber of the monastery houses the graven image of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion.


Tango Monastery

Tango Goemba, founded by the grandson of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kinley, is one of Bhutan’s historical monasteries in the Kagyu tradition. It is a 40-minute drive from Thimphu towards Begana, then a one hour hike up the hill. It houses some important relics related to the Kagyu tradition. The visitor can also enjoy spectacular views from the monastery.


Cheri Monastery

Cheri Goemba is said to be the first Drukpa Kagyu Monastery in Bhutan. A steep climb of about 40 minutes, the monastery is located on the hill opposite Tango monastery. It is also the place where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is said have gained enlightenment.


Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden is located in Serbithang, about a 10 km drive south of the city. The lush garden covers the hillside offering a peaceful and relaxing environment. It is a paradise for plant enthusiasts as there are wide varieties of indigenous trees, flowers and herbs. The garden also serves as a terrific picnic spot.


Coronation Park

Coronation Park is located below the Changlimithang stadium on the bank of Thimphu River. With the area covering over five acres, the park offers a quiet and relaxing environment. Visitors can either stroll through the park or sit and watch the river flow. One section of the park is devoted as a fun area for kids.


Handicrafts

There are several handicraft shops in Thimphu offering various selections of hand-woven and crafted products. Visitors will find beautiful weaves in wool, silk, cotton and basketwork. Thangkas and other traditional crafts are also available, including Bhutanese antiques and various souvenirs. There are also special selection of books on Buddhism and modern English writings by Bhutanese authors.


Phajoding Monastery

Founded in the 13th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, a yogi from Tibet, this monastic complex is about a four hour hike from Motithang or the BBS Tower. The area is famous for its sacred spring water. There are also several sacred lakes, which is a full day’s circular hike. Located at a height of over 3,600 meters, the view of the Thimphu city is spectacular. There are also beautiful locations ideal for camping.


Zilukha Nunnery

Also called Drubthob goemba, is one of the few nunneries in Bhutan. Located in Zilukha on a high hill above Tashichhodzong, it houses over 70 nuns. The name Drubthob is of Thangthong Gyalpo, popularly known for building iron bridges during the 15th century. One of his later reincarnations founded the nunnery.


Thimphu Golf Course

Stretching about 2,800 yards, a par 33 golf course is deemed very challenging by golf enthusiasts. The course is well set up with many obstacles like trees, uneven grass and man-made water pools. Along with the game, players can also enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding valleys with Tashichhodzong right beside the course. There is a clean and homely restaurant where visitors can take a break and also savor some varied local dishes.


Dochu-la

Dochu-la is the first mountain pass in the western part of Bhutan under Thimphu District. The ridges are clad with thousands of colorful prayer flags further levitated by the 108 Druk Wangyal chortens, providing a spectacular view. On the hill top stands the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang overseeing the whole pass. On a clear day, the panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range are simply breathtaking.

 

The History of Tsechus

The History of Tsechus

The great Nyingmapa scholar, Padmasambhava (the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism) visited Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th and 9th century. He used to convert opponents of Buddhism by performing rites, reciting mantras and finally performing a dance of subjugation to conquer local spirits and gods. He visited Bhutan to aid the dying king Sindhu Raja. Padmasambhava performed a series of such dances in the Bumthang valley to restore the king’s health – and the grateful king then helped spread Buddhism in Bhutan. Padmasambhava organized the first tsechu in Bumthang, where the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava being the human form) were presented through eight forms of dances. These became the Chams (dances) depicting the glory of Padmasambhava. The Chams were composed mainly to convey religious messages to the people.

Some were composed by Guru Rimpoche while others were created by Tertoen Pema Lingpa, Zhabdrung Rimpoche and other great saints. During the mask dances, the deities of the tantric teachings are invoked and through their power and blessings, misfortunes are removed. All evil spirits and demons that are preventing the spread of Chhoe “The Doctrine” are suppressed, so that the doctrine of Lord Buddha can flourish and bring joy and happiness to all sentient beings.

Below is a list of Tshechus that take place in Bhutan.


THIMPHU DRUBCHEN AND TSHECHU

The eleven-day annual Lhamoi Drupchen, a rite performed to appease the protecting deity Pelden Lhamo (Mahakali), is held from September 12 to 16. Pelden Lhamo (whose name translates as “Glorious Goddess”) is the only female dharma protector common to all four schools of Buddhism and one of the three main protecting deities of Bhutan.

The clergy performs a three-day rite for the Thimphu Domchoe while the Lham Tsomo dance, a highlight of the Thimphu Domchoe festival, is performed in the large courtyard at the Tashichhodzong.

The Drupchen was instituted sometime between 1705 and 1709 by Kuenga Gyaltshen, the first reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, the son of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. According to legend, Pelden Lhamo appeared before him and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyeltshen initiated the Drupchhen.

According to the tradition of Lama Gongdue the annual Thimphu Tshechu was introduced in 1670 on the eighth month of the Bhutanese calendar during the reign of the fourth Desi, Tenzin Rabgye (1638-1696). The annual Thimphu Tshechu will take place over four day’s form September 17 to 19, to commemorate the anniversary of Guru Rinpoche. From the time of Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye, based on various relevant biographies and autobiographies of saints and rulers of the past, compassionate mask dances in the form of peaceful and wrathful figures of most Ter-chams (sacred dances) have been composed and are presented for the well-being of those who attend the occasion.


PARO TSHECHU

Paro Tsechu is the most popular in Bhutan with its unique unfurling of the world’s biggest Thangka or Thongdrel ceremony. The pageantry is a unique experience and quite unlike anything you have ever seen before

The festival commemorates the deeds of the great saint Guru Rimpoche which are performed in the form of masked dances. The local people attend the festival to gain merit. It is also a festive time and people come dressed-up in their finest colourful costumes to socialize and make merry. This is not an event organized for tourists; it is an event that has been happening for centuries. “You may get the attention of the Atchara (clown), but people won’t stare at you like elsewhere.’’

Events inside Paro Rinpung Dzong commence with monks performing Shingje Yab Yum, the dance of the Lord of Death (Shingje) and his consort.

This is followed by Durdag, the dance of the lords of the cremation grounds; then Shanag, dance of the black hats, Drametse Ngacham, the dance of the drum from Drametse, De Gye Mang cham, the dance of the eight kinds of spirits, and finally Chhoeshey, a religious song.

Intermingled within these sacred dances, are also Zhungdra and Boedra dances performed by the Dzongkhag’s dancers.


PUNAKHA DRUBCHEN AND TSHECHU

The Punakha Drubchen is an annual festival introduced by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victories over the Tibetans. During the festival, the ‘Pazaps’ or local militia men, dress in battle gear and showcase a battle scene of this distant past recalling the days, when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens  -or great village blocks of Thimpu – came forward and managed to expel the Tibetan forces out of Bhutan ushering in a new-found internal peace and stability.

As for the Punakha Tshechu, it was started by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley in 2005, on the request made by Punakha District Administration and people for upholding the Buddhist teachings and keeping alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.

The Dromche (festival) generally include dances and this festival is dedicated to Yeshe Gompo (Mahakala) or Palden Lhamo, the two main protective deities of Drukpas (Drukpas = means people of Druk land or Bhutanese). The Punakha Dromche takes place in the first month of the lunar year and ends with the ‘Serda’, a magnificent procession which re-enacts an episode of the war against the Tibetans in the 17th century.

The religious dances performed during festival are called ‘Cham’ and there are a large number of them. Dancers wear spectacular costumes made of yellow silk or rich brocade, often decorated with ornaments of carved bone. For certain dances, they wear masks which may represent animals, fearsome deities, skulls or just simple human beings. These dances can be grouped in three categories; (I) Instructive or Didactic Dances, (II) Dances that purify and protect a place from demonic spirits, and (III) Dances that proclaim the victory of Buddhism.

The Thongdroel unveiled during this festival is of enormous significance. Measuring 83ft x 93 ft, the Punakha Thongdrol (a painted religious scroll) is the largest ever made. Composed entirely of appliqué on more than 6,000 meters of silk brocade, it took 51 artists, two years to complete. Depicting 20 of the greatest gurus and sages around the central figure of Shabdrung, the top half of the Thongdroel is devoted to the 11 manifestations of Shabdrung’s lineage. The bottom half depicts Bhutan’s spiritual leaders including the current Je Khenpo (chief abbot).


Trashigang Tshechu

Dance and music play a very important part in the cultural life of Bhutanese people. Each village and community has a rich tradition of dance that marks the passing seasons, communal occasions and shared experiences. The Trashigang Tsechu is performed in the winter months. Many people gather at the Trashigang dzong to witness the Tsechu. People from Marak and Sakten with their unique costumes can also be seen during the Trashigang Tsechu. Many tourists also visit this festival and it is an excellent time to mingle with the people from eastern Bhutan.

Another remarkable tshechu in Tashigang is the Kholong tshechu, which begins in Yonphu, Kanglung gewog, on November 23. This tshechu draws plenty of attention not because it is one of the oldest in the east, but because of its name. Kholong, a literal translation from Sharchopkha, means a ‘fight’. So a precise interpretation would be the “fighting tshechu”.

As such it is not surprising to find people wondering if there are going to be fight competitions during the tshechu


Bumthang – Jambay Lhakhang Drup

The festival is held for duel reasons; to commemorate the establishment of the Jambay Lhakhang (temple) in 7th century and to honor Guru Rimpoche, a saint who introduced a Tantric form of Buddhism in Bhutan. A variety of traditional and mask dances are performed and each dance has a specific meaning and importance.

This festival is one of the most important in Bhutan and the highlight is the ‘Mewang” – the fire ceremony and the “Tercham” – a religious dance. A fire dance is held in the evening to bless infertile women so that they may bear children. The festival dances were composed mostly by Terton Pema Lingpa, the great treasure discoverer of the 15th century.

The first evening’s program begins around 7pm, with the “Jinsi” the burning of the sacred fire, Shana Cham with Ging Cham, Tseking Karna, Tshok Cham and Mewang (the sacred fire ceremony).

Day two of the festival begins around 9.30am with a “chipdrel” traditional reception. The Astara (clown) welcomes the audience and the marchang ceremony. Shinji Yab Yum is the first mask dance of the ceremony followed by Youelem Peling Ging Sum – Driging, Juging, Ngaging Durda Cham and then takes break for lunch around 1pm. After lunch the dances resume and Jachung ends the day with the Boechung dance Pacham.

The third day of the festival begins with the Atsara (clown) dance Dola Pangtoy, Shazam, Shana Phurcham with Durda and Shana Ngacham. After lunch the festival resumes beginning with the Ging and Tsholing Cham (the dance of the sacred war between the Gods and the Demons), Tsecho Gingcham (Tercham), Damitse Ngacham (the famous drum beat dance originating from Dramitse) and Pholey Moley Cham.

The final day begins with the Chungtsam Cham, Gicham, Dorling Ngacham (Tercham of Terchen Dorjilingpa), Raksha Gocham, Raksha Mangcham (this dance symbolizes life after death, at the court of the Lord of the Dead), and ends the festival of Jambay Lhakhang with the  Ten Wang (Blessings from the sacred statue of Terton Dorjilingpa) .


Domkhar Festivals

The Domkhar Festival in Chumey valley in Bumthang district was established by lam Kuenkhen Longchen Rabjam in the 16th Century. Longchen Rabjam (1308-63), a pre-eminent the scholar of Dranang, Tibet was revered as the great redactor and dexographer of Nyingma teaching. He promoted the special teaching of Dzongpo Chenpo (great perfection). Towards the end of his life, he founded eight monasteries throughout the country. The festival is observed every year from April 23-25 at Domkhar village temple.


Jakar Festival

The festival is held inside the Jakar dzong. It is a relatively new festival organized by the Jakar monastic body and lasts for five days from October 15-18, during the nine month of Bhutanese lunar calendar.


Tangsibi Mani

Tangsibi is a village near Ura valley in the Bumthang district. The festival is held in the small village temple starting from September 22- 24.

National Symbol of Bhutan

Know what sets Bhutan apart as a tourist destination

First of all, it is important to know what sets Bhutan apart as a tourist destination. Many people, including those working in the tourism industry think that it is the untouched natural scenery and our culture that sets Bhutan apart from other tourist destinations. They are only partially right. There are many places on earth which surpass Bhutan by far in terms of natural beauty. And culture, every country and region has one. What really sets Bhutan apart from other countries is the atmosphere of peace and tranquility heightened by the Bhutanese people’s warmth and their general sense of being at ease with themselves.

Sogyal Rinpoche described that when he was in Bhutan he felt like he used to feel when he was in the presence of his Masters like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Although it may be hard to describe it exactly, many visitors express such a feeling. A Lonely Planet travel forum poster wrote, “I recently returned from an absolutely incredible and life changing trip to Bhutan (I don’t use those words lightly)…..Nepal was quite high on my list of destinations, but after Bhutan I am cautious.  …  I’m a bit afraid that the cultural, spiritual and environmental purity of the people and country combined with my lack of seeing other visitors set the bar a bit too high. Don’t get me wrong, Bhutan is not perfect – but the Shangrila effect was much greater than I anticipated being even possible.” In addition, a Japanese friend who visited Bhutan in 2009 told me one of the things he found different in Bhutan was that  no souvenir vendors chased him shouting “ten dollars, ten dollars” in Bhutan.

If we lose this atmosphere peace, tranquility and warmth, Bhutan will lose the competitive edge it enjoys as a high-end tourist destination.

Below are some basic facts about Bhutan for the discerning visitor

National Bird

Bhutan National Bird RavenThe Raven (Corvus Corax Tibetanus) represents one of the most powerful deities of the country, Jarog Dongchen, hence the local name Jarog. Jarog Dongchen, along with Yeshey Gonpo (Mahakala) and Palden Lhamo (Mahakali) form the Divine Trinity and protects the King and the people of Bhutan from harm and safeguards their well-being. Therefore, the Raven holds a significant and permanent place on the Royal Crown, also interpreting reverence for the bird and faith in the protective deity.


National Tree

Cypress - Bhutan National TreeThe Cypress (Cupressus Torulosa) is known as Tsenden shing to the Bhutanese. An evergreen tree revered as sacred, its branches and needle-shaped leaves are used as incense. Apart from the natural forests, cypress is also found planted outside Dzongs, monasteries and religious surroundings. The wood, being hard, durable and resistant to termites and insects, holds a humble place in Bhutanese sentiment.


National Animal

Takin - Bhutan National AnimalTakin (Burdocas Taxicolor) is locally known as the Drong Gyem tse. The Takin was selected as the national animal for its uniqueness and association to the religious myth that surrounds its origin. It is believed that Lam Drukpa Kuenley created it by sticking a goat’s head on to the body of a cow. Takins live in herds at a high altitude of 4,000 meters.


National Flag

Bhutan National FlagThe national flag of Bhutan is divided diagonally with a white Dragon in the center. The upper diagonal section is colored yellow representing temporal power and the secular authority of the Monarchy.  The lower section is orange and represents the spiritual power of Drukpa Kagyupa religion. The white color of the Dragon stands for peace. Its snarling mouth symbolizes the protection of the country and the people from worldly evils. The Dragon, clutching the Bhutanese symbol of jewels in its claws, represents the country’s wealth and prosperity.


National flower

Blue Poppy- Bhutan National FlowerBlue poppy (Meconopsis Grandis) grows on the rocky terrain above the tree line, which ranges from 3,500 to 4,000 meters. It is locally known as Eugelma Metog Hoem. In times past people considered the Blue poppy to be part of a myth as its existence was not confirmed. It was first discovered in Bhutan by a British botanist, George Sheriff, in 1933 in the remote mountain region in Sakteng.


National Game

Archary - Bhutan National SportsArchery (or Dha) is a well-loved sport throughout Bhutan. Traditionally, bows and arrows were made of bamboos. The players are always men, and women participate in traditional dancing and singing to encourage (or put off) the archers. The two competing teams, wearing traditional dresses, pursue highest number of hits at the wooden targets that are placed 140 meters apart. If the player makes a hit his team mates rejoice by dancing and singing. The opponents are often critiqued and made fun of. The number of hits is depicted by the number of colored scarves around the players’ waists.

 

Chorten Kora and Namgang Kora

Chorten Kora and Namgang Kora

There is an annual Dakpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Dakpas) festival held on the 15th of the first lunar month, and a Drukpa Kora (circumambulation of the Chorten by the Bhutanese) festival held at the end of the first lunar month, which celebrates the stupa. These festivals are attended by Dakpa people of the neighboring Tawang District of Arunachal Pradesh in India, and Bhutanese from Tashiyangtse, Tashigang, and Kurtoe.

A popular belief is that when the stupa was constructed, a pious Dakini princess from neighboring Arunachal Pradesh in India entombed herself within, as the Yeshe Semba, to meditate on behalf of all beings. A popular Bhutanese (Dzongkha language) film “Chorten Kora” is based on this legend.

Devotees from Tawang in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh joi their Bhutanese counterparts in the Namgang Kora, one of eastern Bhutan’s oldest religious festivals, which is held annually at the Chorten Kora, Trashiyangtse.

 The biggest religious event in the Dzongkhag, the Namgang Kora (circumambulating the Chorten on the last day of the auspicious first month) is preceded by the Tse-Chenga Kora, a similar celebration on the 15th day of the first month of the Bhutanese calendar.

Lam Dorji of Rigsum Goenpa who organizes the festival, said that the tradition of circumambulation began after the present chorten was built by Lam Ngawang Lotey, the nephew of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The physical structure of the chorten was copied from the Bodi Chorten in Nepal.

Once a deeply spiritual tradition, the event today has been commercialized and diluted, according to devotees. With hundreds of shops set up in huts and tents, Chorten Kora appears more like a bustling fair than a spiritual venue.

This year one of the main attractions at the festival has been the five video parlors run by diesel generators that screen three to four of films a day. Food and game stalls, cloth show rooms, diverse wares both made locally and imported line the way to the Chorten.

Language in Bhutan

Dzongkha – The National Language of Bhutan

Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. The word Dzongkha means the language (Kha) spoken in the Dzong. Dzongs are the fortresses established throughout the kingdom by Zabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century.

Although there are over 18 languages in Bhutan that belong to the Tibeto-Burman group and Lhotsamkha (Nepali)  – Indo-Aryan group, the lingua franca of Bhutan is Dzongkha which is the native language of Bhutan.


Origin

Written Dzongkha follows a script similar to Tibetan and consists of 30 consonants and four vowels. The modern Dzongkha writing uses the alphabet system first introduced by Thonmi Sambhota. He was the son of Anu of the Thonmi clan from central Tibet; Sambhota was a minister of the religious Tibetan King Songtsen Gambo.

After mastering linguistics in India, Sambhota returned to Tibet and introduced the Tibetan alphabet system which comprises 30 consonants and four vowels. The sound system and the structure of the alphabets were based on Devangiri, a script used for many modern and older languages of India, including Sanskrit, Hindi and Nepali. Although the writing system of modern Dzongkha namely Jogyig was brought to Bhutan by Dematsema on the invitation of Sindhu Raja, the origin of the Bhutanese alphabet has to be traced back to Sambhota.


Script

Dzongkha consists of 30 consonants termed as Selje Sumchu. These are used in combination with prefixes, suffixes and post suffixes. The words are formed with characters which are sub-joint and surmounted on the basic letter. Thus a simple word in Dzongkha may look complex with sub-joints, surmounts, prefixes and suffixes.


Spoken Dzongkha

Written Dzongkha may be similar to Tibetan but spoken Dzongkha is very different. Spoken Dzongkha consists of various articulations and is relatively easy to learn, speak and follow. Dzongkha has limited vocabulary and many modern words are still being introduced and some are still made up by a combination of terms. The separate honorific vocabulary exists for use in respect with the elders, for example the Dzongkha verb ‘to speak’ when used with people with same status is Lap where as when used in reference with elders it would change to Zhu.


Conversational Dzongkha

Like many other languages of the region, Bhutan too has many dialects depending on the region in which they are spoken. The difference is very minimal and can be understood. As the language is still developing, the vocabulary is limited and influenced by a combination of terms. There is an increasing trend of usage of English with Dzongkha in day to day conversation as the mixing of languages is easy to speak and understand.


Conclusion

Dzongkha is a developing language and the Dzongkha Development Commission is the body which is implementing the language policy and making it more user friendly through many projects like dictionaries and glossary of terms and computer fonts.

Examples of conversational Dzongkha:

Hello: Kuzuzangpo la

Welcome: Joen pa leg so

How are you? Ga day bay zhu yoe ga?

I am fine: Nga leg shom bay rang yoey

Good wishes: Tashi Delek!

Thank you: Kadrinche la

 

bluepine

Biodiversity in Bhutan

bluepine

  1. A brief background:

Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas with total land area of 38,394 square kilometers.

Though the country is small, Bhutan has world’s most rugged topography that varies from 100 meters in the south to over 7,500 meters above sea levels in the north thereby bestowing Bhutan with outstanding landscapes of natural environment and biodiversity both rich and diverse. Today global community recognizes Bhutan as one of the 10th Global Biodiversity Hotspot.

A few facts about biodiversity of Bhutan as per information provided in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan 2014 are specified below:

  1. Biodiversity
    • Ecosystem diversity:
      • Forest Ecosystem: The country is divided into three eco-floristic zones with different forests types:
        • Alpine zone (4,000+masl): Alpine meadows and scrubs forests
        • Temperate zone 2,000-4000masl): Fir Forests (3,000+masl), Mixed Conifer Forests (2,500 – 3.500masl), Blue pine forests (1,500-3,200masl), broadleaf mixed with conifer forests (2,000-2,500masl).
        • Sub-tropical zone ( 150-2,000 masl): Broad leaf forests (1,000-2,000masl), Chir pine forests (700-2,000masl), Tropical lowland forests (<700masl).
        • Aquatic Ecosystem: The aquatic ecosystems of Bhutan consist mainly of rivers, lakes, marshlands and hot springs.
        • Agricultural Ecosystem: Bhutan has six agro-ecological zones which includes Alpine (3600-4600 masl), Cool Temperate (2600-3600 masl), Warm Temperate (1800-2600 masl), Dry sub-tropical (1200-1800 masl), Humid sub-tropical (600-1200 masl) and Wet sub-tropical (150-600)
      • Species diversity:

Some figures on species diversity as recorded in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan are:

  • Wild flora:
  • biodiversityVascular plants: over 5600 species of which about 105 species are endemic to Bhutan.
  • Pteridophytes: Over 410 species.
  • Mushroom: Over 90 species
    • Wild Fauna
  • Mammals: over 200 species of which 27 species are globally threatened: eg Golden Langur, Snow Leopart, Takin, Bengal Tiger, Black naked crane, red panda etc.
  • avefaunaAvefauna: Over 678 species of which 14 species are globally threatened.
  • Invertebrates (Butterlfly: About 140 out of estimated 800-900 species identified
  • Fish: over 50 species
    • Domesticated flora/Agricultural crops:

biodiversity-in-bhutanThere are wide levels of domesticated floral diversity encompassing ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity. There are over 100 species that are cultivated in Bhutan which can be further divided into numerous varieties within species that are rich, diverse and unique. Important crops are rice, maize, wheat, buckwheat, barley, millets, legumes, oilseeds, all kinds of vegetables and fruits.

 

 

  • Domesticated Fauna/Livestock diversity.
  • Yak: 2 major categories
  • Cattle: Nublang/Siri
  • Horse: Yutha, Byotha, Jatha
  • Pig: Sapha, Domphaetc
  • Poultry: different strains
  • Sheep: 3 (Saktenpa, Jakar and Sibsoo type)
  1. Bhutan for Biodiversity:

Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has entered into 20th century with biodiversity intact. This is due to various enabling factors and strong legal instruments that are in place to protect biodiversity in the country. These includes:

  • A far sighted visionary leadership of our kings. “Throughout the centuries, the Bhutanese have treasured their natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered us into the twentieth century with our environment still richly intact. We wish to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to our future generations.”- His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
  • A unique GNH philosophy of socio-economic development where in environment preservation is one of the four pillars of GNH. This ensures that development is never achieved at the cost of the environment.
  • Constitution of Bhutan as Bhutan is only the country in the world where its constitution mandates 60% of its forest for all times to come.
  • Strong conservation ethics and religious practices of the Bhutanese people living in harmony with nature.
  • Many policy documents and action plans are in place which includes ‘Vision 2020’ for sustainable development, ‘robust Biodiversity Action Plans’ which is a guiding documents on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use across all sectors.
  1. Visit Bhutan to witness unique biodiversity

Bhutan is unique country with rich and diverse flora and fauna. Bhutan is a unique country with very strong commitment for conservation of biodiversity. Bhutan is a unique country with astonishing natural beauty with 72% forest cover. Bhutan is a unique country with carbon neutral policy. Therefore, do not delay in witnessing this world heritage of wild flora, wild fauna, domesticated flora and domesticated fauna in Bhutan with Yak Holidays Int’l.

 

Visit Bhutan William & Kate style

Ms. Isabella  Ratchford Caravaggio, 21 yr. old solo traveler from Italy travelled to Bhutan (5th – 8th August). She hiked to the famous Taktsang Monastery the Kate & William style.

Visit_Bhutan_willim_&_kate_Style