Landlocked between the India and China, Bhutan is a tiny little country that lives on the lap of the Himalayan ranges. This mountain kingdom lives in perfect harmony with nature and is among the happiest countries on earth. Here are some mind-blowing facts about Bhutan that you gotta know.
1. Bhutanese Flag
Bhutan is also known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” because the sound of thunder in the valleys is believed to be the sound of Dragons. The Bhutanese flag depicts a dragon grasping four jewels, which symbolizes the wealth of the country. Initially green, the dragon is now white in color, representing purity and loyalty. The yellow represents the royalty of the King of Bhutan and the reddish-orange denotes the two major sects of Buddhism prevalent in the kingdom.
2. Language in Bhutan
The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, in which, ‘Dzong’ stands for fortress and ‘Kha’ means language. It has a set of vocabulary where new words are added constantly. Other than this, there are nineteen dialects spoken in the country.
3. Bhutanese Homes and Architecture
A lot of areas in Bhutan follow the ancient style of architecture with slanted roofs. The western region prefers to use mud to build its walls whereas the central and the eastern region favors the use of stones. Important raw materials would also include different varieties of bamboos. The country tries to maintain uniformity in its architecture, hence, most of the houses have smaller windows on the first floor and the size gradually increases as we go up. There are no iron bars and nails used to build the houses because of their strict beliefs in Buddhism.
4. Bhutan Tourism
The government of Bhutan is aware of the environmental effects of the tourist venture. Therefore, they limit the number of tourists entering the country each year. Travelers need to fulfill all the strict requirements to enter the country. Travelers must be with an approved tour operator. They take high tariffs which consequently lowers the ingress of the tourists.
5. Bhutanese Currency
Bhutan’s official currency is Ngultrum. However, Indians can use their Indian currency except for the 2000rs note due to the high currency forgery. The code for the same is BTN and the symbol is Nu.
Conversion : 1 Nu = 1 INR/ 0.013 USD
6. The Royal Family of Bhutan
This is the royal family of Bhutan. It comprises the coolest king and queen namely Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Jetsun Pema respectively.
This is what the Bhutanese king had to say about Jetsun Pema in a Parliamentary speech on 20 May 2011 while breaking the news of their engagement :
“Now, many will have their own idea of what a Queen should be like—that she should be uniquely beautiful, intelligent and graceful. I think with experience and time, one can grow into a dynamic person in any walk of life with the right effort. For the Queen, what is most important is that at all times, as an individual she must be a good human being…
And true enough, this beauty with brains was awarded the United Nations Population Award in the individual category for 2020 for her work on ending gender violence.
The king ascended the throne in his twenties and had his first son in 2016. They recently had a second child.
7. Gross Happiness Index in Bhutan
Bhutan lays greater emphasis on its GNH (Gross National Happiness) rather than its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). According to OPHI, 40.8% of people in Bhutan have achieved what it calls to be happy. It continues to be ranked as the happiest country in Asia and ranks 8th in the world. The country with welfare provisions has the coolest kings and queens in the world who are strong advocates of women’s rights and environmental protection. It is no wonder then that the kingdom is all smiles.
8. Accommodation in Bhutan
Most of the Bhutanese hotels are in the lap of mother Earth, surrounded by lush greenery and flora and fauna. Four types of major accommodations can be found- hotels, resorts, farm stays and homestays. Tourists prefer homestays over others to experience the authentic lifestyle of a Bhutanese, where the hosts serve delicious homemade food.
9.Travelling to Bhutan
Except for Indians, Bangladeshis and Maldivian passport holders, anyone who wishes to enter the country requires a visa and they must book their tickets via a Bhutanese tour operator. From India, the best way to reach is by air. However, one can also use the rail or the road as mediums of transport.
10. Bhutanese Cuisine
The country’s national dish is Ema Datshi, in which ‘Ema’ means chilies and ‘Datshi’ means cheese. Bhutanese food is generally lip-smacking, hot and spicy. Unlike other Asian food, Bhutanese cuisine makes use of loads of cheese. But their important staple remains the rice, which is commonly found in Asian countries. Bhutan grows red-rice which after cooking looks pale pink.
11. No Traffic Lights?
Bhutan is the only country that has zero traffic lights in its capital city Thimpu. It is generally handled by the policemen. Once, there was a setup but people insisted on the policemen.
Almost 72% of the land in Bhutan is covered in forest and the governing law states that 60% of the land should always be covered in forest. This step has allowed the flourishing of the rich diversity of the country.
13. Highest Unclimbed Mountain
As mentioned above, Bhutanese people are concerned about their environment. Hence, in 1994 the Government passed the law that no one can climb over 18,000 feet on Gangkar Puensum as that place was considered sacred. However, the mountain is 24,836 feet tall.
14. Bhutanese Dress Code
People are mandated to wear certain types of clothes when they are out. However, the dress code has recently been relaxed and now is only said to be worn when in the government workspace. Men are required to wear Gho and women the Kira.
15. Free Education in Bhutan
Yes, you read it correctly. Although education isn’t compulsory, the Government has provided free education till the 10th standard to make it more accessible . Students can also avail themselves of concessions based on merit for further studies.
16. Free Healthcare in Bhutan
After free education, one can avail of basic healthcare facilities in Bhutan as well. However, the population of doctors is less in comparison to the number of patients. Also, the infant mortality rate is still an issue in the country.
17. Royalty and Democracy
Former king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk proposed to start a constitutional monarchy in Bhutan. He believed that Bhutan may not be in the hands of a great king always, so it is better to allow people for their Government and let them elect.
18. Say No To Plastic
The first plastic ban was initiated in 19999, however, due to limited alternatives, it resulted in a failure. The last time it prevailed was in 2019, where the citizens were requested to use jute and homemade bags instead of plastic.
19. New Year, New Birthday?
Instead of celebrating the birthday on your actual date of birth, all the Bhutanese people celebrate it on the New Year and consider themselves to be a year older on that day. It is great for people who aren’t aware of their birth date due to illiteracy.
20. Kill No Animal. Period.
Yes, you read it right. As Bhutan follows strict laws of Buddhism, nobody is allowed to kill ANY animal for any purpose. Even if they eat meat (which is rare), they import it from other countries. They take the conservation of the environment seriously. The Takin (Burdorcas. taxicolor) is the national animal of Bhutan.
21. Good Luck with the Phallus!
Yes, you read it right again, phallus! People of Bhutan consider a phallus a symbol of good luck and fertility and a better chance of healthy pregnancy. Each year, they draw it on the walls with flowers and milk drawn on it. They believe it will protect them from all the devils and the evil in the mind of the people.
22. No Colonialism
The kings and the monks of this mountain kingdom used their smart negotiating skills with the British when they were expanding their territories in India and Nepal. Bhutan has never been colonized by any external power.
23. Accepting Homosexuality
The government decriminalized the act of homosexual relationships in 2019. Under the penal code of 2004, it was considered illegal and people had to be imprisoned if caught.
Women rule the families and run the businesses. Even after marriage, men are supposed to leave their homes and live with their wives and even inherit properties. Bhutanese government founded the National Women’s Association of Bhutan in 1981 primarily to improve the socioeconomic status of women, particularly those in rural areas.
25. Low Crime Rates in Bhutan
As people practice the laws of Buddhism which teaches nonviolence and promotes peace, lower crime rates are reported in Bhutan. Extremely violent issues are rare.
26. How to Get to Bhutan – Paro Airport
Surrounded by 5,500-meter mountain peaks, Paro airport is only 1981 meters long which makes it difficult to land for the pilots. It is so dangerous that only a couple of pilots can land the plane there.
27. Bhutan and the World
Bhutan was isolated from the world’s eyes until the 1970s when the media covered the coronation of a king. Even the television came late in the country.
28. Bhutan is the Only Carbon Negative Country in the World
Bhutan produces over two million tons of carbon dioxide each year whereas it absorbs approximately seven million tons. This makes Bhutan the only carbon negative country in the world. The world should take notes from this mountain kingdom.
29. Bhutan Bans Tobacco
Bhutan became the only country to ban the sales of tobacco in 2010. Violators are heavily fined if found in a public space, however, it can be used in private.
30. Hittin’ the Bull’s Eye
Archery is the national sport of Bhutan as they associate archery with Bhutanese myths and legends. Bhutan even has an Olympic team. Other sports, popular in other countries cricket, basketball, are gaining audiences in Bhutan as well.
By Harshita Pathak