A newcomer's photostory
Royal family: As with many other aspects of the country, the Bhutanese Royal Dynasty is the youngest in the world. It was established only in 1907 and is currently led by the 5th King, who ascended the throne in 2008 after the unexpected abdication of his father. The new King got married in October 2011; the royal couple, whose portraits can be found anywhere across the country, enjoys wide popular support.
Traditional attire: One of the measures enforced to ensure preservation of traditional culture and habits has it that at least Monday to Friday Bhutanese workers are expected to wear traditional garments, namely the “kira” (dress for women made of a skirt, blouse and jacket) and the “gho” (a knee-long rope for men). Traditional clothes are to be put on for entrance to be granted into public offices and religious premises; actual dress-code requirements are in place for attending public and religious functions.
Buddhism: Buddhism, which is
’s State religion, strongly influences the lifestyle of Bhutanese people. My host parents would wake up every morning around 5-5.30 to practice some 60 minutes of meditation. Bhutan
Nature: With environmental preservation being deeply engrained into the GNH philosophy and highly cared for by the people, the country features breath-taking natural scenarios. Whenever venturing into its valleys and mountains, symbols of religious devotion can be found everywhere, which further increase the beauty and fascination of the place.
Wildlife: The takin (burdorcas taxicolor) is
’s national animal. It resembles a very curious mix between a goat and a cow and to date remains a scientific mystery. Its origins are intertwined with religion and mythology and, according to legends, are connected with Lama Drukpa Kunley, “the Divine Madman” of Bhutanese Buddhism. Bhutan
National Memorial Chorten: A “chorten” is a Buddhist reliquary and stands for one of
’s traditional buildings. The National Memorial Chorten in Bhutan Thimphu is one main place of worship in the capital. Both at daytime and in the night it is constantly visited by the faithful in prayer. The most common religion in the country is Buddhism, which first developed with a strong influence from Tibetan Buddhism.
Punakha dzong: Located in what used to be
’s capital, the Punakha dzong hosts royal ceremonies such as coronations and weddings (including the Oct. 2011 one). It is Bhutan ’s second oldest dzong and among the country’s most beautiful ones, particularly in the spring as jaracanda flowers blossom. Bhutan
Paro dzong: A “dzong” is a Bhutanese traditional building which is home to both the administrative and religious centers of a “donzgkhag” (district). The one located in the thriving city of
is considered to be among the best built and preserved in the country. Paro
Visa: The headache of most travelers to
! Except for SAARC citizens, foreign travelers intending to visit Bhutan are in fact required to pay a USD 250 fee per day for each day of their stay in the country. The fee supposedly covers main travel expenses but makes traveling to the country particularly expensive, which accounts for the fairly small though increasing number of (generally senior) visitors that travel to Bhutan every year. In my case the fee requirement was waived since I went volunteering. Bhutan