Discovering "gross national happiness" in Bhutan

17 May 2011

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Janelle Spence from Spence & Turner Travel Associates last month experienced the small and little-known country of Bhutan.

This unforgettable trip began with Druk Airlines – the only airline that flies into Bhutan. Their service was great and the view of the Himalayas from the plane was really something special.

The average hotel in Bhutan is both clean and comfortable, and accommodation costs are always included in your overall tour package. Five-star hotels are also becoming quite common throughout the country.

My highlight in Bhutan was hiking to Taktsang Dzong, or “the Tiger’s Nest” – an eighth century monastery in Paro. The rocky track took us 900 metres high, through a pine forest to a stunning cliff face, upon which the Tiger’s Nest is miraculously stuck. The hike can take up to three hours and is not for the faint hearted.

I also attended an annual festival in one of the old villages. Locals dressed in their finest traditional outfits and masked dancers performed throughout the day. This was a great opportunity to meet the local people and experience the Bhutanese culture first hand.

It was interesting to discover that the locals in Bhutan generally observe the traditional

Praying wheels in Bhutan

dress code during daylight hours and when visiting Dzongs (monasteries). Men wear the ‘gho’ and women wear the ‘kira’, both of which are always very colourful.

I was also lucky enough to enjoy a hot soothing stone bath in a shed on a picturesque hilltop. This was followed by a traditional Bhutanese dinner with a local family, another unforgettable experience. I was blown away by the hospitality and friendliness of the Bhutanese people.

‘Gross national happiness’ is the philosophy of Bhutan, and this really shows in the way the people go about their everyday lives. My trip was a wonderful experience full of fantastic people and breathtaking scenery, and one that I can strongly recommend to anyone.

Our experiences are only half the story.  Share yours in the comments section below.

Sue Johnson

Sue started her career in travel as a Travel Consultant and is now part of the Travel Associates marketing team. You can email her at sue_johnson@travel-associates.com.au