Bhutan is a small kingdom north of India and south of Tibet (thus, China). With only 600,000+ citizens in a

space the size of Iowa, and surrounded by mountains, it is difficult to visit.  Bhutan only allows 60,000 tourists

per year to limit disruption of its culture, which is peaceful, serene, and idyllic.  Over 70% of its land remains

forested, while agricultural production (with the aim of growing 100% organic food) and the production of hydro-

electricity are its major exports.

      Its current king decided to step down a few years ago as the nation’s absolute authority in order to create a

democratically elected parliament and judicial system. Someone actually giving up power?  Sounds strange,

but quite workable in this overwhelmingly Buddhist country, governed by higher laws of compassion and caring for

the welfare of others.  The country is famous for its creating a measurement of societal welfare called “Gross

National Happiness”. Bhutan has been called Shangri-La, believable if for no other reason than its craggy peaks

(check out the cult classic film Lost Horizon).

      Day One involved a flight from Calcutta, skirting the Himalayan Mountains and Mount Everest.  After a

torturous landing among the mountains at Paro Airport, we bussed over the pass to Bhtuan's capital city, Thimpu.

On Day Two we explored Bhutan’s Textile Museum and a paper-making factory.  The country is famous for its

intricate cloth weaving.  Although Thimpu actually has about 80,000  people, its inhabitants objected to the

installation of its one, lone traffic light—saying it was too disruptive to their serenity.  Instead, the city’s center

now has one lone policeman who directs traffic! Our Day Three visits included Bhutan’s National Memorial

Chorten and a new giant Buddha overlooking Thimpu (probably now the largest Buddha statue in the world).  

      On Day Four our tour group visited Bhutan’s National Library to see the world's biggest book, then we went to

the zoo for a Tankin viewing.  I had a Chinese Indonesian high school student inform me, once he found out I was

from San Diego, that there was a Tankin in the zoo here in my home town!  Day Five involved a journey over a

high mountainous pass to Punakha, where we visit our first dzong (Palace of Great Happiness) and then Chhimi

Lhakhang Buddhist Monastery.    Day Six involved true adventure!  After we visited a newly created Buddhist

monastery for nuns, we got “wet and wild” on an incredible rafting expedition down one of Bhutan’s wild river

rapids.  It truly brought out the joyous inner kid in every single one of us, and our group instantly gelled in our

shared camaraderie! 

      On Day Seven we returned to Paro to visit the National Museum of Bhutan and Paro Dzong, described as a

“Fortress Upon a Heap of Jewels”.  The claim is utterly true.  Looking down upon Paro’s valley was breath-taking!

Day Eight was our last full day in Bhutan, and also the most dramatic.  Our bus dropped us off at 8500 feet and

we then climbed another 1500 feet to view Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang Monastery).  Once at the viewing platform, we

went down 350 steps and then up another 350 to get to this historic Buddhist sacred site and temple complex.

It was built in 1692 at the site of a cave where Guru Padmasambhava was said to have been transported on the

back of a flying tigress, dramatically introducing Buddhism to Bhutan!  Back at our hotel that night we saw ethnic

dances and music, which you might enjoy in the two included videos.