Journey Into Happiness

Aerial View of Bhutan

Tucked away in the Himalayas.

Landlocked between India, Tibet, China, and Nepal.

Situated at 2700 ft above sea level.

Surrounded by piercing mountains.

Whence oftentimes violent and large thunderstorms whip down through its valleys, and wherein few pilots are qualified to fly through its valley to its airport, here indeed is one place that is resplendent in physical splendour and rich heritage.

Known as "Druk Yul" - Land of the Thunder Dragon, its people have been known to be among the happiest in the world!

This tiny kingdom is Bhutan.

What Makes Bhutanese Happy?

Is it Bhutanese cuisine that makes happy?

Well, sort of. But not quite the big picture.

Bhutanese are happy when their food is spicy and aren't generally pleased if their national dish, ema datshi, isn't present at every meal.

Kezang From Jamtsho Bhutan ToursMs Kezang Chuki from Jamtsho Bhutan Tours (3rd from far right) dinning with guests. Bhutan operates a low volume, high impact tourism policy. This means there are no independent, free-n-easy tours. You have to book through a tour agent and your itinerary is led by a tour guide.
Only country in the world where chilli is not used as a seasoning but as a vegetable dish. Top left - Ema Dashi . a national dish of Bhutan, made from red chilli dipped in cheese stew. The cheese or cheese stew helps to bring down the spiciness giving it a mild creamy taste. Right - Bhutanese red rice. Its flavor is complex, earthy and nutty. Bottom left - Butter Tea.


Chillies and cheese aside, Bhutan's recipe for happiness comes from "having a right mix of traditional and modern but not needing more".

                                                  - Aloysius Tan from Earthzense 

Festivals Known as Tsechus

What is this "having but not needing more" that contributes to Bhutanese's happiness?

According to Ms Kezang Chuki, who oversees Jamtsho Bhutan Tours, Bhutanese inhabits a celebratory attitude that is innate in their culture. 

Where elsewhere, festivals are being increasingly celebrated for their commercial appeal, in Bhutan you witness to the true spirit of celebration at festivals.

This celebratory attitude is infectious and pervades into their daily life.

Bhutan festivalBhutan Festivals are big family and social occasions. People dress up in their finest hand woven clothes and jewellery of coral and turquoise.
Bhutan festivalThe best time to visit is in March, April, May and September and October. Most festivals occur during these months.

It is not uncommon to witness to Bhutanese dancing by themselves in public. This is, by no means, the only activity they express happiness.

Wherever they are, whatever they do, happiness abounds!

Bhutanese dancing in celebration. Archery is a favourite sport in Bhutan.

From the Eyes of a Tour Guide

Bhutan Tour GuidePema (far right) guiding Thai visitors to Bhutan.

According to Pema, a guide to many dignitaries and visitors, he attributes Bhutan's infectious happiness to the mystic vibes of ancient past that pervade the land and bless its people.

This pristine purity of the Kingdom seems to rub on many foreigners as well. 

The moment you set foot in the kingdom, you will begin to feel an unmistakable sense of well-being and love of self.

People are kind, compassionate and full of laughters.

Mountain ranges and valleys are truly a sight to behold.

Dzongs (monastic fortresses) and monasteries carry a distinctive character and aura that envelope you.

In short, Bhutan inspires a sense of awe.

One of Earth’s Last Precious Hotspot

Bhutan is one of the few remaining unspoiled country that protects its rich biodiversity.

A sight to behold!

Of beautiful mountains and valleys. 

A birder's paradise.

Over 60% of the kingdom is forested and remains originally intact.

Can you not be happy when you are close to untouched natural beauty, and when eyes see afar into the horizon unblocked by walls?

Can you not feel delighted having animals grace your presence?

Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger Nest Monastery)

One could infer this is the originating place from which the seed of happiness had been sown in Bhutan.

Historically, It's where the "second buddha" is said to have meditated in the 7th century AD. He spread a way of life rather than a religion that is Buddhism.

Also known as Paro Taktsang, it is a small monastery hung far up on a cliff overlooking a spectacular valley.

It is not uncommon to hear visitors experience a sudden epiphany here.

Tiger Next MonasteryOne of the most holy sacred sites in Bhutan where many famous saints travelled to meditate in. Stunning in its beauty and location, precariously perched on a cliff 900 hundred meters above the Paro Valley. Extraordinary indeed.
Taktsang LhakhangClose up view of Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger Nest Monastery) - located approximately 10 km north of Paro town at an altitude of 3.120 meters. It takes up to 2 hours to trek through beautiful, shady pine forests. No trip to Bhutan would be complete without a visit to this remarkable heritage site

Dochula Pass

Another one of Bhutan's famous sites. 

Offering stunning 360 degree panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range.

Dochula pass is located on the way to Punakha from Thimphu, perched at an altitude of 10,200 feet.

Many tourists experience romantically stunning experience of an epiphany here too! The Dochula Pass, Memorial Chortens and Punakha Dzong combined could have been catalytic to their moment of epiphany.

Dochula Pass - the best place to see stunning view of the snow-capped Eastern Himalayas range! And there's more....situated atop of the 3,050 meter Dochula Pass is Druk Wangyal Chorten - 108 Memorial Chortens (Drukwangyai Chortens) to honor the soldiers who died in 2003 in the war with India.
Here's a little hidden gem of Dochula Pass: If you climb just above the Pass, you will discover meditation caves tucked into the hills.
Dochula PassDochulas Pass - Evening view of 108 Memorial Chortens

Masterpieces of Bhutanese Architecture

I won't go into their history but for a sense of the aesthetic, the Dzongs (fortresses) are a sight to behold Bhutanese architecture.

These buildings are built on stones instead of clay without a single nail!

Whitewashed walls contrast with painted woodwork and tapered roofs accentuate a sense of the aesthetic.

The use of Dzongs today are not unlike buildings of State Administration but with one unique distinction. They also house monastic order or monks.

Used for both administrative and religious purposes, it's dual functions are instrumental to sustaining happiness among its people.

Paro Dzong 

Paro DzongParo (Rinpung) Dzong means Fortress on Jewels because it was built using stones rather than clay. It is an excellent example of 15th-century architecture and one of the most impressive dzong in Bhutan. It currently serves as the government center of Paro.

Ta Dzong

Ta DzongTa Dzong - This cylindrical watchtower was built in 1649 and converted into the National Museum of Bhutan in 1968. The spiral-shaped building holds antiques, art, textiles, weapons, and household items that tell the history of Bhutan.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha DzongPunakha Dzong - most beautiful Dzong in the country. And most important Dzong in Bhutanese history. Most of Bhutan’s national treasures are kept inside this Dzong. Most impressive thing about this Dzong is that it was built without the use of nails.
The Bazam Bridge where you access Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong at sunset - sited at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, is a romantically beautiful site to behold at night. You feel the presence of regal and peaceful aura. Small wonder the wedding of the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and his fiancé, Jetsun Pema, was held here at this stunning ancient monastic fortress.

Thimphu Tashichho Dzong

If you are staying in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, an evening visit at Thimphu Tashichho Dzong ought to be your first sight or site initiation into the enchantment of Bhutan.

This Dzong has a commanding view of the Thimpu valley. Manicured gardens and lawns complement this building.

Where the external facade beholds an impressive view, wait till you see the inside. It's even better! 

Thimphu Tashichho DzongThimphu Tashichho Dzong - meaning the fortress of "auspicious doctrine". This traditional fortress and buddhist monastery serves as the current seat of the King of Bhutan. As a monastery, it is the largest in the city of Thimphu featuring distinctive Bhutanese architecture and built using neither nails nor written plans.

​Cheri & Tango

No. Your next stop is not an invitation to pluck cherries and tango oranges.

For day hikes and trails around Thimphu, a 30-minute drive from Thimphu remains among the top of every visitor's itinerary.

I am referring to the trip Cheri Monastery and Tango Monastery  - a 60- minute hike up two hills. There's something endearing about the vibes here: peace and serenity.

First, take the time to soaked in panoramic view of Thimphu city. When you have enough of visual delight, it's time to calm the senses.

Spend some time inside Cheri Monastery. Sit in quiet and meditate for 15 mins. You will feel invigorated.

Get to know the monks there. Their spiritual presence will rub on you.

Cheri MonasteryCheri Monastery - offers a beautiful view of Thimphu Valley and the surrounding mountains. Feel the eternity and presence of many revered saints that had made this monastery their abode.
Tango Monastery - a monastic school and retreat built in the 15th century. Today today a Buddhist University.

The Great Buddha Dordenma 

This bronze statue can be seen from just about anywhere in Thimphu.

So why go to Buddha View Point then?

Blessing wise - nothing compares standing next to a seated Buddha!

Hidden esoteric teachings known as ancient terma of the Adept Padmasambhva recorded during the eight century, and rediscovered some 800 years later, prophesied that a large statue of the Buddha would be build here to bestow blessings, peace and happiness.

Here's more.......

Seated at 169 ft on a hill above Thimphu town, you get a perfect place to enjoy stunning, panoramic views of Thimphu City.

And for nature lovers, you have Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park.

This nature park comprising  943.4 areas of forest area, surrounds the Buddha Dordenma statue.

Buddha View PointGreat Buddha Dordenma - This statue houses over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues. They are made of bronze and gilded in gold.
Buddha View PointBuddha View Point surrounded by Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park

How To Book Your Trip

A treat for the horticulturists!A treat for the horticulturists!

Bhutan enchants.

This kingdom is a model of beauty in simplicity; in having but not needing more.

Such as in its policy on tourism: Low volume; high impact.

Hence, to experience Bhutan, you need to book through a tour agent and you need a guide.

With most people, a tour guide takes you to places and events of attraction. However, Pema and Kezang see their roles a little quite differently.

Through the people, activities, events and places they introduce in Bhutan, they hope to facilitate a process that enables every visitor to effortlessly find the “jewels” resident in their heart and mind.

In short, they hope to help visitors rediscover happiness and a sacredness that is in them through the mirror reflection of  Bhutan.

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