In The Land of The Thunder Dragon

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Punakha Festival, Bhutan

Bhutan is a small landlocked kingdom in the Eastern Himalaya, between China to the north, and India to the south.  It’s also called Druk Yul, or Land of the Thunder Dragon, and is also known as the happiest place on earth… Wait, no… That’s Disneyland.  But seriously though, Bhutan is a ‘happy’ country.  The people are kind, patient and compassionate.  No slaughtering of animals is allowed in this Buddhist kingdom, no hunting, no fishing, no culling of stray animals.

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Early morning at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Paro Taktsang), Bhutan.  Our last day in Bhutan, we hiked up to the Tiger’s Nest in the morning in time to catch the sun as it emerged from behind the cliffs above.
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A young monk on the first day of his new life, Dechen Phodrang Monastery, Thimphu, Bhutan.

If you are coming from outside one of the SAARC countries, there are rules that require a minimum of money to be spent while in Bhutan.  Current spending minimums are USD$200 a day during the low season and $250 during the high season.  To ensure you meet this requirement, you will need to organize your trip through an authorized tour agent.

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Rainbow over Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

What to do

There is trekking, and the Snowman Trek, which can be done in the warmer peak season, seems popular, but I haven’t done it.  Bearing in mind the minimum spend of USD$250 a day, it does seem to be an expensive place to trek.  Bhutan seems better suited to ‘mild adventure’.  Shorter days hikes, like the 4-5 hour walk up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, were a good option for my wife, who is recovering from back surgery.  Bhutan has a rich and strong tradition and culture, and it is a joy to behold.  Check out the Festival calendar for Bhutan and plan your trip to coincide with one of them.  You’ll need to go with an authorised tour agent, but some customisation of where you want to go and what to do are possible.

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This handsome fellow is a Takin, the national animal of Bhutan, taken at the Takin Preserve in Thimphu, Bhutan.  Interesting to note that there’s no hunting or fishing or slaughter of animals allowed in the country.

When to Go

Unless the Snowman Trek is your goal, I would say visit just before or just after the high season.  You save due to a lower minimum spend, and there are fewer tourists.

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I can’t resist cute puppies!  This is one of Bhutan’s many street dogs in front of some archers.  I hope there is a sterilize and release program!

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