I have to admit that while I have always gravitated towards water bodies and holidays by the sea, Bhutan has had a hold on me that I haven't ever been able to explain.
After my second trip to Bhutan, friends and family (who had not visited) would often ask me, what is it about this country that you feel like revisiting it year after year? My grandmother said that my face lit up every time I shared stories and went through old photographs of hikes in Paro and visits to the monasteries. The truth is, I couldn’t quite put a finger on it myself. I knew I was captivated by Bhutan but there certainly wasn't just one reason. I realised that it had everything to do with Bhutan’s regard for the environment and its citizens.
This tiny country is situated between the two most populous countries in the world (India and China). It is more than a pretty postcard and, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t all about monasteries and thukpa. Despite being a tiny landlocked country that only introduced television in the 1970s, it is miles ahead of its neighbours in many ways. Bhutan has been in the news for its happiness index in the past but it is worth reminding ourselves of the fact that it is still the only carbon negative country in the world which makes it a shining example for green living.
(Seen here: Del Mare dress)
Every policy in the government passes the four pillar test: a) good governance; b) sustainable development; c) preservation of culture; and d) environmental conservation. In fact, the hotel I stayed in, Six Senses, upheld the same values, committing themselves to sustainability that in turned protected their environment and communities showing just how ingrained these pillars are within the country.
In addition to this, healthcare and education is made easily accessible but most importantly free for all. My guide told me while we were driving around Paro that even large surgeries don’t cost the patient’s family very much because the government has the people’s interest at heart at all times and I found that very heartening to hear.
After spending just a few days in Bhutan, one realises that this country means business when it talks about sustainability. It is more than a buzzword and more than a hashtag here. The residents have an inherent sense of love and respect for all living beings, the community and the ecosystem. They are vehemently opposed to the ideas of mass tourism and commercialisation. This, reinforced with the fact that the constitution stipulates that 60 percent of the country must be heavily forested at all times, indicates just how serious they are about ecotourism and sustainability. The most incredible thing about Bhutan is the the new initiative called ‘Bhutan For Life’, an initiative by your highness, the king, himself which looks at funding for sustainability.
While you are visiting, please know that Bhutan is what you make of it. You can choose to be as active or as laidback and silent as you wish. You can walk the quaint streets of Paro town in search of cordyceps and the best thukpa or you could wake up early to climb Tiger's Nest. Either way, make sure to try one of the many hiking trails with an experienced guide, explore Thimpu and Buddha Point on foot, eat some Ema Datchi at a local restaurant, stop en-route for a steaming hot cup of yak butter tea, visit the local markets and bring home some food as gifts for family and friends.
Bhutan is a pilgrimage you want to make again and again and with every trip, you end up learning a little more about yourself but also how to leave your planet better than when you last saw it. Tashi Delek Bhutan, thank you for reminding us that you can be soft and powerful and tiny but mighty all at once.
I'm going to end with an excerpt from this speech on Ted Talks from Bhutan's former Prime Minister and environmentalist, Tshering Tobgay.
“I invite you to help me, to carry this dream beyond our borders to all those who care about our planet's future. After all, we're here to dream together, to work together, to fight climate change together, to protect our planet together. Because the reality is we are in it together. Some of us might dress differently, but we are in it together.”
I carried the following pieces from Sui (Vanglia top and skirt, Marina trousers and the Del Mare dress) with me to Bhutan and I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience just as much as I enjoyed writing it for you.
Thank you so much to Jia for telling us all about her travels - you can read more about her adventures and wellness journey on her blog here.
Sharing our experiences and learning from each other is how we all grow and become more aware of the world around us so we love hearing from our fellow green heart-ers about their personal journeys. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would also like guest write and show us where you have adventured in Sui!