Bhutan is a unique country known for its scenic beauty and traditional culture dating back to centuries. The serene country side is brought alive by colorful tsechus (festivals) celebrated with dance and music. Religious fervour is all pervading force – it determines the lifestyle of the people and moulds their thoughts.
You feel like raptor heading for its lofty nest as you fly into the mountainous kingdom of Bhutan and land at Paro, a dusty town in the eastern Himalayas wedged between China and India. From here, on a clear sky, you can see the majestic peak of Jomalhari, the dwelling place of goddess Jhomo .
Bhutan is an exotic adventure destination. Trekking is the main adventure activity as river rafting, kayaking and mountain biking are still in infancy there. The extent of adventure , therefore depends on the trek you choose. However, only 20 percent of the tourists sign up for treks. What attracts the visitors is the traditional culture and the Buddhist way of life dating back to centuries .Bhutan is the only country in the world to have adopted the tantrik form of Mahayana Buddhism. This form of Buddhism recognizes a pantheon of symbolic deities and bodhisattavas or “Buddhas to be”. These enlightened beings, according to this school , have the option of Nirvana but they voluntarily reincarnate in the world help mankind.
Around 70 percent of Bhutan is a virgin forest. The country’s commitment to conversation is reflected in the ruling of the National Assembly which states that at least 60 percent of the country must be maintained as forest for all time. The policy is influenced by Buddhist belief in the sanctity of life, preservation of nature and giving back to the earth what you have taken.
Visiting the famous Tiger’s Nest monastery in Paro the next day involved slogging 800 m up a rocky path for around two hours to be greeted by an ethereal scene. It is said that Guru Rinpoche, the founding father of the Bhutanese strain of Mahayana Buddhism flew to Taktsang from Tibet on the back of a tigress and that is why monastery is called Tiger’s Nest. This monastery is one of the most sacred pilgrimages in the country. This breathtaking triple – level, traditionally decorated structure is perched on the side of a cliff 900 m above the Paro valley where the only sounds are the whisper of wind, murmer of water and the chanting of the monks. The monastery is flanked by forests of cedar, yellow and pink wild flowers and arcadian valley views.
In Thimphu , the guides take you to on a cultural spin which includes the gleaming Memorial Stupa, built by the Queen Mother in 1974 in memory of her son – the third king, the late Jigme Dorji Wangchuk , the National Library – a four level repository of ancient Buddhist texts, the Textile Museum showcasing Bhutan’s renowned fabrics , the painting school dedicated to preservation of the country’s traditional arts and crafts and vantage point above the town festooned with colorful prayer flags. In every public building , and in the old fortress called Dzongs which house either monasteries or government offices , there are altars, prayer wheels, chortens, iconic Buddhist artworks and shoals of chanting maroon – robed monks.
Another interesting place to visit is the weekend market where villagers jostle with well – heeled Thimphu residents, for the best and cheapest vegetables, fruits and other food stuff. This is the only place where fresh produce from all over Bhutan is available. The shopping experience is enhanced by an opportunity to catch up on week’s gossip.