Category: Explore

Festival in Bhutan

Festivals in Bhutan

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Bhutan is well known for its focus on happiness, so much so that it has implemented gross national happiness which is an index used to show the collective happiness of the country. Because of Bhutan’s focus on happiness it is no surprise that the people of Bhutan know how to throw a festival. There is at least one major festival each month in Bhutan, each village celebrates the festivals and depending on the village there can be many more smaller festivals in a month. The most popular type of festival is called a Tshechu, which means tenth day. Every temple in Bhutan puts on a Tshechu and the temples correspond so two temples don’t have a festival within the same month. The Tshechu festivals occur on the tenth day of whatever month they take place in. These festivals involve singing, dancing, masks, and the receiving of blessings, it is said that every Bhutanese person has to take part in a masked dance to wash away their sins.  

The Thimphu Tshechu is one of, if not, the largest festivals in Bhutan and usually has thousands of people in attendance. The Bhutanese people put on their best garments and head to the capital city for three days of dancing, religious ceremonies, drinking, singing, and creating bonding moments as a collective group. During this time most jobs are not performed even if someone decides not to participate in the festival they still get the three days off. This festival takes place in the fall.  

The Paro Tshechu is probably the second largest festival and takes place in the spring time. This festival is the biggest of all spring time festivals and shares many similarities with the Thimphu Tshechu. Monks dress in fancy costumes and act out famous legends based in Bhutan’s Buddhist history. Because this festival takes place in spring it is usually the most vibrant of all festivals. At the end of the festival a giant scroll of over 40 feet is unrolled, the scroll dates back as far as 350 years.  

The mountain echoes festival is a festival put on by a group that is part of the India-Bhutan Foundation and thus is more of a showcase for the sharing of cultural ideas, art, and music. This festival also has the traditional singing and dancing as seen in other Bhutan festivals but this festival also brings in speakers from all around the world including the United States.  

Other notable festivals include the Jambay Lhakhang Drup and hosts the fire ceremony where locals run underneath these giant flames. The Wangduephodrang Tshechu is a large festival famous for the “dance of the ox.” The Haa Summer festival takes place in a gorgeous valley and focuses on the traditional lifestyles of the Bhutanese people. The Black-necked Crane festival is a festival that celebrates the arrival of the Black-necked Crane which is an endangered species.

Punakha Bhutan Palace

Bhutan Economy

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Bhutan is one of the smallest and least developed economies in the entire world.

The main stimulant of income that keeps the Bhutan economy is alive is their tourism. People from all over the world come to see the rich history and uniqueness to this kingdom that lies in the Himalayas.

ECONOMY 

Bhutan is one of the smallest and least developed economies in the entire world. The kingdom of Bhutan, which lies in the Himalayan foothills, is a landlocked country and has recently been through major innovations in the past few decades. Innovations such as new roads being developed and getting electricity throughout the kingdom. A couple of decades ago, having these in Bhutan was not the case and it was not possible to obtain for the people of Bhutan. This innovation has had a tremendous effect on their economy because of the effects it has had on tourists who come to Bhutan. 

Because of these recent innovations of livelihood, this has made the economy poor and not well developed. Over 70% of the population do not have electricity in Bhutan and rely on firewood to produce energy and keep warm.  

TOURISM 

The main stimulant of income that keeps the Bhutan economy is alive is their tourism. People from all over the world come to see the rich history and uniqueness to this kingdom that lies in the Himalayas. What makes their tourism interesting is that you must earn your way into being able to visit the country. A tourist must pay $200 U.S dollars per day (driving, hotel, etc..) in order to stay in the country. This creates an exclusive group of people who can visit the country while keeping and preserving the rich culture of the kingdom intact.  

CURRENCY 

There are two main currencies that are used in Bhutan, the Indian rupee and Bhutanese Ngultrum (Nu, BTN). The exchange rate between the Indian Rupee and the U.S dollar is 1 Indian Rupee for .014 United States Dollar. The ngultrum is tied to the rupee and thus they are traded at the same exchange rate upon entering Bhutan. One Ngultrum is divided into 100 Chetrum. There are different divisions of Ngultrum and anything under the Ngultrum 1 (Nu. 1) comes in coin form. The different Ngultrums are the Nu. 1, Nu. 5, Nu. 10, Nu. 20, Nu. 50, Nu. 100, and the Nu. 500. The Nu. 1 and above all come in bill paper form, while everything below the Nu. 1 comes in coins. The Nu. 500 is not commonly used and not many are circulated throughout the country. All the Ngultrums (Nu, BTN) have some sort of imprinting of Bhutanese culture on them. Usually the backside of a Nu has a dzong, a sort of architecture, that is imprinted.  

The coins in Bhutan, the BTN 1, BTN .5, BTN .25, BTN .2, BTN are all available in Bhutan to use. All the coins, except the BTN .2, have the letter “Royal Government of Bhutan” inscribed on them. The BTN .2 has the statement “Food for All” written on it. (Garg, 2019)  

The U.S dollar, the pound, Swiss Franc, Euro, Yen, Hong Kong Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Danish Kroner, Australian Dollar and Singapore Dollar are all available to be exchanged for the BTN. You can exchange your currencies at the Paro International Airport or if you can’t get it there then you can go to the Bank in Thimphu. It is advised that you do it at these two main banks since they are both the main center of Bhutan’s economic power. (Garg, 2019) 

Credit cards in Bhutan can only be used at hotels and resorts. At most shops the only medium for exchange is cash. ATM services do not exist in the smaller towns of Bhutan and are very limited at the major economic centers of Paro and Thimphu. (Garg, 2019) 

IMPORTS AND EXPORTS IN BHUTAN 

Bhutan in 2017 exported $195 million worth of goods to other countries around the world. They are the 176th largest exporter in the world. (Hidalgo, Landry, & Simoes, 2017)The main export for Bhutan is ferroalloys, which are also known as steel products. They make up for 62% of Bhutan’s exports and account for $121 million. 86% of ferroalloys from Bhutan are exported to India, while the rest is exported to other major European countries and North America. Other exports in Bhutan are carbides, dolomite, gypsum, raw plastic sheeting, nutmeg, flavored water, and fruit juice.   

In 2017, Bhutan imported $482 million worth of material. Refined Petroleum is the most imported good in Bhutan making up 24% of the goods imported, totaling a value of $118 million. They get this good mainly from India and from the United States. This good helps make a multitude of products such as gasoline, asphalt base, kerosene, heating oil, jet fuel, diesel, and plastic. Other major imports to Bhutan are Cars, Iron, and Coca-Cola. In comparison to the rest of the world, Bhutan in 2017 was the 181st largest importer in the world. 

GROSS NATIONAL HAPINESS(GNH) OVER GDP 

While overall GDP is measured in countries across the world to determine a country’s economic success, Bhutan uses a philosophy coined GNH. It was implemented into the Constitution of Bhutan in July of 2008. Bhutan wants to emphasize and be a role model to other countries in saying that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because it values human well-being over the development of a country’s economy, which can sometimes harm people in the home-country or in neighboring countries. 

DOMAINS AND PILLARS OF GNH 

 There are four pillars and nine domains to Gross National Happiness. The four pillars of GNH are Sustainable & Equitable Socio-Economic Development, Good Governance, Preservation & Promotion of Culture, and Environmental Conservation. Out of the 4 pillars the one that has the most to do with the economy is a Sustainable Socio-economic Development. To have an outstanding GNH Economy you need to value economic and social contributions that families and all people give to an economy. The 9 Domains of GNH are living standards, education, health, environment, community vitality, time use, good governance, and cultural resilience and promotion. They use these domains as a solid basis in order to measure Bhutan’s GNH. 

The Tiger’s Nest (Paro Takstang): A Typical Trip

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Looking for single day trips and nearby tourist attractions within the city areas of Paro and Thimphu?

One of the most popular places to visit in Bhutan is the Paro Takstang, otherwise known as the Tiger’s Nest monastery. Sitting 3,120 meters above sea level in the Himalayan mountain range.

Looking for single day trips and nearby tourist attractions within the city areas of Paro and Thimphu?

One of the most popular places to visit in Bhutan is the Paro Takstang, otherwise known as the Tiger’s Nest monastery. Sitting 3,120 meters above sea level in the Himalayan mountain range, this sacred Buddhist temple was built around the caves and mountainside in 1692 and has remained well known as a cultural icon and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bhutan. The story of the creation of the monastery centers around Padmasambhava, the legendary enlightened Buddhist master whom is known in Buddhism to have flown on a tiger to the holy site that determined one of the famous Buddhist temples. Due to a fire that occurred in 1998 to the Tiger’s Nest temple, some of the inside walls remain charred and many valuable artifacts, statues, and paintings went missing, however the historical site remains a common places to visit in Bhutan and the Paro Valley area thanks to the multimillion dollar restoration work undertaken by the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Bhutan royal family. Amongst the limited several thousand tourists allowed to travel annually throughout Bhutan, the lower quantity comparatively to other international tourist attractions, makes the high quality of tourism unparallel, with the Tiger’s Nest among the top must see historical sites. The following excerpt is what you can expect from an average trip through the mountain hiking trail to reach the Tiger’s Nest tourist attraction in Bhutan.

“When I take people there to Tiger’s Nest, a sacred Buddhist monastery, I take them to do some shorter hikes first so that they can get acclimated to altitude change easier, and that is the most important aspect to get used to before the trek. The fastest I have ever done the hike up was in 46 minutes, but a normal hike with a group of tourists to the temple would take around 2-3 hours one way to go up and maybe another hour down, and there are also local tour guides from Bhutan that you can pay to take you up by horse or donkey. With so much traffic from the local people of Bhutan during certain religious celebrations, the trail can be very crowded and not always well maintained. There is a teahouse about halfway up the trail where you can stop for tea and lunch, and that is where you can then see the Tiger’s Nest in the mountains, aside from where you begin the trailhead in the parking lot. The last 20 minutes there are no way for the horses to take you to the monastery so you have to walk the trail, and that is where the viewpoint of the Tiger’s Nest is clear and nice, you still have to go a ways up and down the trail. The temple is very pretty from the outside, and on the inside there are many intricate paintings on the walls…however you cannot take photos of the inside and must leave your belongings behind with the police guard. You can see the charred walls and evidence within the temple that occurred from a fire that occurred in the late 90s… I would say that if you only had one or two days to make a trip through Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest is one of the top places to visit in Bhutan and definitely a highlight.”

Thomas Kokta is an experienced world traveler and has accomplished the adventure to Tiger’s Nest over a dozen times, throughout a total of nine different visits to the Kingdom of Bhutan