Bhutan: Happiness is a place!

Tiger Monastery

For several reasons, the little Kingdom of Bhutan, lying to the north-east of India, is amongst the most memorable places I have visited. Not the least of which is their focus on happiness rather than material wealth.

The Bhutanese government is definitely on to something – they measure Gross National Happiness, and it plays an important part in devising their five-year plans.

The results are evident… Despite being fairly low down on the GDP per capita rankings, Bhutan is one of the happiest nations in the world… And isn’t that all that really matters?

You can almost feel it as soon as you step out of the plane on to the tarmac and make your way towards the airport building. The fresh, clean air, the amazingly nice people, the gorgeous Himalayan peaks and valleys, the simplicity of life… It’s certainly a soul cleanser for a stressed out corporate slave.

On a lighter note, during our visit last year, I had a couple of theories behind other possible secrets of happiness of the Bhutanese people:

– The weed growing by the roadside is, you know, “weed“. Widely available, there for the taking, free of cost

– You’ll see many sights like the picture below. Proudly staring you in the face, in all its… ummm…. reality

A shop in Bhutan

Hmmm…. Sex and Drugs?

Enough said!

P.S. Actually, for many Bhutanese, the phallus is a symbol of good luck and warding off evil and slander. Known as the Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom, its owner is the 15th century Bhutanese saint, Lama Drukpa Kunley. The symbols are painted outside houses and shops; hung from doors or roofs; installations in the courtyard, etc. The tradition is declining in urban areas due to self-censorship, and is more prevalent in the countryside.