YiOu amongst the prayer flags
Bhutan

Bhutan

There are many reasons to go to Bhutan: the beautiful scenery, the rich culture, and the amazing architecture to name a few. But above all, there is hope. Hope that a people can respect each other and cooperate for the betterment of society. Hope that a government with limited resources can still prioritize gross national happiness over gross domestic product. Hope that preservation of the environment can be achieved through policy and education.

Bhutan is about the size of Switzerland but has a total population less than that of San Francisco (~800k). They have a constitutional monarchy (although several people we spoke with wished that they could go back to an absolute monarchy). Cultural preservation is not only valued but codified in law. Until recently it was mandatory for all citizens to wear the traditional dress of Bhutan, and it is still worn by all students and government employees. The temples and monasteries are not just static reminders of the past but are in active use – many still function as both temple and government office.

We visited Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, and Bumthang. All were spectacular, each in their own way. The sole international airport is in Paro, and the flight from Delhi was very memorable. As we started to descend the captain got on the loudspeaker and announced that there would be some gentle turns before touchdown but that it was absolutely normal and there was no reason to be alarmed. Soothing Bhutanese music began to play. Suddenly the clouds parted and were replaced by mountains reaching high above the plane on either side. We banked right, the left, the right again following the contours of the valley. The plane leveled out two seconds before the wheels touched the ground. We all breathed a collective sigh and smiled to each other. Welcome to Bhutan!

A brand new 50 meter tall Buddha statue watches over Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. It attracts monks and tourists alike. Many of the tourists are Indian because they do not need to pay the $250 / day tourist visa.
A brand new 50 meter tall Buddha statue watches over Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. It attracts monks and tourists alike. Many of the tourists are Indian because they do not need to pay the $250 / day tourist visa.
Sean Pont
The Tiger's Nest is Bhutan's most famous tourist attraction. This monastery sits at an altitude of 10,240 ft and is accessible only by a 2.2 mile trail up from Paro with 2300 ft of vertical climb. We had a blast running up and down, though many hikers on the trail questioned our sanity.
The Tiger's Nest is Bhutan's most famous tourist attraction. This monastery sits at an altitude of 10,240 ft and is accessible only by a 2.2 mile trail up from Paro with 2300 ft of vertical climb. We had a blast running up and down, though many hikers on the trail questioned our sanity.
Sean Pont
The Punakha Dzong is a combination fort / temple. It is the largest Dzong in Bhutan and is where the king is crowned.
The Punakha Dzong is a combination fort / temple. It is the largest Dzong in Bhutan and is where the king is crowned.
Sean Pont
Knock knock. Who's there? Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong who?
Knock knock. Who's there? Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong who?
Sean Pont
The rice fields and rivers in in Punakha could not be more picturesque.
The rice fields and rivers in in Punakha could not be more picturesque.
Sean Pont
YiOu runs above Gangtey valley.
YiOu runs above Gangtey valley.
Sean Pont
The mornings in Gangtey were crisp and frosty.
The mornings in Gangtey were crisp and frosty.
YiOu Wang
Bhutanese man sporting the national dress and practicing the national sport. They shoot at a target about the size of a skateboard planted vertically in the ground 145 metres away. Incredibly, they hit it with some regularity.
Bhutanese man sporting the national dress and practicing the national sport. They shoot at a target about the size of a skateboard planted vertically in the ground 145 metres away. Incredibly, they hit it with some regularity.
Sean Pont
A prayer wheel spins at a temple in Bumthang.
A prayer wheel spins at a temple in Bumthang.
YiOu Wang
YiOu climbs stairs in the old royal palace in Paro (the new royal palace is in Thimphu).
YiOu climbs stairs in the old royal palace in Paro (the new royal palace is in Thimphu).
Sean Pont
High above the Paro valley we got a little lost and this nice old woman showed us where the trail went.
High above the Paro valley we got a little lost and this nice old woman showed us where the trail went.
Sean Pont
Paro valley.
Paro valley.
Sean Pont
More Paro valley.
More Paro valley.
Sean Pont
It was a long run after all...
It was a long run after all...
Sean Pont | secretly