Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bhutan tales - 4 - Gross Happiness Index

'We believe that  be happy with what you have. Don't desire more than what you have. Because desire has no destination.'
This is what I heard from drivers, guides and even hotel staff when I initiated conversation  about the  world famous  happiness index of Bhutan.
 Bhutan's growth is measured by Gross National Happiness Index (GNHI) instead of GDP. It was introduced by their 4th King-Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972. Over the years it has been criticized as well as well received and  has been spoken a lot in global level. Obviously, this idea has its origin from their Buddhist philosophy. They believe material and spiritual growth should happen hand in hand.
I was wondering how do they measure GNHI. I was told they take a survey of Bhutanese people  based on their cultural, economical, environmental,  mental, physical and political wellness.
GNHI has 4 pillars
1.Promotion of sustainable development
2.Promotion of cultural values
3.Good governace and
4. Conservation of natural environment

I could see  their honest efforts in all these areas. Recently they have integrated GNHI principles into their education system.

 I saw a  lot of construction activity happening in Thimpu. It is a  part of the  development to expand Thimpu till Paro. I didn't hear common people appreciating this. They were concerned about  their city entering  into too much of hustle bustle and loose its identity and calmness.This clearly shows their concern to protect their environment and culture. At the same time they can't ignore growth.
I was wondering how do they balance. I was reading in their newspaper about rising cost of living and many other challenges they are facing including vulnerable climate in addition to other environmental and social pressures.

Does GNHI  really work ???? No idea...

Two hearty laughter memories  which left a deep impression in me echoing their efforts towards happiness and sustainability...

This boy in phobjikha valley was playing with a stick. He was so joyfully playing I kept watching him.  When he realized I am watching him, he played even more merrily.He appeared to me like an embodiment of happiness.

Then there were 4 boys in Wangdue valley.They were on their way back home from school. I guess they had bought ice candy on the way. Making  themselves comfortable on the wooden bench beside the road, they were about to eat. Look at their expression!!! I just liked it ... 

When they saw me taking pictures they burst out with laughter loudly especially first two.It's still echoing in my ears. It was music to my ears and manifestation of happiness to my eyes. 

 “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bhutan Tales - 3 - Food

It was rice... rice..and  rice for all the days I stayed in Bhutan. Look at my couple of meals..

Low calories food...Ema Datshi is next to noodles

 First day wanted to try authentic Bhutanese meal. So I went to a restaurant called  Authentic Bhutanese restaurant. They served -  sea weed soup, rice, black wheat noodles, spinach , potato fry and Ema datshi.  Except Ema datshi  ( very spicy) nothing was tasty.   Ema datshi ( chilli cheese)is kind of their national food. They make potato datshi, mixed vegetable datshi and mushroom datshi.  I was served with thick one as well as thin one. I was told that  authentic datshi is prepared using yak cheese.
Yak Cheese from market
But in hotels they use any other cheese from super market. Their market is dominated by chilli. Chilli is a main vegetable for them.  During my Sunday vegetable market walk saw everybody carrying atleast a kg of chilli in their hands.
Chilli chilli everywhere !!!..
Next day similar meals but they were tasty and price was less than the first one.Typically in all the buffet they have one non veg item. Rest all are  couple of vegetables with rice. Being a vegetarian I was not finding protein source in any of my meals. When lentil soup was served in couple of dinners I was very happy to get protein intake.

I didn’t see dessert being part of their meals. Everywhere I was asking for desert but was told  NO. I was wondering what do they serve if they have guests. Lal ( My guide for 2 days) told me that they serve same  food. Though I found couple of sweet and snacks shop, it was all from India. Didn’t find anything as Bhutanese sweets. 

Curd is something absolutely missing  in their food. In fact, it wasn’t available in menu even in Indian restaurants.  I had good curd rice the moment I reached home :-) My craving taste buds were fully satisfied :-)

Most of the Bhutanese eat non veg. But here is a tricky point. They want to eat. But don’t want slaughtering. So, they import  meat  from India. In a way import of  non  violence .... :-) :-)

Similar posts that might interest you
  Travel tips to Bhutan
Faces of Bhutan  

Bhutan tales 2 - Faces of Bhutan

Bhutan is a happy country, not because people  are rich.But they are contended.Unlike most of us in the mega cities, they have not lost their inner life.They are calm, charming and peaceful by nature. Many of the regions of Bhutan are still untouched by the mad rush of modern life.
Few of the faces and moods I liked are here for you

Little girl lost within herself in Sobsoka Village in Bhutan

Bhutanese monk begger..He was chanting something and people were giving him alms
She was all dressed up and on her way to attend Tschue.. Her mom was talking to somebody. She was leaning to the pole as if she was posing.
Women from Laya region of Bhutan. They dress up differently. She even offered her head gear for me to take my pic :-)
A father with his 2 little girls in Punakha Tschue
Watching dance ...

Bhutan tales 1 - Tarvel tips

Bhutan travel will ever be etched in my memory for bringing serenity and internal peace that was the need  of the hour then. I travelled for a week's time without proper plan in place wandering around the country. What a beautiful country it is.. Some will come about it later

There are some  myths about Bhutan which I experienced. Here are some tips for Bhutan travel.
Mandatory guide 
Every tour operator will say you need a driver and a guide  to accompany you. You can't travel alone. It is mandatory. But the truth is it is only applicable for non Indians. with a daily cost of 250$/day. Indians can travel all alone anywhere in Bhutan.  Indians  can manage it  economically without loosing any comforts. Of course, guide is helpful if you are  interested  in history and legends.
In Bhutan Indian currency is widely acceptable. However, I had  read in lot of reviews that currency note of  INR 500 and INR 1000 are banned and is not acceptable. I was carrying  only INR 500s and at the Kolkata airport I remembered reading somewhere about this myth. Tried to get some 100s in exchange of 500s. But could only manage to get few 100s. After reaching Bhutan, realized that there was no place where INR 500s are not acceptable. I even paid note of INR 1000s as well.

Ecery travel site recommend to travel to Bhutan except in monsoon. But locals say that monsoon is the best time to visit as it is not torrential rain and  would be green everywhere. Hotels can be booked at better price.

Flight services 
Druk airways managed by Bhutan government is the only service provider  for flights. They don't have daily flights. Few cities  shave alternative days. It is very expensive to book it online. It needs to be booked through authorised travel agents to get better price

While travelling from India, take left  window seat while going and right window seat while coming. View from  the flight is something one shouldn’t miss.It is a  breathtaking view of  Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga and Jumo lahari all cladded in snow. I couldn’t take my eyes away  from this spectacular view of Himalayas.  

Mountain view from Bhutan flight

Mountain view from the flight

Good hotels are available in the range of  INR 1500- 3000. No luxury but they will be clean with heater facility and 24 hr hot water. All the 3 hotels I stayed were very clean and neat. No complaints.  Even the location of all the 3 hotels were very convenient. I stayed in Shantideva in Thimphu, Jigmeling in Paro and Punatshangchhu Cottages at Punakha.

Festival time 
Festivals in Bhutan are so colourful and not to be missed. Try to match your travel time with one of the festivals in Dzongs.  One can witness colorful dance and even can see locals  celebrating the festivals. It would be  a great treat to hungry cameras

Have you already travelled to Bhutan ? Pls share your tips