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Sat, 22 Feb 2020

Northeast Today

If happiness is a place, Bhutan will surely fill the tagline

If happiness is a place, Bhutan will surely fill the tagline
January 21
11:37 2020

Kamal Baruah      

 

 

Travelling is all about sightseeing, but the most enriching experience is to drive on holidays while stopping by and enjoying the beautiful landscape. All I got to do is put on my shoes, sit behind the wheels and drove my way to an adventurous sojourn. As the wipers cleared the green foliage gathered on my windshield, I ventured through the incessant rain, vanquishing the steep hills of Agyathuri and drove over the Saraighat in the wee hours. Although my fellow travellers were worried about the treacherous stretch at the land of Druk Yul (Thunder Dragon), I trusted the GPS for navigating to the Himalayan Blue Poppy Nation. Yes! We are holidaying to the “land of happiness“- Bhutan, the much talked about holiday destination.

A high protein-packed breakfast satisfied our appetite all day long. We sipped special tea at Tamulpur. After three hours of driving, the view of the magnificent tea garden with greenery spread all around was a feast for the eyes. The infamous Darangamela is now a place of business hub for eastern Bhutan.  The Kurichhu Hydropower Plant built across the Kurichhu River that flows into the river Manah and Beki. A decorative gate caught our attention. The Royal Bhutan Police politely inquired about the purpose of immigration and with utmost respect and generosity, the officer asked a few questions of our arrival. We earned the bragging rights to cross an international border for being Indian. The sign of the Indo-Bhutan treaty of friendship made us feel at ease.

Samdrup Jongkhar is the oldest bustling town with little settlement of a few thousand people. The new Dzong (Administration) along the mountain passes to protect from incursions. I drove carefully passing red plated cars on a smooth road as I was aware of the strict rules of the road. Alas! My network had shown no service. There was nobody around over the fertile valleys and blue pine forests.

One can get the feel of Bhutan’s tradition through the designs of the gate, one such gate is the Dzongkhag (District Admin), which exhibits the exquisite craftsmanship and beautiful wood painting. I was taken aback while seeing the brightly painted veterinary hospital. The happiest place on earth gives priority to its society for Gross National Happiness. They preserve the natural environment, traditional culture with good governance for socio-economic development.

It’s a Buddhist country with young monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, who brought democracy and Je Khenpo is the head of the state religion. The spectacular Rabdey Dratshang Druk (Thunder Dragon) is a place for Buddha’s teachings. The spiritual Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche is worshipped with the founder of Buddhism. The pagoda’s excavated interiors have probably been influenced by Hindu architecture. The Court is standing lonely and I found the atmosphere peaceful and the chanting was mesmerizing. Walking around the monastery is one of a kind experience. I clicked various snaps but monks wearing gho/kira (dress code) didn’t seem to mind it and ignored us.

We began to drive for Tashi Gasel Lodge perched on a hilltop. The landscape is dotted with colourful prayer flags (lung-ta – wind horse) fluttering in the breeze. We enjoyed the gentle wind and saw the mesmerizing views of the entire valley at one go. We let out a long sigh of despair for long waiting hours at the restaurant. Bhutanese lives a simple lifestyle. We left with some energy drinks and drove down the hills through the beautiful Dungsamchu Bridge.  At one point, I was unable to find the way since I was unable to read the road marks which was written in Bhutanese script (Dzongkha). Moreover, people speak a mixture of Hindi-Bhutanese. The sleepy town has no traffic signals but police keep a vigil at every intersection. The roads are one way and parking is strictly followed.

 

In every hotel there is a restaurant cum bar. We tried out some local cuisine, which is less oily but spicy. Bhutan has embraced the ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first 100% organic nation. The visit, however, is not complete without sampling ema datchi (chillies–national dish), hot dumplings (momo) and fermented drinks. We had a great experience of being able to tickle our taste buds with some authentic foods. They happily accept INR besides their currency Ngultrum. The market area was calm and a few buyers around. There were no hawkers or costermongers who pushed for sale. Bhutanese are enjoying life in the slow lane while we have a never ending to-do-list of things. They don’t probably need medication for stress. Thus it is called the happiest country. The prayer wheel at Mani Dunkhor spread spiritual blessings. There is a picture of the King above everywhere. People weren’t busy and they take rest in the street behind the blue signboard.

 

As a souvenir, we brought a wooden carved mask, the traditional art of Bhutanese culture from Mella Bazaar. I carefully took my car back to the street but I landed up in the wrong direction. The traffic police suddenly arrived and stopped us. Perhaps he didn’t follow the rules of my destination Assam. I heaved a sigh of relief after saying India then he allowed us to go. It was a wonderful experience to witness such polite and doting policing everywhere. The simplicity of their manners and strong sense of religion preserve their culture.

 

Bhutan Tourism uses the tag line Happiness is a place, the shortened version of a Finnish proverb “Happiness is a place between too much and too little“. I slowed down while staring at the mesmerizing monastery and realised, “If happiness is a place, Bhutan will surely fill the tagline“. Driving through the remote Himalayan Kingdom was a peep into another world, we wined and dined and carried forward happiness to my native land.

 

The author is a freelance writer based in Guwahati. He is a former Air-warrior with IAF and currently working for SBI.

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