02 Feb 10 Interesting Facts about Bhutan
Bhutan, a small island wedged between India and China, is a place of rich culture and tradition. Known to be Asia’s happiest country, it is a popular exotic travel destination for many. Before you decide to make a trip down on your own, here are some interesting bite-sized information for you to get a sense of what to expect.
1) Bhutan: the Land of the Thunder Dragon
The Bhutanese call their land Druk Yul, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, because of the storms that often pass over Bhutan from the Himalayas. The Druk, a Thunder Dragon, is the national symbol of Bhutan. It is depicted holding jewels on Bhutan’s national flag. Meanwhile, they identify themselves as Drukpa, dragon people, and their king as Druk Gyalpo, dragon king.
2) Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy.
Bhutan’s monarchy was established in 1907, while democracy was introduced in 2008. Now, Bhutan’s governance system is that of constitutional monarchy. The young King and Queen of Bhutan however stay well-revered and loved by the people of Bhutan (and abroad).
3) Bhutan is the only Buddhist country
Buddhism was introduced to Bhutan with the visit of Guru Padmasambhava. As such, much of the Bhutan’s values and lifestyles are deeply grounded in Buddhist teachings. When visiting Bhutan, be sure to drop by a temple or two to get blessed and admire the elaborate architecture.
4) Bhutan is the only country that measures its progress by Gross National Happiness (GNH).
The GNH is grounded in four pillars of success: sustainable development, good governance, environmental protection and cultural preservation. Introduced by former king, this choice of indicator reflects the values of the Bhutanese: happiness and contentment should come first.
5) All Bhutanese must don the traditional Bhutanese dress – Gho and Kira.
The Bhutanese value their tradition and culture. By law, Bhutanese are required to dress in traditional costumes: the men wear the Gho, a kimono-like dress with a scarf (Kabney) whose colour indicates his social status; the women, the Kira, a long ankle-length dress.
6) Bhutan holds the Guinness World Record for greatest number of trees planted in an hour.
The Bhutanese are lovers of nature — made evident by this statement, which was held in conjunction with 60th birthday celebrations for then King, Druk Gyalpo. A further 108, 000 trees were planted to celebrate birth of their new prince, last year. In fact, the law mandates that 60% of Bhutan’s forest cover be maintained at all times. Plastic bags have also been banned since 1991. It’s no wonder Bhutan offers serene and refreshing natural sights.
7) Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, the only capital in the world with no traffic lights.
Government efforts to install traffic lights was met with objection — the country returned back to having traffic police with white gloves direct traffic.
8) All Bhutanese share the same birthday: New Year’s day!
That saves everyone the effort needed to remember everyone’s birthdays. This month, Bhutan celebrates the birthday anniversary of His Majesty, the first son of the current prince, which falls on 21 February!
9) It is customary that you refuse food when offered to you.
If someone offers you food, Bhutanese manners dictate you should cover your mouth with both hands and say ‘Meshu Meshu’. Of course, you may accept the food offered after two or three times.
10) Phalluses symbolises good luck and fertility in Bhutan.
The Bhutanese value fertility. It is not uncommon to see phalluses painted on walls and carved into wood or buildings — these are believed to bring good luck and fortune.