Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon

This week I’ll be in Nepal 3 days and Bhutan 4 days. 


“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”
Gautama Buddha

Mina and I happened to be walking around the Boudha this afternoon. She admired my prayer-wheel earrings. I took them off and and gave them to her as a gift. It was great fun to see her surprised face! She invited me to sit down. We exchanged phone numbers and Facebook addresses.



Are you ready for this? The government of Bhutan requires our marriage be approved by my two parents or two next of kin. Yep. My three sisters are delightfully amused and excited to participate. This rule applies to all marriages.

Today is hair-coloring day. Lakshmi works carefully using my own non-toxic color. The owner of the salon watches attentively. It came out perfect.

Dried Yak cheese called Churpi, is popular in the Himalayas, and a wonderful unprocessed food for me. Dry squares of cheese hang in shops everywhere. Tibetans mix them in a small blender with water, garlic and hot peppers to make a chili cheese sauce that’s out of this world.

A light lunch at Butsugen is fried rice with dahl. And chili cheese sauce – a new flavor discovery – Yum! My Nightshade intolerance has vanished – a good thing since Bhutanese put chili in everything! I’m still staying away from sugar, wheat, flour, noodles, caffeine, and GMO’s. White rice doesn’t disturb my digestion, although it has no nutritional value.

Sadly, humans have been milling rice for the past 400 years or so, until it’s pure white. As a result diabetes is a top cause of death in Asia. White rice is highly refined, polished, and stripped of its bran and germ, the most nutritious parts. White rice is dead and will not sprout. Nobody seems to understand how to soak and cook brown rice for maximum nutrition. Hopefully I’ll find some unmilled red rice in Bhutan.

A New Government of Bhutan this Month?
Bhutan might just have the most beautiful government building in the world. My Lama was a member of Parliament; he knows the King and the Prime Minister. He retired from politics in 2013, however is still well known and connected. Bhutan social media is buzzing every day about the election.

This month in National Assembly Elections will be Sept 14-15, during my visit.  The National Assembly will choose the new Prime Minister, the head of the government, therefore this is a really important election. For those two days all road entries into Bhutan will be closed. No large gatherings or even marriage ceremonies are allowed.

One unique feature of the Bhutan government is the guiding philosophy of Gross National Happiness, or GNH. The 4th King declared that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. GNH was instituted as the goal of the government in July 2008.

Bhutan has a population of about 800,000 and is a bit larger than the state of Maryland. The government is a constitutional monarchy, with the King as hereditary head of state. Executive power is held by the Prime Minister and his council of ministers. The Bhutanese parliament is bicameral. It consists of a 25-member National Council (upper house) with no party affiliations, and a 47 member National Assembly (lower house) representing political parties. The National Assembly has been controlled by the PDP party since 2013. It was just dissolved August 1 to prepare for September elections.

Some important players this month are:

  • 5th King Jigme Khesar Namgyel WANGCHUCK
  • Current Prime Minister: Tshering TOBAY of the PDP party
  • PDP – Peoples Democratic Party, realizing the vision of the Kings, with a slogan of “Progress with Equity and Justice”.
  • DPT – Druk Phuensum Tshogpa Party,  or “Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party”. President: Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, headed by Jigme Yoesar Thinley
  • DNT – Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa Party, Slogan: HOPE for the future of Bhutan
  • BKP – Bhutan-Kuen Nyam Party, A political party of the people, by the people and for the people.



How do you pronounce “TH”?

Lama has a great desire to speak good English, and he’s a very quick learner. The main issues are pronunciation. Voiced and unvoiced consonants are hard. T vs. Th is difficult for Bhutanese. Thin sounds different from Tin, Think, Thick, Thing, This, That, Teeth, Thief, and These. Dipthongs and final consonants must be especially clear, because Dog, Duck, Dig, Dug, Dark, Dick, and Dork all have very different meanings. My ESL teacher certification is coming in handy.

He was excited to learn how the root of a word can help to master its family. For example the root word Aware leads to Awareness, Wary, Unaware, and Beware. The root Understand can lead to Understanding, Understandably, Misunderstand, Understood, Understandable. We saw some monks doing prostrations, which led to a discussion of Prostration, Prosecution, and Prostitution. Today his favorite new word is “gullible”.


Uh Oh! How do you shop in Bhutan?
Bhutanese money is called Ngultrum. This paper money is differentiated by size and color.  There are no coins. $1 US dollar is about 66 Nultrum. Its value is pegged to the Indian Rupee. I have much to learn.

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