TRAVEL GUIDE 2017
BHUTAN INSIDER FROM HEALTH HINTS TO CULTURAL NO-NOS
The basics Population: 790,000 Capital: Thimphu (the international airport is at Paro, which is an hour or so away by car) Religion: Approximately three quarters of the population is Buddhist, and the other quarter Hindu. Emergency number: 113 (police), 112 (ambulance) The key dates Bhutan uses its own calendar, a variation on a Tibetan calendar, so it’s important to look into holiday and festival dates before you travel. Each year is bookended by two especially big days: 2 January, or Nyinlog, which is a winter solstice festival and considered the most auspicious day on the calendar, and 17 December, which is National Day. The hot spots Popular destinations include Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, the Phobjika Valley, Gangtey and Bumthang. Some itinerary ideas • The Essentials: Paro – Thimphu – Punakha – Gangtey • The Challenge: the Snowman Trek is a legendary four-week walk in the Himalayas, with some campsites above 5,000 metres. How to stay healthy • Travellers’ complaints in Bhutan are generally the same as those in other countries in the region, ranging from diarrhoea to more exotic illnesses. Make sure you’re vaccinated, and take the regular precautions when eating (be wary of buffets that may have been sitting around for some time, for example). • If you’re trekking the high altitudes, be sure to acclimatise, and familiarise yourself with the symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness) before you go.
While you’re there,
please don’t… • act disrespectfully in a dzong or other religious site. This means you should avoid tight or revealing clothing, take off your headwear, and refrain from swearing or making negative comments about religious leaders. • walk the wrong direction around temples and mani walls; follow the locals, who you’ll soon notice are all walking clockwise. Before you go, read … Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa – the memoir of a Canadian woman’s two-year stint in the country. Before you go, watch … Travellers and Magicians – the first feature film shot entirely in the Kingdom of Bhutan. It was directed by Tibetan lama Khyentse Norbu and received some international attention, including a couple of minor awards. They said it “If I had to name the biggest difference between Bhutan and the rest of the world, I could do it in one word: civility.” – Linda Leaming, author "Nothing could be more striking than the pristine, haunting beauty of the landscape of Bhutan, or the atmosphere of peace and sacredness, which pervades the land from end to end.” – Sogyal Rinpoche, Buddhist spiritual master
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