Bhutan: The Last Authentic Place on Earth

The mystical mountain idyll has made it one of the world's most coveted destinations. But when everyone wants a piece of paradise, can paradise stay intact?

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Bharat Sikka for TIME

Paro Taktsang, known as the Tiger's Nest, is an ancient Buddhist temple perched 10,200 ft. above Bhutan's Paro Valley

I have a promise to break. Like any self-respecting writer visiting Bhutan, I solemnly swore on a stack of travelogues to avoid clichd references to Shangri-la, the mountain paradise of James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon. So sue me: Bhutan, a nation of 700,000 souls in the lap of the Himalayas, is the closest thing to Shangri-la I’ve ever seen.

In a week of traveling through Bhutan, my wife and I have trekked up 10,200 ft. to an ancient Buddhist temple complex perched on the side of a mountain; we’ve shot arrows from a bamboo bow on the lawns of a monastery before an audience of novice monks (they giggled as I missed the target every time); we’ve had a bath in a tub heated by red-hot stones and infused with mysteriously reinvigorating herbs; and we’ve shared dinner with a reincarnated lama.

Bharat Sikka for TIME

And it hasn’t once felt as if we’re in some Himalayan equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg. To Bhutanese, these are everyday activities (with the possible exception of the herb-infused bath, which was a bit luxe). Bhutanese regard as normal what most others would consider magical: the forests of fir, pine and cedar draped over mountains wreathed in clouds; the hundreds of miles of nature trails, rising from deep valleys past meadows of grazing yaks and into the shadow of the high peaks; the stunning beauty of the Trongsa Dzong, a 17th century fortress overlooking a gorge on the Mangde River; and possibly the finest chanterelle mushrooms on the planet. Over and over again, as we struggle for words to describe what our eyes are seeing, Nima Dorji, our guide, smiles indulgently. “Nice, no?” he asks. Nice, yes.

It takes an outsidera Singaporean who lives in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capitalto capture most tourists’ impression of the country. “This is the last authentic place on earth,” says Siok Sian Pek Dorji, who runs the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy. “Nothing is canned. If you see a group of men with bows and arrows, they’re not playing archers for some tourist show. They’re doing it because it’s a part of their Bhutanese identity, and they love it.”

(PHOTOSTravels Through Bhutan)

Authenticity is a rare and valuable commodity, and people will travel far to find it. But the authentic Bhutanese identity is under threat from several sides, starting with a surge in tourism: the construction sector is booming, helped by easy credit. A ban on television was lifted in 1999; you can see satellite dishes in tiny hamlets across the country. Teens at the Ser Khor karaoke bar in Thimphu can warble the latest Bollywood tunes with as much verve as they do Bhutanese pop songs. Plugged into the world via smart phones and Internet cafs, they’re adopting a global look and attitude: artfully distressed jeans, spiky hairstyles and an addiction to social media. Outside Wangdichholing Palace in Bumthang, the monastery-filled district that is the spiritual heart of this deeply religious country, the novice monk laying out his cloak to dry in the field is wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Lucy Liu.

Bharat Sikka for TIME

“Our world is changing very, very fast,” says Mynak Tulku, the reincarnated monk. “What the rest of you saw in 50 years, we’ve seen in just 10. So of course, some people are bound to feel shaken up.”

Anxiety over the end of Bhutan’s innocence coincides with yet another modern innovation that is transforming the country: democracy. In 2008, Bhutan elected its first government. The event was marked by polite speeches and an absence of the rancor we’re used to in the U.S. Now the administration of Prime Minister Jigmi Yoser Thinley must figure out how to balance the demands of democracy with saving Shangri-la.

The Dragon King
Though it’s wedged between Asia’s biggest countries, China and India, Bhutan has a strong cultural identity of its own. The majority of the population follow Vajrayana Buddhism; the Dalai Lama, of neighboring Tibet, is respected, but Bhutanese heed their own set of spiritual guides. The national cuisine, which relies heavily on chilies and cheese, is distinct from others in the region. Bhutanese traditional dressespecially the gho, a man’s knee-length robe with distinctive cuffsand language are substantially different from their Tibetan roots. Even the architectural style, characterized by intricately paned windows and doors, is rarely seen outside Bhutan.

For the best part of four decades, this singular culture was protected by the sheer will of an enlightened monarch: Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King). Most Bhutanese refer to him simply as K4 — for he’s the fourth in a line that goes back to the beginning of the last century. To me, he’ll always be Jigme, the most popular boy in St. Joseph’s College in Darjeeling, India, where we both went to school.

Only 16 when he ascended to the throne in 1972 — I was in first grade then and knew him mainly as goalkeeper of the senior soccer team — K4 inherited an impoverished nation with few resources beyond jaw-dropping natural beauty. (The landscapes made little impact on me when I went to Thimphu for K4′s coronation, but then, first-graders aren’t overly impressed with picture-postcard vistas.) Bhutan’s only serious means of revenue was tourism, but as he looked west to his country’s neighbor Nepal, K4 saw a cautionary tale. The larger Himalayan kingdom was overrun with backpackers and hippies, many of them drawn by Nepal’s abundant supply of wild marijuana. These low-budget tourists were perhaps doing more harm than good to Nepal’s economy.

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45 comments
RatanDas
RatanDas

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Peggy M. Goldman
Peggy M. Goldman

Thank you

for sharing your in-depth experience in Bhutan. It’s wonderful you had the

chance to explore this country in its pristine, authentic state, though it seems,

from the article, that the government has taken steps to ensure that the

Bhutanese culture remains fairly intact, at least for now. As a tour operator, we have been offering high-value tours

to Bhutan for several years, and frequently receive inquiries about the

country from our customers. Travelers want to see

this country’s unspoiled beauty and authenticity.

Peggy Goldman

President, Friendly Planet Travel

http://blog.friendlyplanet.com

FriendlyPlanet.com

@FriendlyPlanet

Peggy M. Goldman
Peggy M. Goldman

Thank you for sharing your in-depth experience in Bhutan. It’s wonderful you had the chance to explore this country in its pristine, authentic state, though it seems, from the article, that the government has taken steps to ensure that the Bhutanese culture remains fairly intact, at least for now. As a tour operator, we have been offering high-value tours to Bhutan for several years, and frequently receive inquiries about the country from our customers. Travelers want to see this country’s unspoiled beauty and authenticity.

Peggy Goldman

President, Friendly Planet Travel

http://blog.friendlyplanet.com

FriendlyPlanet.com

@FriendlyPlanet

JohnWehrheim
JohnWehrheim

Dear Starryriflyk, 

You are correct. I am the author of “BHUTAN: Hidden Lands of Happiness” and the writer/producer of the PBS film “BHUTAN: Taking the Middle Path to Happiness”. I agree that we should not obsess over historic events; nor should we intentionally distort history for political gain—to make the “other” entirely evil while portraying ourselves as pure truth and light. I was quite hesitant to reply given the emotional responses to my initial comment--concerned that I might continue to stoke the passionate fires that polarize our views and actions and distort history into propaganda.  Propaganda always makes conflict worse—feeds the flames of  karmic reaction. 

Understanding history without emotion, without passion without judgment is essential to reduce suffering for all beings. Both Hindus and Buddhists know this intrinsically. This is the law of Karma.  I know this is much easier said than done and that the brutality on both sides created emotional wounds that are difficult to heal without time and intentional practice. Yet we must study history not simply to know how to behave, or how to succeed, but to know who we are and understand the interconnectedness of all life—that we are all One. In my book [as well as my initial comment…] I wrote that there is fault on both sides. Both sides must let go of their “stories”, their propaganda, to come to an understanding.  This incident deeply wounded all Bhutanese and threatened the sovereignty of the nation. 

Inside Bhutan time is healing this wound and as time passes we can observe the great strength and resiliency of Bhutan’s leadership and people—a mixed nation speaking 24 languages and more than 100 dialects of Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan: Ngalops, Lhotshampas, Sharshops, Khengpa, Mangdeps, Kurteps, Bumtaps, Tibetans etc.  Most Lhotshampas did not leave Bhutan and now make up a large percentage of the population of this democratic, multi-party, constitutional monarchy. Lhotshampas turn out to vote and have democratic control of their communities.  Yet to see Bhutan’s future we must look to the youth.   The majority of Bhutan’s population was born after the southern calamity, have no first hand memory and little emotional scarring from the crisis.  The Bhutanese are rapidly becoming a well-educated and sophisticated people. Most Bhutanese under 30 speak their local dialect as well as Nepali, Dzongkha and English.  Intermarriage is common and racial/religious prejudice is not “cool”.  Through this natural course the Fourth King’s goal of one nation, one culture and one people will be achieved through love, marriage and children.  We can only hope and pray that the settlement of those refugees now being relocated around the world will heal their emotional wounds through a similar course of love as they become Americans, Europeans and Australians. 

Yes, mental illness and suicide are rising globally and within Bhutan as well.  We are all living in a time of great change, stress and confusion. The escape from Kali Yuga can only be found in those Hidden Lands of Happiness within...  

PS: Don't forget Buddha was a Nepali Hindu!

Bibek
Bibek

@JohnWehrheim 

I beg your pardon sir on behalf of few ignorant fellows of my country who brought about this useless discussion upon the matter which is totally unrelated to the theme of this article. These people , most probably brought up in the Kahmandu valley, probably do not even know the significance of the Himalayas, Buddhism and Tibetan culture which Nepal shares with Bhutan and northern India....they only know how to make vain criticisms!

- Bibek Dhakal

Starryriflyk
Starryriflyk

I do not want to give a long reply. But I would just want to say, please do not bring topic of religion. There was never mention of religion in the thread. In Nepal and I personally respect all religion. In Kathmandu where I am from we practice both Buddhism and Hinduism religion without discrimination. 

So, you do not have to remind me about Buddha!

Starryriflyk
Starryriflyk

Who is responsible for the very high rate of mental problem "anxiety" "depression" "adjustment disorder" and even "sucide" in Bhutanese that have been relocated to 3rd countries. 

JohnWehrheim
JohnWehrheim

This conflict is extremely complex with enough fault and blame on both sides to go around. Without the perspective of the recent geopolitical history of the region the problem is difficult to understand. By 1975 Nepalese made up over 75 per cent of Sikkim’s population, vastly outnumbering the Kingdom’s original Lepcha and Tibetan stock. When Sikkim’s Nepali majority began violent demonstrations for democracy, India used this as an excuse to stage a brief, ruthless invasion, forcing the abdication of Sikkim’s Buddhist king. India then passed an act of Parliament that annexed Sikkim, making it an Indian state. Bhutan was now the last Buddhist kingdom, the final bastion of a culture in a state of siege; and the Bhutanese government was in shock, painfully aware of its vulnerability.

By the 1980s millions of Nepalese lived just across Bhutan’s border in north and east India and a strong separatist movement called the Gorkhaland National Liberation Front began a campaign of violence and terror to press its demands against India, which had used the presence of Nepalese to stage its takeover of Sikkim. In southern Bhutan, the predominantly Hindu Nepalese community grew rapidly, comprising approximately 25 per cent of the Kingdom’s population. In addition to the availability of good land, the Nepalese, called the Lhotshampas, or southern Bhutanese, were further attracted by the Royal Government’s free health care, free education and minimal taxes.

The violence of the Gorkhaland Liberation Front movement panicked Bhutan’s dominant Drukpa Buddhist government—the Ngalops. The government overreacted--conducting a census aimed to flush out illegal immigrants. The government also instituted national policies of dress, architecture, language and culture, meant to mold a single Bhutanese identity and bring rapprochement between Hindu and Buddhist citizens. Called the “One Nation, One People” policy, this foolish and misguided effort backfired and by 1990 some of the southerners rebelled, accusing the government of cultural discrimination, repression and the illegal eviction of bona fide citizens.

Both sides were guilty of bloodshed and abuse. Nepali radicals based in India used this opportunity to provoke communal violence and hatred inside Bhutan. They organized demonstrations and assaulted people and property—often targeting uncooperative Lhotshampas who would not join the Gorkhaland movement. Schools and health facilities were closed and all development programs came to a halt as the mobs targeted government buildings. Feeding the fire of fear and hatred, some Bhutanese officials reacted with brutality and greed, attacking the innocent, revoking the citizenship of some legitimate Lhotshampas Bhutanese and grabbing their land.

As usually in a situation like this the innocent suffered the wrath of both sides. Most Lhotshampas Bhutanese were industrious farmers wanting nothing more than to live in peace. Terrorized and confused, approximately eighty thousand fled for refugee camps in Nepal, some voluntarily, some driven by the Gorkhaland terrorists, others through forced exile by Bhutanese officials. They left despite King Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s grants of special favor for the Lhotshampas and repeated journeys to the south to plead personally with his people not to leave their country. The majority of the Lhotshampa population remained in Bhutan.

Nga Wang Ley
Nga Wang Ley

The Royal Government of Bhutan even paid cash incentive for marrying Lhotshampa and i as a Bhutanese have witnessed the terror that has been terrorized by those Bhutan Peoples Party cadet(as claimed by them). Government officials(Even some Lhotshampa) were beheaded and hanged their head by the Bridge side, looting and killing innocent Lotshampas who refused to join their movement(The so called Vision of Greater Nepal to cover Sikkim, Bhutan, Northeast India and may be Burma and few Island(Lol) there after too....

The native Sikkimese the Bhutias, Lomboos etc. became minority in their own Country with the influx of Nepalis from the porous boarder( as far as facts and figures history provides Sikkim had been a Buddist Kingdom). Now the Majority Nepalis demanded Democracy and formed a party headed by a native Sikkimese the first Prime Minister(Sikkim) and First Chief Minister(Sikkim,State of India) Kazi Lhendrup Dorji. By the way we Bhutanese worship our KINGS.

JohnWehrheim
JohnWehrheim

Yes, some Nepalis were forcibly relocated [both Bhutanese citizens and illegal Nepali immigrants...], many citizens left voluntarily, most were terrified and confused and exploited by both sides of the conflict--innocent victims of greed and politics.  There is fault and blame enough to go around. One must understand the region's geopolitical history, the Nepali/Gorkhaland  violence and terror in Sikkim, the loss of that country and culture as a sovereign nation to India's forcible annexation.  This takeover of Sikkim occurred prior to the trouble in Bhutan and this Gorkhaland National Liberation Front terror was spreading through Bengal and across Bhutan's border.  This threat to Bhutan's sovereignty and culture terrified the Bhutanese Ngalops and caused many officials to overreact.  Of course some Bhutanese were also motivated by greed and prejudice--this was an opportunity for unscrupulous Ngalops rip off  valuable Lhotshampa property in the south. The Fourth King did everything in his power to control the situation and reverse the exodus of legitimate Lhotshampa citizens.  The King announce that he would abdicate if he could not reconcile the issues and bring back the Lhotshampa Bhutanese.  And when it finally became clear that his efforts had failed and the Lhotshampas would not return the Fourth King abdicated. The situaltion in the refugees camps was corrupt and hopeless--run by "professional" refugees and aid workers.  Unfortunately, many of these "professionals" were too heavily invested and dependent on the problem to want to solve it reasonable and peacefully--the "crisis" was the source of their power and income. It's a very very complicated and sad story--and all too typical.  Innocents suffer at the hands of the corrupt and greedy on all sides... KuzuNamasteLa

Starryriflyk
Starryriflyk

If I am correct you are author of "Bhutan: Hidden land of Happiness". It means that you know the culture there and south asia quite well. You can think yourself neutrally and decide yourself what is wrong and right and "human right" keeping your book aside.

There has been bloody history in South-Asia, not as much as Europe, Africa or America but not insignificant as well. We should not dwell on what happened in history but try to live peaceful lives now at present. Imagine, if each natives start to carry out ethnic cleansing there will be a big mess in today's world and nobody wants that situation. 

According to UNHCR or any other human right organisations, no one should be thrown out of country (even the illegal immigrants) at gunpoint. Well, I do not deny to fact some Nepalese speaking people have gone there looking for better life but that is not justification to throw out whole Nepalese speaking minority groups. "Pure Bhutanese" was scared of being taken over because almost all Bhutanese speaks Nepalese fluently. It was their insecurity that also forced to start ethnic cleaning and terrorising.

I have come to realise that many western countries try to ignore that Bhutanese political issues because they do not have "economic interest there" and "they want to believe in mythical dragon country- a fantasy land". 

Saurav J. Thapa
Saurav J. Thapa

The Gorkhaland liberation movement was fighting for equal rights in Sikkim because 75% of the population of that state happens to be of ethnic Nepali origin but had been repressed by the Buddhist minority monarchy and then by Indians for decades.  Sikkim was part of Nepal until the British seized it (as part of their 'white man's burden' to "civilize" us natives) in a war in the early 19th century.  The mythical fourth king of Bhutan was the mastermind of the violent ethnic cleansing of Lhotsampas.  It is laughable to claim that he offered to abdicate if the Lhotsampas returned.  He made sure they would not return, and satisfied that had been achieved (as the refugees were being resettled by third party states), finally went through the drama of abdicating in 2006, almost two decades after the mass expulsions.  His then installed his lovely son as his successor.  Very democratic.

Nga Wang Ley
Nga Wang Ley

Mr. Saurav J. Thapa Babu thank you for completing our Lovely K5(we Bhutanese know him by THE PEOPLES KING)

Vijay Menon
Vijay Menon

Shucks, the bickering in the comments kind of ruined the happy sappy afterglow of reading the article. But come to think of it, the author was a little too gushy and one sided. So the bickering in fact helped add perspective.

Sachi Mohanty
Sachi Mohanty

...

What's not to like about a nation that has a town called 'Paro.'

...

Rishav Sharma
Rishav Sharma

bhutan, the land of gross national happiness, the only country that sends a quarter of its citizens as refugees and the world just stays ignorant.

Starryriflyk
Starryriflyk

They want to make it so authentic that they kick out all Nepalese descendants who have been living there for decades. It is living in century when human right did not exist and only anarchy was reality.

As for reality of Bhutan, the writer missed to tell that its one of country where people go shopping in Thailand and go to Nepal to play casino. They love Indian foods and smuggle cigarettes and favourite drink is vodka orange. 

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

 So loving Indian food, smuggling cigarettes and drinking screwdrivers is now wrong? Looks like I am going to be put away for a long time.

Starryriflyk
Starryriflyk

I did not know drinking Russian vodka, smoking international brand cigarettes and playing casino was very authentic from Bhutan. :-). 

I am talking about hypocrisy, not about what is wrong or right.

reitzron1
reitzron1

Nobody has mentioned that the Nepalese who were kicked out had their Bhutanese passports confiscated and had to leave their houses and animals behind.  Being without passports, they were not accepted into Nepal and had to spend years in refugee camps waiting for someone to give them a home.  The United Nations is resettling them across the world--American, Europe, Australia, etc.  We have more than 300 of them right now in Cincinnati, all of them cast out from the country they were born in.  Yes, it IS a beautiful country and now ethnically "pure."

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

Beautiful beautiful place. Untainted, unpolluted and pristine. The night sky in Paro is the best I've seen anywhere; close to zero light pollution and the sky looked awesome with the sprawling band of the Milky way highlighting the vista spectacularly. The other sights weren't too bad either :)

Sachi Mohanty
Sachi Mohanty

Ya. How can one not like a country that has a town named 'Paro.' Sweetness indeed.

Saurav J. Thapa
Saurav J. Thapa

Ah another typical love-Bhutan piece that ignores the fact that the autocratic royal rulers of that country (with a paper thin democratic veneer) have engaged in ethnic cleansing against the Nepali-speaking Lhotsampa minority for 30 years.  110,000 Bhutanese have been evicted from their country and languished for two decades in eastern Nepal in UN-run camps till they were resettled in third party Western countries.  Bhutan is a sad, despotic, little North Korea, not paradise!!

Bibek
Bibek

@Saurav J. Thapa

I am really ashamed on behalf of all Nepalese that in this era of globalization you are bringing a topic which is totally unrelated to the article in subject and trying to show that Nepalis only know how to fight rather than use their brains. Your response seems to be inspired by prejudiced notion and hatred you have stored for a long time towards Bhutan. Yes, I do agree that the act of the government of Bhutan at the time was not right...even I used to get annoyed ( just like any other Nepali)  reading about the  discrimination, coercion and even killing of the innocent people (most of them belonging to my clan) in the name of war. But that doesn't mean I have to hate Bhutan and Bhutanese for the rest of my life to show my patriotism...I feel this is not patriotism but a sheer psychiatric complex aroused by irrational hatred towards a person/country/government..

The article describes about the natural and cultural beauty of Bhutan and even a first-grader knows this is not at all written from a political perspective. Maybe the writer who is fascinated by the Shang-Ri la Kingdom wants to promote her splendor and invite more visitors towards there. Why on earth you need to pour your anger filled with in-contextual statistics and topic and hurt the sentiments of overall Bhutanese who have nothing to do with so-called "ethnic cleansing" that you have mentioned?Alas! although hailing from a country seating on the lap of Himalayas, a country where foreigners flocked in the past to scale the breathtaking mountains, observe the Tibeto-Buddhism (after the Chinese invaded the Tibet) etc. it is so unfortunate that you spew your venom towards a nation similar to ours and their inhabitants just because some  politicians in the past had erred.


- Bibek Dhakal

Parvati73
Parvati73

I think you have no idea what you are talking about. It is important to point out that this number of 110,000 is totally fabricated. While like decades ago, many Nepalese were made to leave Bhutan BECAUSE they failed to show that they have citizenship and BECAUSE they cames to Bhutan after the 1950s, the number was no where close to 110,000. And also every  country has a right to ask people who are illegal residents to leave. The LEGITIMATE Lhotshampas are still in Bhutan and in fact very happy--Not to forget the fact that these legitimate Bhutanese Lhotshampas are also progressing really well, even holding Ministerial positions. So please get your facts right before just throwing in un-substantiated population data.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

Almost every country in the world has negatives, do we stop admiring their scenic beauty and ignore all the positives because of nit picking? No America because they waged an ethnocide against the native americans, no Australia either. No India because they have been waging wars internally and externally, etc etc. In fact, make that no place on Earth. We'll need to move to the moon to take moral high ground, if we were to apply this line of reasoning strictly.

And please, Bhutan might be many things, but little North Korea it's not. Have you ever been to North Korea?

Starryriflyk
Starryriflyk

At least you agree (from your later answers) that:

- Bhutanese government kicked out a lot of people based on ethnicity

- Bhutanese government controls the flow of people (except Indians)

- Majority of foreign investment is from India

- It controls flow of tourists

I only one to add, Bhutan likes or not it is puppet of India. There is only investment from India because other countries are not allowed. All the hydropower plants are directly or indirectly under Indians. The so called constitution was made to show the world.

One thing more, at least we kicked our autocratic king so there is no need to discuss about it further. Its not like Bhutan where all the big government positions belongs to relatives of King family.

As for tourism, they do not discourage tourism but encourage tourism without any free market. The tourism is operated by handful of people and normal people have nothing to do with it. 

Nepal has a lot to improve but at least there has been change, slowly and painfully its going towards real democracy.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

" I think we are not the bully of South Asia and cannot be from size

(area, population or economy) nor by our mentality."

Yet you have no issues making bully comparisons. You wish you were the bully, and are happy to see a bigger bully in exchange for a smaller one.  Also sweeping generalisations of the sort made by you here are pretty low on credibility. I am an Indian. My mentality is that of a bully is it? You don't even know me, but you seem to have no problems in stereotyping me  based on my nationality.

"Tibetans in Nepal are well

integrated, go to Boudha area of Nepal. Of course there are some events

when police tried to intervene Tibetans demonstrators. "

Tibetans might have been well integrated before the fall of monarchy but ever since the maoist uprising, they have been the victims of suppression- both of freedom of speech and the right to exercise their identity. Also this isn't just police preventing them, this is a decision made at the highest levels of the Nepalese government. To blame simple policemen as the reason for these actions is to ignore the larger issues here, namely Nepal's increasing compliance with Chinese policy diktats.

"If you know Nepal

(also India and other neighbouring countries), the police are not

trained at handling the demonstrations and its not only against Tibetans

protestors but against any kinds of protesters they do misbehave."

Interesting. You cry yourself hoarse at how Nepalese were treated by the bhutanese, but seem to be suffering from major denial, attributing high level govt policies to- "police high handedness".

http://articles.cnn.com/2012-0...

Do introspect. In your desire to be seen on moral high ground, you are willing to ignore obvious truths here. Your government is bending backwards to appease the chinese. In the process, it's doing to Tibetan Buddhists what the Bhutanese did to you.

"As

for Nepal not recognising Tibet as sovereign nation, Tibet has been

officially recognised as part of China by UN (EU, US etc.) and Nepal

being part of UN has also adhered to that. Its not personal choice of

what a single Nepalese wants."

What kind of an excuse is this? If India invaded Nepal tomorrow and the UN ratified this invasion, you Nepalese would be content with such reasoning is it? Since when is the UN known to be the bastion of moral aptitude? If it helps you sleep at night, go right ahead and believe this little lie.

Starryriflyk
Starryriflyk

"And finding pride in what another country did to another country, is the surest sign that you've nothing to speak of your own."I think we are not the bully of South Asia and cannot be from size (area, population or economy) nor by our mentality."I also see that you've no answers to how Tibetan Buddhists are being treated in Nepal now, that's ok, the truth is hard to digest."Tibetans in Nepal are well integrated, go to Boudha area of Nepal. Of course there are some events when police tried to intervene Tibetans demonstrators. If you know Nepal (also India and other neighbouring countries), the police are not trained at handling the demonstrations and its not only against Tibetans protestors but against any kinds of protesters they do misbehave. As for Nepal not recognising Tibet as sovereign nation, Tibet has been officially recognised as part of China by UN (EU, US etc.) and Nepal being part of UN has also adhered to that. Its not personal choice of what a single Nepalese wants.

Saurav J. Thapa
Saurav J. Thapa

Oh my!  Now we are getting all sensitive about the sensitivities of the two giant nuclear armed neighbors, one of whom kicked the other's back in a brief 1962 war which showed who's boss in South Asia.  And it is appeasement when we build a road to one of our neighboring countries, which happens to be the more powerful one (China, in case anyone is confused) that kicked the weaker one (India's) backside?!  We will build as many roads and as deep ties as we need with China (and yes, I am a proud Nepali) to counter the interfering and scheming ways of Delhi's South Block-based diplomats and RAW agents who have played the biggest role in destabilizing Nepal and preventing democracy from taking root here for the last five decades.  A little bit of balancing, and a little less of India (despite my love for that country, my ability to speak Hindi, and my wonderful friends there) is just what Nepal needs to maintain its sovereignty and avoid the danger of going the way of Sikkim or (god forbid!) Bhutan.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

So let me get this right. The reason an article on Tourism  gets converted to a political debate, is because there are a lot of disgruntled Nepalese here?

That should work. As for your assertion that Bhutan is a puppet of India, I am sure you are well versed the geo political realities of this region.

I am sure your country, (which I assume to be Nepal), is no one's puppet. Which is why it needs no foriegn aid at all. Why if it needed foreign aid it would also become a "puppet".

You speak like there is nothing to having two uneasy nuclear armed giant neighbours next door. Nothing at all.

Also, we see the results of Nepalese democracy. Not a stable government anywhere in sight, followed by a Maoist insurgency, followed by not a stable government in sight.

Let us not get to the bits where you are building mountain roads to places that need no roads, just to appease your giant neighbours.

Saurav J. Thapa
Saurav J. Thapa

Prithvi Shiv - your definition of ethnic cleansing is very limited and quite ignorant.  Ethnic cleansing means forced relocation of people from their homeland, not some euphemistic and benign sounding "relocation" that you describe.  In Bhutan's case you are completely wrong - the 110,000 refugees were forced out of their country at gunpoint and following a vicious campaign of rape, looting, and murder waged by Bhutan's silly tinpot monarchy's (whose royals and courtiers wear silly skirts and ironically profess to practice Buddhism) soldiers.  

Back to the nitty gritties - I doubt you read the full article which goes on and on about how wonderful and gracious the silly royal family of Bhutan and its kings are.  Of course, this completely ignores the blood on the hands of Bhutan's royals who ordered the rape, pillage, and purge of a sixth of the country's population from their homeland. 

And of course you are totally right about the royals of Nepal.  We introspected.  Then we ejected the monarchy and established a federal democratic republic in 2008.  Nothing would make me happier than to see the Bhutanese people have the same courage to kick out their vampire-like royals and establish a democracy.  Not a little tinpot kingdom that claims to be a constitutional monarchy but whose foreign policy (and pretty much everything else, including protecting the royals) is controlled by big, bullying brother India.

Bhutan is indeed the closest thing to a subcontinental version of North Korea.  Just with a little bit more food (courtesy India), a little bit more lies (courtesy a first rate royal family and aristocracy-staffed civil service and foreign service that manages to create an image of a weird Shangrila), and a lot of nonsense about harmony and happiness that hides a lot of ugliness and the fundamental illiberalness of the Bhutanese state. 

Saurav J. Thapa
Saurav J. Thapa

Since when did the ethnic cleansing of 110,000 minorities become nitpicking?!?  Facts need to be called what they are!  India of course helped Bhutan with the ethnic cleansing, which is no surprise at all given the so-called "world's largest democracy's" shameful record of ethnic cleansing and ham fisted rule from Kashmir to Assam.  Just because Bhutan is beautiful does not mean its little tinpot dictatorial royal family should be praised to the skies, as Bobby Ghosh has done in this completely one sided piece that ignores the sad reality of a country that trumpets the bankrupt concept of Gross National Happiness because there is no Gross National Product to speak of.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

" Oh my!  Now we are getting all sensitive about the sensitivities of the

two giant nuclear armed neighbors, one of whom kicked the other's back

in a brief 1962 war which showed who's boss in South Asia. "

Way to go with the non sequiturs. My statement was made in the context of you claiming that Bhutan's foreign policy was being dictated by India. Since you yourself now agree that your's was being dictated by China, I rest my case. And finding pride in what another country did to another country, is the surest sign that you've nothing to speak of your own.

"And it is

appeasement when we build a road to one of our neighboring countries,

which happens to be the more powerful one (China, in case anyone is

confused) that kicked the weaker one (India's) backside?!  We will build

as many roads and as deep ties as we need with China (and yes, I am a

proud Nepali) to counter the interfering and scheming ways of Delhi's

South Block-based diplomats and RAW agents who have played the biggest

role in destabilizing Nepal and preventing democracy from taking root

here for the last five decades. "

Ditto for Bhutan. Doesn't seem such a puppet now does it?

"A little bit of balancing, and a little

less of India (despite my love for that country, my ability to speak

Hindi, and my wonderful friends there) is just what Nepal needs to

maintain its sovereignty and avoid the danger of going the way of Sikkim

or (god forbid!) Bhutan."

I've been to Sikkim too, many times. I've many friends from there. They are pretty happy with their lot.  Of course utopian expectations like yours are little harder to appease, but most others are happy with their lot in life.

I also see that you've no answers to how Tibetan Buddhists are being treated in Nepal now, that's ok, the truth is hard to digest.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

I find it ironic that you are complaining about how Bhutan treats outsiders when your country's record in no better. Let us examine the facts shall we? What has nepal's policy been towards Tibetan buddhists fleeing that region, especially post Prachanda coming to power? Please enlighten the world on how tolerant your country has been. How it's been shining light of democratic wisdom to the likes of Bhutan (which recently became a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy). I await your wisdom.

"Back to the nitty gritties - I doubt you read the full article which goes on and on about how wonderful and gracious the silly royal family of Bhutan and its kings are.  Of course, this completely ignores the blood on the hands of Bhutan's royals who ordered the rape, pillage, and purge of a sixth of the country's population from their homeland."

yeah that is reason enough to brand an entire country as nothing good. Makes sense.

 

"And of course you are totally right about the royals of Nepal.  We introspected.  Then we ejected the monarchy and established a federal democratic republic in 2008."

Which is an amazing development if it wasn't more of the same. At least the tibetan buddhists had peace when the monarchy was in power. Now, well now let's just leave the unpleasant bits out where your government has become a "puppet" of China (to paraphrase one your compatriots).

"Nothing would make me happier than to see the Bhutanese people have the same courage to kick out their vampire-like royals and establish a democracy."

I've been to Bhutan. Many times over. The impression I get is distinctly different from "vampire like royals". In regions remotely located and nowhere close to the seat of power. Must be the Bhutanese people were pretending to mislead me.

"Not a little tinpot kingdom that claims to be a constitutional monarchy but whose foreign policy (and pretty much everything else, including protecting the royals) is controlled by big, bullying brother India."

and your country's foreign policy is controlled by bullying brother China. I guess that makes you even, eh?

"Bhutan is indeed the closest thing to a subcontinental version of North Korea.  Just with a little bit more food (courtesy India), a little bit more lies (courtesy a first rate royal family and aristocracy-staffed civil service and foreign service that manages to create an image of a weird Shangrila), and a lot of nonsense about harmony and happiness that hides a lot of ugliness and the fundamental illiberalness of the Bhutanese state. "

Firstly, your gross generalization is an affront to the millions of people that are imprisoned in gulag like slave labour camps in North Korea. Going further, your idea of world history is probably limited to atrocities carried out by the bhutanese against the nepalese if you think that Bhutan has ever had anything similar to Juche ideology. I am amused that in your outrage you are neglecting simple facts that disprove this claim entirely. We could start with nature of the totalitarian control exerted in North Korea compared to model present in Bhutan but I doubt if you really are interested in facts. After all, it's more fun to make your own facts up because they are so easy to believe and require such little effort in critical study.

First and foremostly, this article is not a political overview, so for you to constantly harping about atrocities in Bhutan is simply too much of wrong content in the wrong place. Secondly, in your drive to prove Bhutan as evil, you have neglected to introspect, which really renders your point moot, since your supposed democratic government has started to crack down on Tibetan buddhists because your big brother doesn't like them, which brings me to the next point. You keep ranting about Bhutan's big brother India, like you don't have a big brother? Why is that? Double standards much? Finally, your analogy of North Korea and Bhutan is so wrong that we might need to an entire book to simple list the preface.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

Firstly let us get our terminology right. Ethnic cleansing in this context refers to relocation, not genocide. As in mass murder. From your own statements above, it's clear that 1,10,000 people were relocated. Not mass murdered.

Now that we have clarified that, let's get onto the nitty gritties. Whatever the issue, there is no denying that Bhutan is a beautiful place. Whether it's govt/monarchy forcibly relocated people or not, is besides the point when you talk about a place's natural beauty. The natural beauty of the place had nothing to do with politics.  You make the mistake of confusing both these issues as being one and the same.

And frankly your diatribe about India's record is a non sequitur, since nowhere have I stated that India is the epitome to moral correctness. To the contrary, I distinctly remember mentioning that India's not the next best thing to sliced bread.

Let's turn the same critical eye on Nepal; during the time the royals ruled Nepal, it was to paraphrase you  ruled by "autocratic royal rulers of that country (with a paper thin democratic veneer)". The royals of Nepal had their own record of human rights violations. So maybe you need to introspect before pointing fingers.

Finally you seem to again be under the impression that Bhutan wants to impress people with its concept of gross national happiness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Entry is heavily controlled (for non Indians and non Saarc members) and tourism is discouraged. In fact apart from India, there is really no investment in Bhutan to speak of

I am glad that you acknowledge that your vitriolic  analogy Bhutan being little North Korea is ludicrous. What however I don't get is the vitriol. I can understand that your compatriots have been wronged, but that doesn't mean you go painting an entire nation as being the subcontinental version of  North Korea.

joirbelivas
joirbelivas

Bhutan is very nice, and maybe you should also try Myanmar's countryside (Mount Popa, Bassein, the road to Ngwe Saung, etc). There are not many places like that to visit anymore, so it's better get hurry before they fade out.

joirbelivas
joirbelivas

Bhutan is very nice, and maybe you should also try Myanmar's countryside (Mount Popa, Bassein, the road to Ngwe Saung, etc). There are not many places like that to visit anymore, so it's better get hurry before they fade out.

joirbelivas
joirbelivas

Bhutan is very nice, and maybe you should also try Myanmar's countryside (Mount Popa, Bassein, the road to Ngwe Saung, etc). There are not many places like that to visit, so it's better get hurry before they fade out...