Bhutan, The World’s Happiest Nation

by | Apr 25, 2019

Bhutan, a tiny, population-sparse, and landlocked country in South Asia, is bordered by China, India, and Tibet. Spanning an area of 38,000 km² (54 times larger than Singapore), it has a population of only 700,000 (8 times smaller than Singapore). Even though it is relatively small in comparison to its neighbouring countries, its geographical landscape ranges from alpine Himalayan mountains to humid subtropical forests, to wide valleys carved by slow rivers; a rich biodiversity is sustained by these pristine, untouched environments.

The Way of Zen

Architecturally, Bhutan is known for its breathtaking Buddhist monasteries perched atop a flowing river or by the cliff-edge of a mountain, with elaborate roofs clad in ochre. It’s a place where the land is respected and people are aware of the fact that we are visitors, not masters, of the earth. Indeed, thanks to its assiduous protection of its forests (it is legally enforced that forests must cover at least 60% of the country), Bhutan is not only carbon neutral, but carbon negative, which means that it absorbs more carbon than it emits.

But the country is perhaps most famous for its notion of Gross National Happiness, which measures not only the country’s economic and development standards, but also the state of its cultural heritage, the condition of its environment, and the health of its population.

Little wonder why it is called the “last Shangri La” on earth.

Finding Inner Peace and Happiness

In recent years, Bhutan has been attracting a steady influx of people who wish to experience a different type of life, one divorced from the mindless capitalist mantra of “produce and consume”. At the risk of sounding too Eat Pray Love, in Bhutan, one is able to slow down and reflect on how life should be led, especially in relation to the physical and cultural environment around us.

Yet, for a country that prioritises Gross National Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product, it might seem incongruous for Bhutan to impose a daily minimum tariff on foreign visitors. Travellers who wish to enter the land of Shangri La have to pay a mandatory amount of money per day; the amount varies according to the size of your group and the month when you visit. In general, it ranges from US$200 to US$290.

Meaningful Travel Experience

Before you balk at this number, know that it covers your accommodation for your entire trip, all three meals, the cost of hiring a Bhutanese guide, all transport internally, and even entry or programme fees for activities and attractions. Part of the money is also used by the Bhutanese government to fund their healthcare and education systems (which are provided free to citizens), and maintain their natural and cultural environment. When put into perspective, the minimum daily tariff now seems less an onerous financial burden but an enlightened approach to managing a sustainable and mindful form of tourism.

Shangri La is not—and should not—be a place where one can zip in and out at will, lest its tranquillity be spoilt. But it also should not be inaccessible, for that would defeat its purpose of paving a future forward for humanity. Bhutan strikes a happy balance between the two by making it compulsory for all visitors to book a package with one of many registered Bhutanese tour operator, which will provide your visa and arrange the tourist tariff, before anyone is allowed to pay a pilgrimage to its land.

Visiting Bhutan from Singapore

Luckily for our readers based in Singapore, Changi Airport is one of the few airports around the region where visitors can take a flight, operated by Druk Air, directly to Paro International Airport in Bhutan. Druk Air also flies to Bangkok, various cities in india, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Visiting Bhutan might present a tiny bit more hassle than any other destination. But one simply can’t put a price on happiness.

Other Stories You May be Interested in

7 Macau Famous Foods (And Where to Try Them)

With its glitzy casinos and luxurious world-class entertainment, Macau's reputation as the 'Vegas of Asia' is well deserved. Once a sparsely populated collection of coastal islands, Macau is today a major resort city offering world class entertainment and glitzy...

3 Places to Enjoy Kappo Cuisine in Singapore

Before the where, let’s start with the what. When it comes to forms of Japanese cuisine, Kaiseki and Izakaya are terms that you hear most often thrown around. Both are at the opposite ends of the Japanese culinary spectrum with the former offering an intricate and...

5 Time-tested Traditional Restaurants in Asakusa Tokyo

It seems like almost everyone is waiting with bated breath for the next big food trend to sweep the world.  And we totally get it, bizarre food combinations or funky flavours are a trendy topic, injecting new life into the food world that can get stale for an everyday...

Roll Your Own Sushi at Nonono in Osaka

Japanese cuisine, strange and inscrutable as it can be, is nevertheless universally beloved. Case in point - sushi. Who would have thought that vinegar, rice and raw fish would end up a such a winning combination, producing a sublime symphony of taste that is at once...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This