If there is any place you can seemingly turn back time, discover Buddhism and Hinduism, and see what it’s like to live harmoniously with nature in the 21st century, it’s definitely Bhutan. You will feel as if you have dived into the page of an Asian history book when you see their unique and breathtakingly beautiful architecture. You may never even want to leave after experiencing the warmth of the people and their value of respect and freedom of different people. It may be a small country seemingly hidden in the Himalayas, but it is one rich in culture, diversity and tradition unlike many other places you will see in the world today.
Important and Interesting Facts about Bhutan
- Bhutan has the 17th biggest Buddha in the world.
- Bhutan is the first country in the world with specific constitutional obligations on its people to protect the environment. Among its requirements: At least 60 percent of the nation must remain under forest cover at all times.
- At 7,570 meters (24,836 ft) and a prominence of 2,995 meters (9,826 ft), Gangkhar Puensum is the highest point in Bhutan—and the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.
- Respect for the environment, the eco system and all species is a serious matter in Bhutan. Anyone caught killing an endangered species, faces the harsh sentence of life in prison.
- Bhutan is called “The Land of Thunder Dragons” because of the violent and large thunderstorms that whip down through the valleys from the Himalayas. The contrast in temperature from the Indian plains and the high mountains of the Himalayas also creates dramatic cloud-escapes that can be seen as you drive over the high mountain passes.
- Bhutan is the world’s only carbon sink, that is; it absorbs more CO2 than it gives out. It sells hydro-electrical power, making it the only country whose largest export is renewable energy. 72% of the country is forested. In fact, it’s in the country’s constitution to keep 60% of its land forested.
- Bhutanese receive free education from the government. A heavy emphasis is placed on Buddhist teachings. Most schools have an English curriculum.
- The climate of Bhutan varies as it is tropical in the southern plains, experiences cool winters and hot summers in central valleys and severe winters and cool summers in Himalayas.
- The main industries are cement, wood products, processed fruits and alcoholic beverages. Bhutan exports electricity to India, cardamom, gypsum, timber and handicrafts. Agriculture is its major industry with rice, fruit and dairy industry (yaks).
- Bhutan is one of the most isolated and least developed nations in the world.
Cool, Funny, and Fun Facts about Bhutan
- Thimpu, capital of Bhutan, is one of just two capital cities in Asia that does not have a single traffic light. (The other is Pyongyang, North Korea.) There was such public outcry when local officials installed a single signal that it was quickly removed, and a traffic officer was re-assigned to the intersection.
- Need some good luck? Thinking of starting a family? Bhutanese have a long tradition of painting phalluses on their houses to serve as a symbol of fertility and good luck.
- Bhutan is the only country in the world to measure national happiness by way of an index known as Gross National Happiness.The United Nations bought into the idea in 2011 and is working to develop an indicator that encompasses social, health, and environmental wellness into an index rather than just economic concerns.
- All citizens officially become one year older on New Year’s Day. This way, no one forgets anyone’s birthday!
- In the tropical forests of southern Bhutan you’ll find the beautiful hornbill. They usually choose their food right at the perfect moment of ripeness – late enough to avoid bitterness, and soon enough to ensure someone else doesn’t steal it. Amazingly, male hornbills have been known to swallow as many as 70 small fruits which they then carry back to their young.
- Another mythical creature, the migoli (or yeti) is described as a human-like creature that walks upright, with long, dark hair all over its body except for its face. Although many believe in the creature, some scientists have suggested that it could actually be a strange species of primate, or even a descendant of the Neanderthals.
- Rare Himalayan Blue Poppy. It is the national flower of Bhutan. It was said that only a handful had ever reported seeing it. This plant grows only in the barren high altitudes from 3000m to 5000m for several years before blooming only once and then dies.
- Indian Army has a huge base in Bhutan! The Indian Military Training Team is responsible for training and equipping Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and Royal Bodyguards (RBG) personnel.
- Only nine pilots in the world are allowed to land at their airport (including the queen’s dad). The pilots are required to navigate the valley through a series of sharp turns before landing or taking off.
- At a fertility temple dubbed “no dog” visitors roll dice for a lucky 13 to make their wishes come true. (what are the Vegas odds on good karma?)
Historical and Cultural Facts about Bhutan
- Bhutanese manners dictate that you are to refuse food whenever it’s offered to you. The tradition is to say the words “meshu meshu” and cover your mouth with your hands. You can give in, though, after two or three offers.
- The “takin,” a goat-antelope, is Bhutan’s national animal. Bhutanese believe their most popular saint, known as the divine madman (1455-1529), created it.
- The country’s two national sports are archery and darts. But unlike a regulation dartboard, theirs is much smaller and the darts heavy and quite lethal which are thrown over 20 meters toward the target.
- In 2010, Bhutan became the first country in the world to ban the production and sales of tobacco products.Smoking in public areas is illegal however; tobacco can be used in private. In 1916, the first King of Bhutan called tobacco “the most filthy and noxious herb.”
- In a push to modernize, the King of Bhutan finally allowed television and internet access into the country in 1999. Bhutan was among the last countries in the world to adopt television.The king warned that misuse of television could corrupt their old traditions.
- Bhutan has a mandatory national dress code. Men wear knee-length traditional garments and women must wear ankle-length dresses. The colors are determined by social class and status.
- Inheritance (land, house, and animals) is generally passed to the eldest daughter rather than the eldest son. A man often moves into the home of his new wife until he can ‘earn his keep.’ Polygamy is legal however, the practice is not common.
- Bhutanese are forbidden to marry foreigners.
- A Bhutanese is not allowed to wear pants while visiting government offices, and during official and religious functions.
- The first foreign tourists were allowed into Bhutan in 1974.
- Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by law here, but polygamy is allowed.