Located in the Eastern Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan is a peculiar country to say the least. It’s a country whose capital city doesn’t have a single traffic light, and whose villages bear an awful lot of paintings and carvings of erect penis. You can eat meat here, but you can’t kill an animal to do so. Seems like a country you want to know more about, right? Let’s check out 10 fun and interesting facts about Bhutan below.
1. Bhutan is the world’s only country whose capital doesn’t have a traffic light
A major city needs traffic lights to control movement of vehicles on roads, and to avoid traffic jam and accidents. The notion makes sense to the entire world, except Bhutan. In the country’s capital of Thimphu, you won’t find a single traffic light. Instead, there are policemen who stand at major intersections and direct traffic. Apparently, a set of traffic light was once installed at one of the city’s major intersections, only to be removed a little later following a public outcry.
2. It is the world’s sole carbon negative country
Bhutan is a landlocked country surrounded entirely by two countries: India and China. Although these two neighbors are among the leading emitters of carbon dioxide, the country itself doesn’t produce more than one and a half million tons of carbon in a year. And with more than two-thirds of its territory covered with forest, it manages to absorb north of six million tons of carbon annually. There’s not a single other country on the face of the planet that can claim to be carbon negative, a fun fact about Bhutan.
3. The country has never fallen to a foreign power
Only a few countries can boast about remaining independent throughout their known history, and Bhutan is one of them. The country was never been conquered, occupied, or governed by a foreign power, an interesting Bhutan fact. So, how has it managed to ward off warmongering invaders and conquerors?
Well, first of all, the Bhutanese people have been blessed with a territory that is practically inaccessible to outside forces. Secondly, they have also had kings and military leaders capable of making sharp strategic decisions in the battlefield. And when the enemy was too powerful to be subdued, they were able to work out a smart deal that would eliminate the possibility of an invasion.
4. It is home to the world’s highest unclimbed mountain
Bhutan remains unconquered, and so does its highest peak Gangkhar Puensum. This humongous landform, which has an elevation of 24,836 feet, is the highest unclimbed mountain on the planet. One of the reasons why it hasn’t been climbed is that the country was open for mountaineering only for a small window of time, from 1983 to 1994. Over this period, four attempts were made to reach the summit of Gangkhar Puensum, none of which proved to be successful.
5. In rural Bhutan, paintings and carvings of erect penis are a common sight
In any Bhutanese village, you’ll see that most houses, if not all, bear a painting of erect penis on their exterior walls, or a wooden carving of it hanging outside. You can find them even on number plates of trucks. People here make these paintings or carvings simply because they believe that a phallic symbol can aid in fertility, protect from evil, and dispel malicious gossip. Such belief was popularized by the 15th century Buddhist monk Drupka Kunley, who went by nicknames like Mad Saint or Divine Madman.
6. It’s the world’s only country where the production and sale of tobacco products is banned
The country that has the strictest anti-tobacco laws in the entire world is Bhutan. It has comprehensively banned production and sale of tobacco and tobacco products, a fun Bhutan fact. No other country has had the guts to do so.
If you are caught selling tobacco in this country, you could face three to five years of imprisonment. You’ll be allowed to import tobacco products from abroad, only after you’ve paid a hefty import duty. And whenever you are in possession of a tobacco product, you’ll have to keep the receipt for import duty with you. Otherwise, you could end paying a fine of up to 10,000 ngultrums, which is equivalent to 137 US dollars.
7. Killing any animal is illegal in Bhutan
If you’re familiar with the basic teachings of Buddhism, you should know that they prohibit killing of animals. There’re a bunch of Buddhist-majority countries in the world, none of which takes this teaching as seriously as Bhutan. This country has a ban imposed on butchering animals for consumption. Strangely, however, you’re allowed to eat meat within its territory, as long as it’s imported from the outside world, an interesting fact about Bhutan.
8. Killing a black-necked crane could lead to a lifetime imprisonment
In Bhutan, you may get away with a few years of prison sentence for killing an animal. But if you’ve killed a black-necked crane here, you are likely to spend the rest of your life in prison. These birds are legally protected in this country, and also enjoys celebrity status among its people.
In the premises of the Gangteng Monastery, which is located in the country’s central part, a black-necked crane festival takes place every year on November 11. It’s a time when the cranes, after having spent the summer in the Tibetan Plateau, arrive to this region in large numbers.
9. The country was the last one to introduce television to its people
People in different parts of the world have been watching television for several decades now. But in Bhutan, television broadcast was outright banned until June 2, 1999. It was on that day that the Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) began its television broadcast, making Bhutan the last country in the entire world to familiarize its populace with this popular telecommunication medium.
10. Accepting the first invitation to a meal is a big no-no in Bhutan
If someone offers you a meal or a drink in Bhutan, you will be deemed courteous only if you have refused it the first time. It’s a tradition to say the words “meshu meshu,” with your hands covering your mouth, in response to the first invitation to a meal. You are to give in when you’ve been asked for a second or third time. You’ll be considered rude if you decline it altogether, a fun Bhutan fact.
Also, make sure that there’s a little amount of food left on your plate after you’re done eating. This lets the host know that they were able to provide you with more than enough food.
I hope that this article on Bhutan facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!