Correspondents Notebook - Bhutan
I have just returned from an assignment in Bhutan. Bhutan I hear you say, now I’ve heard of the place but I’m not sure exactly where it is nor do I know much about it.
Well let me take you there briefly to give you some sense of this land locked Buddhist kingdom high up in the eastern Himalayas. Bhutan is a small country and has a population of around 600,000.
Close your eyes for a minute…you’re in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu…..at around two and half thousand metres above sea level….it’s not big, it’s home to about 60,000 people but growing steadily as the country continues its path to development…..
you’re surrounded by snow-capped mountains…..it’s the end of winter and there’s a hint of spring in the air….there’s a river running through Thimphu, the Wan Chu it’s crystal clear …..at one end of town there’s a Dzong….there are many Dzongs throughout Bhutan.....these fortress like structures serve as both religious and administrative centres….prayer flags flutter everywhere.
There’s no obvious sense of the ‘west’ in Thimphu….it’s not that modernity has not reached here…..but there’s no MacDonalds or Coca Cola…no neon lights…..there’s no high rise…..five stories is about the limit here….and traffic’s not really a problem….there are no traffic lights in Thimphu.
Music and fade for….
Bhutan is famous for it’s bio-diversity….and has managed to maintain over 70% of its forests…One of the few places I visited outside Thimphu was Punakha, about 60 kilometres from the capital. It has an impressive Dzong situated at the confluence of two rivers and is the winter home of the largest group of monks in the country and the spiritual leader of the Monk body….
the drive to Punakha was breathtaking…..through what’s known as the Docula Pass, high up in the Himalayas…..the wild daphne was still in flower but there were early hints of rhododendron which must look spectacular when they’re in full bloom. One negative for me was the amount of litter on the roadside and in the capital as well…..plastic bottles, empty cartons and wrappers of all kinds. This is indeed a problem in Bhutan and one the authorities are trying to address.
Barry Clarke.March 2004.Radio Australia
|send us your thoughts|