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22 Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Kingdom of Bhutan

30th December 2015

Spike is currently leading our Christmas in Bhutan tour and reports back on some of the surprises they have found in the Himalayan kingdom.

The country’s pursuit of Gross National Happiness instead of GDP, and the complete ban on tobacco sales have been widely publicised, but there are many more unusual facts we didn’t know about this Himalaya country before signing up for this trip and embarking on it with Wild Frontiers.

  1. In the high mountain pastures can be found the cordyceps, a caterpillar with a fungus growing out of its rear end. It is very much in demand in Chinese medicine as it can apparently empower the nerve system and is worth the same as gold, gram for gram.
  2. The country is still widely covered in forest (circa 70%), which is largely untouched native woodland.
  3. It is the first country in the world to ban disposable plastic bags.
  4. The food we’ve been eating is alway very healthy and interesting, with plenty of fresh vegetables.
  5. The eldest daughter of a family inherits the house, not the eldest son.
  6. Across the country buddhists do masked dancing at festivals, sometimes naked.
  7. Traditional dress – kir for women and gho for men – is still widely worn throughout the country the majority of the time.
  8. All the toilets we have come across have been remarkably clean, and they have all been western style.
  9. Throughout the country all the houses have striking architecture with ornate wood carving. They were traditionally made without any nails and look beautiful.

  • …Apart from the corrugated iron rooves, which are everywhere, including upon fortresses, temples and palaces.
  • The speed of the wifi has been remarkably good, and we were able to make Skype calls home on Christmas Day.
  • Sometimes it is colder inside buildings than outside, but everywhere we have stayed has had a good log-burning stove.

  • There is no standardisation in electric sockets, but most of them take a variety of sizes.
  • The descent into the only international airport in Paro is quite an adventure with steep turns very close to the mountains.
  • Thimphu is one of the two capitals in the world that doesn’t have any traffic lights and it has one junction, which is manned by a police officer who directs traffic with ballet-like hand gestures.
  • Chilli with cheese is a much desired part of the daily diet and has been served with nearly every meal. You never know how hot it will be until you try it.
  • The country produces a huge amount of electricity from hydropower and exports most of it to India. With a small amount of solar power it is entirely dependent on renewable energy for its electricity.
  • Red rice is the Bhutanese staple with a wonderful nutty flavour.
  • The Kings of Bhutan are much revered throughout the country. They have only had a monarchy since 1907 and have recently moved from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one, at the Fourth King’s request.
  • The General Post Office in the capital Thimphu has an exhibition that managed to make postage stamps exciting. After enjoying that you can get a stamp made featuring a photo of yourself.
  • The Bhutanese are just finishing a huge bronze statue of a sitting Buddha overlooking the capital that is taller than Rio's Christ the Redeemer and the Statue of Liberty.

  • Until 1969 there were no banks in the country and people stored grain within their house in the absence of a local branch.
  • Every day we’re learning more about this fascinating country which has both engaging history and innovative government principles. View Wild Frontiers' holidays to Bhutan

    Want to know more? Read a sequel with even more surprises about Bhutan.

    Spike Reid

    Spike was inspired to undertake expeditions whilst growing up on the edge of Dartmoor, where he spent large amounts of time with scouts, cadets and ot…

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