Does Everyone Find Happiness in Bhutan?


Bhutan is the sacred land with so many temples and pagodas everywhere. The Buddha’s teaching introduced the way of education about calm and patience, so people here are very kind and gentle.

Arrive Himalayas

I am fortunate to have a direct flight from Vietnam to Bhutan.

Bhutan – Photo: Hai Piano

The normal route to Vietnam is to fly via Thailand, stay one night and then the next morning to Bhutan, but thanks to this first flight. It only took nearly four hours to move from Ho Chi Minh City to Paro International Airport.

Tourists in Bhutan must also apply for visas (except India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) through an inbound travel company. No one can go for self-sufficiency. Even if you have come to Bhutan many times, you must go with a local guide.

Bhutan Guide
Bhutan guides in traditional costumes – Gho. They are proud to wear Gho on the job and in all major occasions – Photo: Thai Minh Chau

I almost did not sleep all the time because I was nervous. Feeling a bit of heart beat as the plane tilted through the rugged hills of the Himalayas are truly memorable.

Bhutanese Considerate

Local guide Welcomed us at the airport by wearing Gho – national dress for men (national dress for women is Kira). The weather was cold, but the sun was brilliant on the head.

They warmly threw a thin silk scarf over our neck and took care of putting the luggage on the car. Since I had to make a tour, I was completely entrusted with the travel company, and they gave me a schedule to follow, said not to worry about anything. And during the tour, I found my belief as my base.

Traditional cultural activities in Bhutan
Traditional cultural activities in Bhutan – Photo: Hai Piano

In addition, for being anxious about eating, from accommodation to sightseeing, we have a caring guide, carefully explained for several days. The communication is almost unobstructed because the Bhutanese speak clear and standard English.

I was surprised to know that besides free education and medical care, the Bhutanese government also gave the entire population, a complete learning in English, according to an educational program survey.

We roamed through the winding streets of the mountains, exploring Thimphu and other big cities; Visiting many of the fortresses like (Dzong), Chieng Pagoda, Monastery; Learn more about Bhutanese culture, enjoy the “Ema datshi” a traditional dish in which chili is cooked with cheese.

The most important point of our trip is that we have been climbing for 3 hours to get to the Tiger’s nest (Taktsang Palphug Monastery, Paro Taktsang), the holiest place in the country.

Think of the definition of “happiness”

A tiny country in the Himalayas, “stranded” between the two “giants” of China and India, and only a mere of 700,000 people. The living standards are not too high, everything is rudimentary, but they do not trade the environment for anything.

Tiger’s nest – Photo: Thai Minh Chau

Bhutan is the only country in the world with a CO2 emissions index below 0, which has a current forest area of over 70% (compared to the national area) and is committed to sustainable harvest planning. This is to keep the ratio stable at over 60%.

Are the Bhutanese happy as they are proud? I think, it all depends on the definition of “happiness” of each person.

Maintaining the environment, keeping cultural identity, spending a lot of money on religious activities can slow down Bhutan on its economic rally, but that is the choice and they don’t care much about it. They understand happiness in the direction of being happy with their life – in every way, the Bhutanese are certainly happy.

To explain the “brand” of happiness that has been so well established in Bhutan, from my personal point of view, I find something like this:

Bhutan smiles
Bhutan smiles – Photo: Hai Piano

The Bhutanese government is concerned about the environment and health. This is the first country in the world to ban smoking completely. You cannot smoke/ take drugs in public places. Tourists are also allowed a very small amount of drugs across the border.

All of Bhutan’s agricultural products, whether it is their own production or imported, are planted in a natural and safe way. You can buy anything from the market, clean the dust and eat immediately without rolling. It is not a heavy weight to think “what to eat or not”.

Bhutan is the sacred land, so temples and pagodas are everywhere. The Buddha’s teachings are introduced in the way of education, the way people deal with, so people are very kind and gentle here. The warm heart of Bhutanese people can be felt through their happy smiles.

Bhutan does not oblige the people to be vegetarian, but slaughter is not allowed, all meat is slaughtered by foreigners in Bhutan or imported from India.

Vision leaders

The most important factor that brings happiness to Bhutanese people, in my opinion is the knowledgeable and visionary leaders.

The contemporary king and government leaders are thoughtful, intelligent and popular. Higher education follows the teachings of the Buddha and respects the national culture, so the way they lead the country is both humane and modern.

Summer in Bhutan
Summer in Bhutan – Photo: Hai Piano

The people fully trust and respect the leadership of the King and Government.

Bhutan is peaceful, developing so slow that it can cause “boredom” for those who come from vibrant, crowded and dynamic countries. But the Bhutanese insist on keeping the forest, keeping the happiness index higher than the international products, keeping the environment sustainable for the future.

Choose the way to live your happiness

There is no standard definition about happiness that apply to everyone. In every country happiness does not come with having to give up some rights. It depends on country to country. I would not personally choose to live in Bhutan to be happy only. I can choose only some some time to live happily in Bhutanese ways, respect nature, live slowly, live positive and keep faith in good values.

Festival in Gangtey, Bhutan
Festival in Gangtey, Bhutan – Photo: Hai Piano

Returning from Bhutan, it was the smile of the children in traditional attire standing and waving at us in front of a fabric shop and the singing of a sailor who took us across the river was amazing.

Notes upon arrival in Bhutan

On the flight to Bhutan, if possible choose the seat on the left side of the plane, near the window to view the legendary Himalayas with peaks like Kanchenjunga or Jomolhari.

-It is best to wear long pants or long A dress, long sleeved shirt or neck, not to wear slippers and to remove the hat when entering the palace, fortress or pagodas.

– Do not break trees or kill animals or litter, which is very disrespectful to the Bhutanese.

– Souvenirs in Bhutan are beautiful, can be found everywhere, do not rush to buy, because according to many people experience these items are the cheapest purchase.


About Dawn Richard

In addition to writing for NextColumn, Dawn Richard contributes to other publications including Sensiblereason and Natural News. He studied Computer Science and Journalism at Boston University, and also worked in BBC as well as in the public sectors.

View all posts by Dawn Richard →

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