The splendors of Bhutan will live forever in my travel journal as among the most magnificent I’ve ever experienced. If the jet plane windows could be opened, we could almost touch the hillside rice paddy fields as we flew into the village of Paro, which lies peacefully in the lower Himalayan Mountains. I had always imagined seeing mountain-terraced rice paddy fields but never thought I would have the opportunity to experience the actual harvest as we trekked up mountainsides in this amazing country.
What lured me to Bhutan was a remarkable photograph of the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, nestled into a sheer cliff of the upper Paro valley. This is a sacred Buddhist site where you hike up 3,000 feet to reach a majestic view 10,240 feet above sea level. If you’re well-conditioned, the climb is little more than a good workout. The views on the climb are spectacular, and the many prayer flags that you see bring a feeling of calm.
In 1972, the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan came up with the concept of a Gross National Happiness index. And happiness truly is the flavor of the country. The Bhutanese will tell you they have little material wealth, but what they do have is a wealth of happiness. We hiked, biked, rafted and trekked the land of Bhutan. I can’t imagine seeing Bhutan in any better way. This is a country that is best absorbed by being on their land and with their people.
In some ways, my eight-day trip was too short … and then, maybe not, because since returning from this fine country, I have not stopped talking about it. It’s a magical place, and possibly one day I will have the opportunity to return to this magnificent kingdom.