If you’re planning to travel to Bhutan anytime in the future, you might want to read this interview, straight from a Bhutanese local. From offbeat experiences and new breweries to the food you must try when you’re here, Tshering gives an insider’s scoop of Bhutan in this excerpt. Read on:
1) Hi there! Can you introduce yourself and tell us where you’re from?
Hello! It’s a pleasure to introduce myself. My name is Tshering Samdrup (Mr). Born and raised in the capital city of Bhutan, Thimphu.
2) You’ve known Bhutan ever since you were born. From childhood till now, what changes have you noticed in your country over the years?
Bhutan was isolated from the outside world for a very long period of time and got its first motorable road in the early 1960s and gradually developed to what we are today. During my childhood days, we did not have television and internet services and spent our free time playing in a paddy field, flying kites and chasing dragon flies which is rarely done by kids nowadays. We were introduced to Television and Internet services in the year 1999 and it came in with its pros and cons.
Thimphu being the capital city is the most rapidly growing city in Bhutan and over the years I have seen a huge development and change. 20 years ago my city (Thimphu) had paddy fields and traditional two-storied houses that fills the city, because of Globalization we hardly see paddy fields anymore.
Development is inevitable and it is very important that we develop in a good way. So our fourth Dragon King framed a strong policy famously known as Gross National happiness (GNH). This Philosophy makes sure that no matter how developed we get we will preserve and conserve our environment and Tradition, have proper socio economic development and have a good governance. We still have 72% of our country covered with forest. Every single modern concrete building is built with traditional design and everyone wears traditional national dress during business hours.
3) What’s that one place you’d ask travellers to eat at? What dishes would you recommend?
I will strongly recommend travellers to try the local farm house dining experience, with a local family. Or at least have lunch in a traditional restaurant (there are plenty of folk heritage restaurants in Thimphu). You must try Buckwheat pan cake, Ema datsi (Chilli cheese) and also some butter tea with roasted rice.
4) One important tip to remember when in Bhutan.
Bhutan is nestled in the Himalayas and wherever you go, you’ll find rugged and mountainous terrain. So I’d advice travellers to please come along with proper hiking and walking shoes in order to avoid accidents and to be safer.
5) One offbeat experience that you’d recommend to travellers
I would recommend meeting members of Voluntary Artist’s Studio (VAST), an NGO set up with the sole aim of providing more opportunities for Bhutanese youths to develop their artistic talents. They have a gallery in Thimphu and I would definitely recommend travellers to visit VAST studio.
Also, there is a newly opened brewery in Paro – the Namgay Artisanal Brewery. Check it out. They currently brew six kinds of beer and apple cider. They even have a restaurant to serve snacks and beer to the visitors.
6) What’s the one thing locals love doing, that most tourists miss out on?
In Thimphu, locals spend their weekends going for a walk inside the Kuensel Phodrang Nature park, near the famous Buddha point. It’s a beautiful experience. We either take a proper packed lunch or just some snacks and go for a walk in the nature park.
It’s a beautiful nature walking trail with Gazebos (small summer houses) on the way which are perfect place to enjoy the view and breeze. Travellers usually visit the big Buddha statue nearby and go back to the town, missing out on this experience.
7) What do you like best about Indian travellers?
As India is our neighboring country, it is very easy for us to understand Indian travellers. Most Bhutanese can speak Hindi and are aware of popular Indian foods and culture. We are like brethren.
Tshering (Nonno Tsesam) is our beloved guide in Bhutan and probably the calmest soul you’ll come across : even if the world were to end, you’ll find him smiling (the secret to happiness? :P) . Tshering loves rock music, is a great foodie and makes for a fun companion.
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“It was my first solo trip to Bhutan with Byond. Our travel buddies Nono and Dobden ensured that our stay was seamless and memorable and made sure even our smallest requirements were( very well )taken care of. Made wonderful friends for life! ” ~ Preetha Suresh