You cannot talk/write about Bhutan without mentioning the monarchy.
Although Bhutan has recently become a democracy the royal family are front and centre in everyday life and of course in the country’s history.
So here is a snapshot: the current King (the 5th) is young & handsome, the Queen is beautiful. The only downside seems to be that they have not yet produced any children.
The former King (the current King’s father) abdicated, seemingly to allow his subjects the enjoyment and spectacle of a coronation, and to enjoy a quieter life. Although he had 4 wives so that gave rise to loads of questions. Not only does he have 4 wives but they are sisters! According to Chimi he couldn’t choose between 5 beautiful unmarried sisters so decided to take them all. However the youngest declined deciding that a life with body guards, pomp and ceremony etc wasn’t for her. So he married 4 and built 4 bungalows somewhere in the forest and lives there happily ever after! It was this King that instituted the Gross Happiness Index and began the roading projects across the country (among other good works).
The 3rd King, who unfortunately died in his 40’s, is revered as the father of modern Bhutan. He abolished the caste system, encouraged intermarriage between the different former castes by offering a monetary incentive, gave land to landless families, abolished ‘tax in kind’ to the governors, opened the door to the outside world, united Bhutan and made it a country of peace.
Some of us did ponder on the voyeurism of being a tourist. Wondering what Bhutan would look like in the coming years; whether the young people would want to continue farming as their forefathers have done; and whether the locals would still be as generous to tourists. After all how would we all react if a bus load of foreigners pulled up and poked cameras at us when we were mowing the lawn or something? Cameras were forbidden in Dharavi slum city on the basis of it being voyeuristic but in actual fact just being a tourist turns you into a voyeur.
Ok and to finish here is some less serious stuff:
Bathroom anecdotes; the bathrooms seemed to almost take on a persona of their own. There was:
*The one that had a cute claw foot bath that was so tiny even at 5’2” I had my knees bent.
*The one where the water leaked from the shower, ran right past the drain and headed for the door.
*The one that had plenty of boiling hot water and no cold.
*The one that the expel air fan worked in reverse so that you filled the room with the smell of drains.
*The one that you didn’t get any water from the shower at all unless you kept your finger (or toe) on the button that moved the water from the tap to the shower head.
*The one that had a bar of soap down the loo. No, I have no idea why.
*The one that inadequate protection so that you completely flooded the floor.
*The one that had a mat outside the door so that when you stepped onto it from the bathroom (which was a step higher) you went for a serious skid.
*The one that had a 1.5ft x 6" high gap through the wall to the bathroom next door enabling you to share sounds …and smells.
*The one that had a polite little notice about not using too much toilet tissue so as not to block the drain. (I’d like to see how the Japanese cope with that!).
And then there were the phalluses in Bhutan.
Yes, you did just read that right. There were many many pictures of phalluses on buildings & houses; statuettes (for want of a better word) in restaurants etc.
To cut a long story short the "Divine Madman" of Bhutan subdued and killed a demon with his phallus. So the symbolism is all about protection, warding off the evil eye. And while westerners find that amusing the Bhutanese are deadly serious about it. To be fair there were also pictures of dragons, tigers, deer, flowers etc so I guess you have to put it into context. I heard the story twice and they did differ a bit so I'm not entirely sure which version is the correct one. But I guess that doesn't really matter.
I had a fantastic trip and made some wonderful friends that I hope I can catch up with some day soon.
pps: I had loaded up a couple of photos, but received an email from a friend to advise that my site was blocked because of pornography! Have to say these pictures were cartoon like and completely inoffensive. Anyway I've had to withdraw them.