Unsurprisingly, most people know very few facts about Bhutan — and for good reason. Surrounded by the Himalayas and sandwiched between China and India, Bhutan has deliberately remained closed off to maintain its old traditions. Here are a few key things to know about Bhutan
- Druk Yul — the local name for Bhutan — means “Land of the Thunder Dragon.”
- Bhutan is the happiest country in Asia, and the eighth in the world, despite widespread poverty and illiteracy. A survey pointed to the landlocked Himalayan kingdom’s beautiful mountain scenery, isolated culture and strong sense of national identity as reasons for the contentment of its citizens.
- In 2010, Bhutan became the first country in the world to ban the production and sales of tobacco products. Smoking in public areas is illegal, however, tobacco can be used in private. In 1916, the first King of Bhutan called tobacco “the most filthy and noxious herb.”
- Television was banned until 1999, when King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided it would help to modernize his isolated kingdom.
- The former King’s greatest legacy was his concept of the ‘Gross National Happiness’ to measure of a nation’s wellbeing as an alternative to the Gross National Product. Bhutan is rated as far more ‘happy’ on a range of indicators than its powerful and wealthy neighbour India, which is ranked as only the 125th happiest country ion the world. The idea has inspired similar approaches in France and by David Cameron in Britain.
- Bhutan is overwhelmingly Buddhist, with a large Hindu minority, but remains deeply superstitious. Traditional homes have carved wooden erect phalluses protruding from the main door lintels to ward off evil spirits.
- Bhutan’s national sport is a form of archery in which rival teams face each other across a field, and fire sharp arrows at one another, while each team waves its arms to distract their opponents. Players battle it out wearing national costume.
- Bhutan has a mandatory national dress code. Men wear knee-length traditional garments and women must wear ankle-length dresses. The colors are determined by social class and status
- The average life expectancy in Bhutan is 68.4 years.
Following is the list of some popular Bhutanese dishes
Ema Datshi: This is the de facto National Dish of Bhutan. A spicy mix of chillis and the delicious local cheese known as Datshi. This dish is a staple of nearly every meal and can be found throughout the country. Variations on Ema Datshi include adding green beans, ferns, potatoes, mushrooms or swapping the regular cheese for yak cheese.
Momos: These Tibetan-style dumplings are stuffed with pork, beef or cabbages and cheese. Traditionally eaten during special occasions, these tasty treats are a Bhutanese favourite.
Phaksha Paa: Pork cooked with spicy red chillis. This dish can also include Radishes or Spinach. A popular variation uses sun-dried (known as Sicaam). Hoentoe: Aromatic buckwheat dumplings stuffed with turnip greens, datshi (cheese), spinach and other ingredients.
Jasha Maru: Spicy minced chicken, tomatoes and other ingredients that is usually served with rice.
Red Rice: This rice is similar to brown rice and is extremely nutritious and filling. When cooked it is pale pink, soft and slightly sticky.
Goep (Tripe): Though the popularity of tripe has diminished in many countries it is still enjoyed in Bhutan. Like most other meat dishes, it is cooked with plenty of spicy chillis and chilli powder.