Stepping out of the plane, the first thing you see is a 360-degree view of the mountains. Accompanied by a big gulp of incredibly fresh air. The second is the people, who pervade a wonderful sense of calm. From security to passport control, the guides and everyone you pass in the street. The organic reaction is to smile back. We’re even told to ‘smile at everyone. Children, old people, royalty…it’s how we speak.’
There are many reasons for this happiness. Most famously, the country is carbon negative and, as Dasho Sangay revels to us, always will be. The Bhutanese also receive free health care and a free education. If someone becomes homeless, they are given a plot of land and helped to build a home - by order of the king. And no pesticides are used for crops food. So people just feel better here. And it shows.
The incredible importance the Bhutanese monarchy places on its citizens’ wellbeing trickles down into every part of society. Everyone is imbued with a sense of serenity.
At breakfast one morning in Gantey, a member of staff came over to our table and looked out across the valley through the vast floor-to-ceiling windows. She turned and said, “It’s just so peaceful, so beautiful here. When I wake up, I fall in love in my country everyday”. We were left speechless as she continued to gaze whimsically at the landscape.
And what a landscape it is. The Himalayas stretch as far as the eye can see and draw you further and further in. The colours and peacefulness are hard to put into words. They compel you to just sit and daydream of how wonderful it must be to live in such a beautiful place.
Wake up in Punakha in the arms of the mountains. The undulating hills poke their heads through the mist that lies gently over the landscape. Explore these peaks and valleys and you’ll come across local farms that border ancient pine forests, where sunlight pierces through branches creating a magical pattern on the ground.
Suddenly the canopy will clear to reveal a cluster of flag poles with white prayer flags running from top to bottom. The effect of being in their presence is a humbling reminder of our place in this world. These simple adornments allow the soul to move on after life and find peace. Just one of the day-to-day reminders that this country is Buddhist through and through.