Our Bhutan Holiday

The year 2024 marks the end of our 19 years of marriage. We have grown apart in the last few years and come to the decision that we are better apart. Even though we may not be husband and wife, we will continue to be responsible parents to our boys and nurture them in the best ways possible.

This June holiday, we ventured to Bhutan – the Land of Happiness – to seek answers for a good life. I was fascinated by this country for its Gross National Happiness Index, well preserved landscape and the country as a choice wedding location for popular celebrities such as Tony Leung and Carina Lau.

Our local guide, Sonam is a friendly guy in his mid 30s. He together with our driver, Karma accompanied us throughout the 7 day tour. Both were dressed in traditional Bhutanese attire. He told me this was the standard dress code for people working at government agencies and for students.

“Do you have the pressures of urban living in your country?” – I asked Sonam.

“Of course we do. Everything is getting more expensive in the city!” – came his swift reply.

The tourism policy in Bhutan is focused on high value low volume visitors. This helps to sustain their long term goals of sustaining their culture and environment, while at the same time makes each and every visitor a privileged guest in their country. It is a clever move – by building on their brand instead of allowing massive volume of visitors.

Bhutan is a popular tourist destination for Singaporean tourists – we are one of the 5 countries with international flights to Paro airport. On the hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, I met a young Singaporean girl on holiday with her cousin. It is also not uncommon to see a lone traveller with a local guide. There was a lot of trekking on muddy slopes and a good pair of walking shoes was essential. The two energetic boys have no difficulty sprinting ahead most of the time. This is a destination you should visit when you are still capable of walking long distances. It might be a difficult journey as one gets older.

Being a predominantly Buddhist state, they live simply and focus on basic needs instead of a lavish lifestyle. They do not kill animals for food but they do import meat for consumption. They also pride themselves as one of the first carbon negative countries in the world because they preserve much of their forestry and natural landscapes. The daily sight of such beautiful scenery is sure to elevate your happiness quotient.

I was intrigued when I came across a book on my hotel table. The title says: “What makes you not a Buddhist?”. I started reading it during my stay. Wanting to purchase a copy, I search for book price online. Amazon SG sells it for SGD 24.99. The hotel reception sells it for 700 rupees (SGD 11.34). In the end, I found it at a local book store for 394 rupees (SGD 6.38). Finally, I realize where my unhappiness comes from… the high cost of living in Singapore!

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