Bhutan Travel Info

 People and Culture 

Bhutan or Druk-yul means "Land of the Thunder Dragon." The modern name Bhutan comes from the Sanskrit word Bhotanta which means the end of Bhot (Tibet). The Bhutanese society is a mix of many different ethnic groups. The Sharchops are inhabitants of the Eastern part of Bhutan and come from the immediate ancestors of the modern day Bhutanese people. The origin of these people root from Myanmar and Northeast India.  It is also believed that Indo-Mongoloids (usually referred to as Monpas, which means non-Tibetans) migrated into Bhutan two thousand years ago from Arunchal Pradesh, Nagaland, northern Burma, and Thailand. The Ngalops living in the western parts of Bhutan are believed to have migrated from mid Tibetan plateau and are credited for introducing Buddhism in Bhutan. The other main ethnic group is the Lhotshampas, who were from Nepal originally. The Lhotshampas migrated to Bhutan toward the end of the nineteenth century.

 Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. Even thought Dzongkha is the official language English is also widely spoken in many schools and is taught since kindergarten. For a small country Bhutan has many dialects and sometimes it is difficult for the people from the west to understand the people from the East.

The Bhutanese food is famous for being spicy as people use lots of chilies in their food. People eat with their hands and every member of the family sits cross legged on the wooden floor with food first being served to the head of the household.

Women do the kitchen work and serve the food, usually the mother. Praying before eating is a common practice and a small morsel is placed on the floor as an offering to the local spirits and deities. Since the country is slowly getting modernized it is getting common to use different kinds of western utensils and sitting in the regular dining table is getting common.

Traditional dresses are one of the distinct features of the Bhutanese culture.  Gho is the male dress, a knee-length robe similar to the kimono tied in the waist by Kera, a traditional belt.  Carrying a small pouch is a common practice. The pouch was used for carrying a traditional dagger and food items in the past but nowadays Bhutanese people have transformed it to carrying wallets, cell phones and Doma (beetle nut).

A long, ankle-length Skirt is worn by the women and it is known as Kira. The outer jacket is known as by Tego which has a inner line Wonju. The Bramis and Brokpas in the East of Bhutan, who are tribal, semi-nomadic people, wear different dresses mostly woven from Sheep or Yak fur.  Colors of the dress signify the administrative rank of the person for e.g. The King wears Yellow dresses.

Festivals make Bhutan an interesting destination in the lap of Himalayas. Festivals are an important part of the religious communities in Bhutan. Every locality or town has a unique way of celebrating Tshechu, meaning a religious festival.

 As the Tshechu begins, the villagers and the general populace dress in their finest clothes and congregate at their local temples and monasteries were these festivals take place. Tshechu are usually occasions to mark important events in the life of the second Buddha, the Indian/Pakistani Tantric master known as Guru Rimpoche or the Precious Gem. Various mask dances are performed together with songs and dances for three days.

These religious celebrations are lively, high-spirited affairs during which people share meals of red rice, spicy pork, Ema Datshi and Momos (pork dumplings) whilst drinking the heady traditional rice wine known as Ara. These occasions provide the villagers with a respite from the hard labor of their day to day lives and give the community an opportunity to catch up with family and friends. Besides The Tshechu, they also celebrate the regular Buddhist festivals that fall on full moons night.

 Climate

Bhutan lies in the Central Himalayas, between China to the north the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal to the south and east, and Sikkim to the west with a total area of about 47,000 square kilometers.

Spring (March to May) has warm Day and cool nights. With June begins summer and the day temperature shoots up to 27 - 290C. Come July, the rain starts continuing till mid-September. The autumn months of September to November are ideal for trekking with clear skies and mild weather. In December temperature falls, although the Day will still be warm. The nights, however, are cold with temperature often falling below zero.

 Language

Dzongkha, spoken only in western Bhutan, is the national language. Nepali is spoken in the south, Sharchop in the east, and Bumthapka and Khengka in the central Bhutan. English is commonly spoken and is the medium of instruction in schools.

 Communication

States in Bhutan are interconnected via road except in few areas. Bhutan does not have domestic flight as like other countries. Telephone and fax services are available in all major towns. International connections, internet and e-mail facilities are also available in most of the places. There are numerous internet cafes in every town.

 In 2003, Bhutan introduced it's first Cellular Service by Bhutan Telecom known as B-Mobile, and now it serves all part of the country. By now, it provides the user to use GPRS, EDGE, 3G allowing the subscriber to make Vedio Calls, MMS, and many other multimedia services. In May 2008, The Tashi Groups of Company launched the second Cellular Service known as TashiCell.

Electricity runs at 220 / 240 volts, 50 cycles AC current in Bhutan. Electricity is fairly reliable, though in the exteriors you might experience a few blackouts.

 Aministrartive Division

The country is divided into twenty administrative units called dzongkhags. The larger dzongkhags are further divided into sub-district called dungkhag. A group of villages are grouped to form a constituency called gewog and administered by a gup, who is elected by the people

 Food and Drinks

Bhutanese food is a tantalizing blend of hot Himalayan flavours. Northern Indian cuisine mixes with the chillies of the Tibetan plateau and traditional recipes from Bhutan 's villages to create sizzling and memorable tastes. Chanterelle mushrooms, apricots, asparagus, a wide variety of chillis and a host of spices grow in abundance in Bhutan 's valleys.

 These spices, fruits and vegetables are prepared with beef, chicken, pork, and dried yak or with each other to make dishes that resemble elements of both Chinese and Indian cuisine. Bhutanese dishes are traditionally served with ample portions of indigenous red rice. The food prepared for tourists is tempered to western taste. The tourism authority imported the knowledge of selected European hotel experts to improve the quality of food and beverage

Clothing
Due to wide range of temperature and climatic conditions, it is advisable to bring appropriate clothing. From May to September normal traveling cloths plus a light woolen sweater or a light jacket and a light walking boots are sufficient. From November to end of April on the other hand, you will need very warm cloths including underwear or woolen tights to wear under trousers, thick socks, strong boots and down jacket.

You will be offending people if you walk around in skimpy or tight fitting clothes. Although there are normally opportunities to wear skirts or loose trousers, men should not wear singlets. During visit of monasteries, dzongs and other religious sites, you should not wear shorts and hats.

Customs and Regulations:
The Bhutanese authorities strictly prohibit the export of any religious Antiquity or antiques of any type. All personal electronics, Cameras, Video Cameras, Computers and personal electronic equipment may be brought into the country but they must be listed on the customs form provided on arrival at Paro and will be checked on departure. Two liters of Alcohol and reasonable quantity of cigarettes may be brought in to the country without duty.