taking a walk: photos | stories | essays

11 October 2015

A slice of Thimphu

Bhutan is arguably one of the two countries in the world that has no automated traffic signals. The other is North Korea, according to a freelance journalist based in Thimphu, the Himalayan nation's capital.

Bhutan's neighbour India is also its best friend. People in that landlocked mountainous country often call India their "big brother". They get salt, sugar and other essentials from the big brother. India's foreign policy also automatically becomes the foreign policy of the Bhutanese government, so are the currency exchange rates. The corollary is Bhutan may not be able to engage with other countries independently. This is a known fact but one that has been left unspoken.

Indians can enter Bhutan using any government-issued identity proof. There is no visa to speak of, but they must apply for certain permits to travel to some parts of interior Bhutan such as Haa Valley, where the Indian Army has a large presence.

The urban crowd will find Thimphu strange in many ways: no one is rude, nobody honks and there is no crime to speak of. A sparkling river runs beside the picturesque hill city. Every eatery is also a watering hole. Every restaurant carries the name '-cum-bar'. People drink a lot but keep to themselves; they are courteous to tourists. Women can enter a bar full of men and not feel uncomfortable. It will be a rare experience to walk into a brawl.

Part-I of a four-part series on Bhutan. Links to Part-IIPart-III and Part-IV



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Journalist. Taking a walk in India. | Email to journeybasket[at]gmail | Special thanks to M.S. Gopal | All rights reserved. No commercial use.

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