The tiny Himalayan country Bhutan had long been on the bucket list, framed for its policy of Gross National Happiness.
In this March, the country is finally made a visit to the landlocked joining a photography tour led by photographer Alison Wright. Wright is a visual anthropologist, photographing endangered cultures and her photographs have been published in magazines such as National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian and Oprah. Bhutan remained untouched by western world until it is geographically isolated by mountains.
With the protection of the environment in mind, Bhutan is not an easy country to get to. The overall happiness of their citizens’ tourism is limited, to those who can pay a minimum $250 a day to visit. An industry which started in 1947 is the policy to mean discouraging an overrun of tourism. The policy prioritizes cultural heritage, health, education and the environment. The Gross national happiness policy puts the well- being of citizens ahead of the economic wealth (gross national product) of the country.
A group of 13 visitors from North America and Europe, who will be visited by some of the major sights taking time to photography Bhutanese monks and residents in traditional dress. Bhutanese are friendly and willing to pose for photographs but it was not yet bothered by tourists. The tour was started from Paro travelling to idyllic valleys in Punakha and Phobjikha, they visited a local school, a traditional festival and the temple of the Divine Madman- a Tibetan Lama known for his unconventional teaching and exploits.
On March, an unusual snowstorm struck on the way back from Phobjikha valley as we drive to these valleys that took them across nail-biting mountain roads. When they passed by a bus full of French tourists who had to return to their hotel but they couldn’t make it over the icy roads. Several of them got out and pushed the bus when it barely made through. There guides later on enlisted the help of a passing four-wheel drive vehicle, which agreed to pull our bus to the first mountain pass.
However the second pass through to our intended destination, Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital was closed as the road became more dangerous. It was the last minute accommodation from the guides for the group in a beautiful resort. Next day we made it to Thimphu.
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a temple complex that clings to a vertical granite cliff, was the tour culminated in a hike to Bhutan’s most famous site. Morning snow lingered giving that the group is a rare site of a snow covered temple complex. Even the most seasoned guides were taking the photos.