22 June 2012
Bhutan: Genuinely Genuine
From five-star resorts to ancient temples to monasteries hanging from the edge of a cliff, every site, sound, and experience feels natural, normal, and as if it would be happening whether or not you were there. Over the past few days we have visited historical sites, eaten slightly less historical food, and at times found ourselves interacting with the Bhutanese in conversations that were entirely bizarre and often quite comical yet entirely unprovoked and unrehearsed.
In most places you visit an "ancient site" and there is some excessive tourist-only entrance price that allows you access to something historic that is now a giant handicraft mass-produced shopping hall. In Bhutan, you visit Punahka Dzong, built in the 16th Century, and discover it is STILL used as the main offices of the municipal government and the center of regional Buddhism where 600 monks converge each year. There is no entry fee and YOU are the odd man out, not the locals.
Finally, in most places you stay at a fancy hotel and what you've paid goes directly into the hotel chain coffers and the bribes paid to officials to avoid paying tax. In Bhutan, you know exactly how much of your room cost goes directly to funding universal healthcare and free education for the entire population.