Bhutan: where and why?

Before setting off, when telling my friends what I was doing and where I was going , the absent nods and ‘cools’ I received in response lead me to think that people may want to learn a little about Bhutan – starting with which continent it’s in. That was the initial inspiration for making this blog and spreading some Bhutanese wisdom back home. In this post I will allow you to become acquainted with Bhutan with a little history and facts (and a map) and dig a little deeper into why I am here and writing this right now in the rainy Himalayan hills.


So, for those of you not honest enough to ask where in the world Bhutan is: Bhutan is firmly in asia. Wedged snuggly between the two most populous countries on earth in the Eastern Himalayas. Bhutan is high… very high (and not only because of the many marijuana plants dotted about). The capital Thimphu is the third highest on earth and the northern region contains the world’s highest unclimbed mountain Gangkhar Puensum at 7570 meters.

Bhutan at the center of the world.

Bhutan’s people are culturally similar to Tibetans in that they’re almost exclusively Buddhist which has a recognisable effect on the day to day lives of the population.

Bhutanese people in traditional festival dress (a little more colourful than the day to day national dress: Gho for men, Kira for women).

Bhutan was founded in 747 A.D. when Guru Padmasambhava flew into Paro from Tibet on a tigresses back – a tigress who he also happened to be courting at the time. In the 1600s the Dzongs (districts or settlements which were defined by their central fortress) were unified and Bhutan came to be.

The landing spot for Guru Padmasambhava and his feline steed 2800 years ago – The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Paro

The “Kingdom” bit was added in 1907 when the first of the Wangchuck dynasty was elected to the throne. Bhutan was not colonised apart from a little disruption in the mid 19th century by those pesky Brits and has therefore had limited cultural influence by external forces. That is not to say that Bhutan has not looked to the developed world for influence. Democracy was introduced in 2007, meaning that power in Bhutan is in theory shared three ways: between the president, king and spiritual leader.

Since then, Bhutan has seen an interesting path of development, lagging slightly behind the rest of the world but with an intelligent and patient approach to societal and economic transformation. This is in part due to the moral landscape of the country and very progressive thinking by the fourth king: His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. I will expand on this approach to development in the coming weeks as I begin to learn the history of policy and development in more depth.

I think it is important to mention gross national happiness here. I will be going on and on about it in coming posts but, as a starter, here is a talk by an old prime minister on GNH. I will have an entire post dedicated to GNH in the coming weeks, don’t worry!


Bhutan is home to 800,000 people and is about the size of Switzerland. This small population relative to the area of the country means that Bhutanese people live sparse, low-impact lives surrounded by dense forest and sheer, unadulterated mountain faces (see the view from my bathroom window below).

View from my bathroom window – a real poo with a view.

The low-impactness of living here makes Bhutan the world’s only carbon negative country, something that I will be looking at closely over the coming months. A non-destructive lifestyle, just as what is lived in Bhutan, is the ambition of the tens of millions of people around the world who have taken to the streets for the Climate Strikes and Extinction Rebellion marches earlier this year. With the goal of the European economy – at least in the eyes of the people and the EU – being in essence aligned with what is achieved here in Bhutan (zero carbon emissions), there must be some very interesting reflections how how life in Bhutan could be in part superimposed onto European life. These reflections are the reason that I’m here and will be the core content of this blog. So buckle up and prepare yourself for weekly installments of over optimistic ideas on how to change the world.

2 thoughts on “Bhutan: where and why?

  1. Mum 15th Aug 2019 / 9:55 pm

    I am looking forward to reading and following you. I have shared with Mormor and Morfar



  2. Mourits Tolstrup 16th Aug 2019 / 2:30 pm

    Kære Oscar Dejligt at følge dig. Flot orientering både i tekst og billeder. Ser med forventning frem til fortsættelserne. Kærlig hilsen. Mormor & Morfar


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