Bhutan, where people must be smiling

I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of visiting the tiny nation of Bhutan. And I admit that’s mostly because it keeps showing up in those surveys as the home of the happiest people in the world. I like being happy, so why wouldn’t I want to visit the happiest place?

A freelance writer named John Flinn did recently, and wrote about it in RECCE, one of my favourite online travel mags. I particularly like his summary of Bhutan in one sentence:

It is determinedly, delightfully, emphatically, unapologetically, joyously weird.

That sounds like a place I want to see. Curiously, a bit more research has thrown up a few glitches in the land of happiness – for example, from the 1980s and still with consequences today, the Bhutanese did a spot of ethnic-cleansing, not quite what you expect from the world’s happiest nation. Additionally, they seem to like making money from tourists (no wonder they’re so happy) because unless you’re from India or Bangladesh, you have to pay a fee of around US$200 a day for each day of your stay in the country

Problems aside, a country which can develop a detailed formula for calculating the Gross National Happiness has still got to have plenty of good things going for it. And it’s still on my (long) list of places I really want to get to someday.


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