Bridge To Bhutan

…For Sustainable Bhutan

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Archive for April, 2009

The dilemma of progress!Finding the middle path

April 21, 2009 By: Bridge to Bhutan Category: Gross National Happiness, News, Sustainable Development, Tourism & Bhutan


By Tim Girivin (

I recently toured Bhutan. And it was a long-held dream for me. Some 40 years earlier, in teaching classes on design, calligraphy and illustration to support tuition in college, I referenced some imagery from Bhutan in our exploration of design strategy. The idea of the power of writing, in prayer wheels, as a device of spiritual magnitude was part of that study – the wheel turns, the prayers unfold, visions emanate, dreams emerge, answers are found.  There is profound power in that concept – and I’ll never forget that time, nor my firsthand experience of seeing this in Bhutan, finally, after all these years.

The beauty of this premise is found everywhere in Bhutan; the wheel of prayer – it’s at the heart of the spirit of this amazing land. And that’s what I came looking for – to find the spirit of the people and the vision of this explication in every detail of their lives. And this can be found in the simple, honest character of the food, the music, poetic refrains, mysticism, the deeply enriched and symbolically profound nature of the arts, the potent structures of the dzong and the stable siting and earthbound permanence of the villages. While there are surely plenty of examples of the power inherent in the cultures of the Himalayas, these characteristics are distinct to Bhutan. (more…)

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Fierce Imagery, Serene Tone

April 17, 2009 By: Bridge to Bhutan Category: News

‘Sacred Arts of Bhutan’

He looks like a demon from an especially bad nightmare: a blue monster with horns and three eyes on his head, which is in turn topped by another eight heads, culminating in a strangely serene Buddha face. His main hands hold a chopper and a cup made from a human skull. Thirty-two other hands wield an array of weapons. He wears a belt of human heads and his 16 feet trample small humans and animals. A nimbus of orange flames surrounds his body. Even his penis is angry, brandished like an avenging sword.

It’s a shocking and fascinating image, not one immediately likely to conjure up the peaceful kingdom of Bhutan, a Switzerland-size country in the Himalayas that extols “gross national happiness” rather than gross national product as a measure of its wealth and development. (more…)

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Conde Nast Dream Trip Finalist

April 17, 2009 By: Bridge to Bhutan Category: Sustainable Travel, Tourism & Bhutan


Wanwisa’s Dream Trip
A week in the Maldives with a stopover in Hong Kong 

Dream Trip 2008 Finalists: The 2008 winner(s) snapped a shot of a monastery in Tigers Nest, Bhutan, as they hiked up a long, windy road riddled with shear drops (the young honeymooners were both battling severe fear of heights).

taktsangThis photo was taken at the last viewing point on our hike to Tiger’s Nest, a monastery perched on a 900 foot cliff in Bhutan. My husband and I are both afraid of heights and the next part of the path to reaching the monastery from this viewing point involves sheer drops, narrow paths and lots of tourists traversing to and fro. We were probably the youngest tourists (honeymooners) by 30 years and felt quite ridiculous standing there pale with fear as troops of senior citizens passed us on their return from the monastery. One older gentleman told us we would regret not completing the hike, he told us that he has a fear of heights and only has one functioning eye so his depth perspective is not so great. After hearing this, we were inspired to muster up some courage and finish our pilgrimage. 

Had I been asked what my dream trip was a year ago, my answer likely would have involved some remote locale and some exotic itinerary (say a trans-Siberian journey from London to Japan via Mongolia). These days, however, nothing could make me happier than an empty beach and beautiful blue horizons. (more…)

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The Cost of Education in Rural Bhutan

April 15, 2009 By: Bridge to Bhutan Category: Education, Rural Development, Sustainable Development

Phuensumgang Community Primary School – The school of hard knocks

Senior citizens and children alike suffer and sacrifice at the altar of education

CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD? – Taking care of themselves and their education

A six-hour climb from Bhurchu, about 94 km away from Dagana proper, up on a hill, is Phuensumgang community primary school. Except for the Lajab gewog office, RNR centre and BHU, there is no settlement around. The nearest village is a two-hour walk away from the school.

But about 20 tiny, one-storey bamboo huts, located near the school, look like a village to any newcomer. These are the boarding hostels, constructed by parents of the 156 students in the school. In one of the huts, Kinzang Drakpa, 64, is making fern curry for his grandchildren, studying in classes four and two.

A retired soldier from Pemagatshel Shaligamong, Kinzang resettled a decade ago in Sipa village, two hours by foot from the school. In the absence of any school near the village and at his niece’s request, the lanky old man has spent the last few years in Phuensumgang school, cooking and looking after his niece’s children.

Kinzang spends his day collecting firewood and wild vegetables. “The children get breakfast and lunch from the school, so I only need to prepare their dinner,” he said. (more…)

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Bamboo demise leaves Jarey roofs bereft

April 12, 2009 By: Bridge to Bhutan Category: Culture, Rural Development, Sustainable Development

Ugyenmo’s house in Japong village

Bamboos dying in large numbers on the hills of Jarey gewog in Lhuentse worry villagers, who depend on the plant for roofing and other domestic purposes. About 150 houses in the gewog with 221 households have bamboo roofing, while others use bamboo to roof animal sheds and make products for domestic use.

“Most houses in the gewog have not changed their roofs over three years,” said a villager, Ugyenmo, 66. Normally, villagers redo their roofing once every two years. “The roof is leaking and my house is rotting but we can’t do anything. There’s no bamboo in the forest and we don’t have money to buy other types of roofing,” said Ugyenmo, who lives with her daughter and three grandchildren. She owns a big two-storied traditional house, but the roof has been he same for the last six years.

Villagers have started penetrating into deeper forests, but say there are not many bamboos around. “Whatever’s available is very far and difficult to transport,” said another villager. “We’ve started scaling the other side of Jarey hill in the hope of finding bamboos to re-roof our houses before monsoon sets in.” (more…)

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