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Bhutan modernises..with soul intact

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Online travel company MakeMyTrip, in collaboration with the Bhutan Government, is offering summer holiday packages from May to July this year. Book you holidays to Bhutan now at …

Online travel company MakeMyTrip, in collaboration with the Bhutan Government, is offering summer holiday packages from May to July this year. Book you holidays to Bhutan now at http://www.makemytrip.com

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  • 1. Bhutan modernises...with soul intactBy Shilpa Raina----- Paro (Bhutan), March 22 (IANS)Colourful wooden windows, intricate work on roof railings and paintings of tigers, snakes and dragons adornthe walls of most homes. Pointing to a new concrete house architecturally similar to the old ones made of mud, Bhutanese tourism official Namgay Tenzin says, "We are modernising, not Westernising." "We Bhutanese believe in preserving our culture and heritage. So we are changing, but at the same time we know where to draw the line. Our outlook is modern and we are trying to incorporate changes in our lives without compromising on our beliefs," he tells this visiting IANS correspondent. This is the changing face of Bhutan, popularly known as "The Land of the Thunder Dragon", a country of 700,000 people that is now actively promoting itself as a touristdestination to spur economic development.Life glides at a luxuriously slow pace. Roads are not wide, but no one is complaining as no one is in atearing hurry to overtake. There is no honking or traffic lights - one has all the time in the world to appreciatethe picturesque Himalayan Mountains and beautiful flowers.It was only in the 1970s that Bhutan opened up to outsiders as it had always been anxious to protect itsindigenous Buddhist culture, landlocked as it is between China and India.If one is seeking solace and looking out for some peace of mind, Bhutan is the place to be, with itsphilosophy of "Gross National Happiness" (GNH) - an attempt to measure the quality of life of a country, andnot just its Gross Domestic Product. In fact, the moment one lands at the airport in Paro, the pollution-free,fresh air makes one realise how small things can contribute to the overall happiness of mind, body and soul.Paro is 65 km from Bhutans capital Thimphu.Bhutanese life is firmly intertwined with tradition. Hence, 95 percent of the population wears the traditionaldress - the knee-length wraparound gho for men, who pair it with knee-length socks, and kira, the ankle-length dress for women.They proudly carry their outfits and climb hilly terrain, play football and do householdchores with ease."We will never give up on it. We have been wearing it since we started going to school; so beinguncomfortable in it is out of question. Do you feel uncomfortable in a sari?" Pem Tshoki, a woman who livesin Paro, asks me. This traditional outfit is worn in schools, colleges, government offices and other workplaces. Over the years, the outfit has been influenced by fashion trends, especially Kira. The blouse hasbeen tweaked a bit and pepped up with a more contemporary style.For those who have visited Ladakh and Sikkim, Bhutan has stark resemblances to these Indian areas as faras arid mountains, monasteries and the roads are concerned.The houses too have preserved their traditional architecture. "Now we are making houses of stones andconcrete, but the architecture remains the same. This is mandatory because this will help us in preservingour culture," says Jurmi Chhowing, a design student in Thimphu. But more than the roads, houses andlandscape, its the pace of life in Bhutan which is its most enchanting facet. There are no malls ormultiplexes and people prefer to wile away time playing carrom in the afternoon or practising archery - theirnational sport.The country teaches that there is more to life than just chasing superficial happiness at the cost of humanemotions. One gets a taste of a radically different lifestyle and witnesses how people are opening up to theworld without compromising with their traditions.The solace one finds in this peaceful environment is priceless. A good way to head for a holiday in thebeautiful region is to book your tickets with MakeMyTrips new chartered flights inclusive of holiday packagesfor Bhutan. The exclusive package will be available during April-July. The package starts at Rs.33,000 perperson for seven days.Bhutan is an all-weather destination. Spring and summer are good to get a closer look at the flora and faunaof the country, while autumn is considered good for trekking. Places to visit in Thimphu - Buddha Dordenma,a 169-ft tall Buddha statue; Takin Sanctuary; and Changangkha Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples inBhutan. In Paro, tourists should make it a point to see Taktsang Monastery, a popular trekking destinationthat is also known as Tigers Nest; and Chela Le pass.How to reach from India: Besides MakeMyTrips chartered flights from next month, Druk Air operates fromDelhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Or by road from Assam or West Bengal.(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)

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