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More on Bhutan
Alex Steffen, 14 Jan 04

More on Bhutan in this interesting travel piece from the Guardian:

"For centuries Bhutan turned its back on everything the West has to offer. Only in the last 30 years has it dipped its toe into the treacherous waters of development, and the staggering fact is that this tiny, archaically ruled monarchy seems to be one of the only nations in the world that has managed to play the development game by its own rules. It has cherry-picked the technological advances that serve its purposes - modern medicine has almost doubled life expectancy in the last three decades, for example - while rejecting those that would threaten its social and environmental fabric.

"This may seem like a simple and obvious goal, yet I can think of no other country that has achieved it. Where else is national dress popularly and unselfconsciously worn by the majority of the population? Where else does protected forest grow to the very fringes of an expanding 21st-century capital? Where else is archery more popular than Manchester United? ...

"Bhutan is one of a handful of states that is developing, rather then being developed. Amid the global chaos of our new century, Bhutan somehow seems in control of its own destiny. Even its pursuit of the tourist dollar - a high risk venture for any nation wedded to old traditions - is meticulously managed to ensure that tourists are contributors rather than plunderers. Every visitor to Bhutan pays a minimum of around £120 a day to the tour company organising their trip, of which £38 or so goes directly to the government. Without a tour company, you won't get a visa."

"In praising Bhutan, however, one treads perilously close to patronising it. Is Bhutan backward and underdeveloped or is it pure and untainted?"

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I think Louis L'amour wrote a short story on Bhutan - "May There Be a Road". I'll have to check.

Posted by: Taran on 14 Jan 04



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