Bhutan – the Dragon Kingdom

IMG_0061Graham Fry’s talk about this intriguing Himalayan country drew an audience of 57. In April 2013 Graham and Liz visited Bhutan during a tour of the ‘wrinkled edge of the sub-continent’. Their group flew into Paro near the capital Thimphu and drove east in a small bus. Their route traversed a series of high passes and deep valleys that challenge road builders and divide the largely rural population into many ethnic and linguistic groups. It was spring and rhododendrons and primulas were flowering in the montane forests, and apple and peach blossom was appearing on farms along the snow-fed river valleys. In the eastern lowlands lemongrass, mandarins and bananas were under cultivation. All tour groups must be accompanied by a licensed Bhutanese guide and theirs was a forester who was expert at locating rare and spectacular birds including Satyr Tragopan, Beautiful Nuthatch and Rufous-necked Hornbill. Bhutan is a biodiversity hotspot and the constitution requires sixty per cent of the country to remain forested. IMG_0012-001Bhutan is undergoing rapid development but strives to maintain its traditional cultural, spiritual, environmental and ethical values, with the goal of improving Gross National Happiness. The constitution states “it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to contribute to the protection of the natural environment, conservation of the rich biodiversity of Bhutan and prevention of all forms of ecological degradation …”. The major sources of income are export of hydroelectricity to India, and tourism. Tourism is controlled by limiting visas and setting a high threshold for daily expenditure; a tourism royalty contributes to social services for disadvantaged citizens. Of thirteen traditional crafts practised in Bhutan, the most famous is weaving; Graham and Liz displayed examples.  CLICK HERE  for website describes some of the techniques, equipment and fibres used: rhododendron 2 Bhutan_2013 India2 404

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