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Bhutan - Measuring In Gross(ly exaggerated) National Happiness

in Ask Outbounding Responsible Travel Travel News 542 views
Re: What's The World's Best Green Place
October, 2013
National Geographic Traveller

Costas Christ briefly describes Bhutan as a possible model of living on a more sustainable planet.
What he then goes on to write about the country makes me wonder how much of Bhutan he actually saw!
A shangri-la in the high mountains.
His description could have been lifted out of an article written more than 10 years ago.
And we see these kind of articles all the time.

We were in Bhutan for about two weeks, in late 2012.
Even a few days on the ground revealed a Bhutan struggling to hang on to something rapidly slipping away.

For a country that supposedly measures in Gross National Happiness, our experience was, given it's relatively isolated circumstances, a Bhutan facing many of the realities of most of the world today. 
Consumerism is here and cheap Chinese plastics of every sort fill shop windows.
Unemployment is rampant and crime is on the rise.
There is discontent among a youth raised, like a lot of the rest of the world, on a diet of MTV and VH1.
Many of them want "off the farm" which threatens the future of agriculture, a necessary staple of a remote country.
Gangs are emerging in the only 2 cities, and locals will tell you it's no longer safe after dark on streets of Thimpu or Paro.
As for those pristine forests, well, a 4 day hike, camping at a different spot each night, was definitely shy of pristine. 
Gum and candy bar wrappers can be found scattered along the paths.
And we witnessed numerous occasions when people actually threw garbage out of their car window right in front of us.
Construction cranes are numerous, especially in Thimpu, and yes, there is traffic congestion and rush hour.
Cost of living is rising while salaries stagnate.

In short, Bhutan is like every other country in the world.

Don't get me wrong.
Ancient culture still permeates.
And Bhutan's spectacularly gorgeous scenery and the warm welcome of the Bhutanese are more than worth the journey.
And definitely go soon as the tourist hordes, primarily busloads of septa/octogenarians from all over the world, have already arrived.

Just don't be encouraged to expect what has become impossible to deliver anywhere in the world in the 21st century.

Rita Rayman
Freelance Travel Consultant
Co-Founder, The Shit Starts Here - A Guardian Project Initiative

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