I have been in Aman Bhutan for 11 years, this place is not rich, but it is the happiest place

After Bhutan opens to tourism

Charges for tourists rise to $200 per night

caused a lot of controversy

Being ridiculed by everyone “never pits the poor”

But in the hearts of the locals

It’s the happiest country in the world

Chinese tourists often ask Sanga: Why open a travel agency in Bhutan?

Bhutan, known as the “most mysterious country” and “the most isolated country”, although it is our neighboring country, has never had a sense of existence, and it is even more niche as a tourist destination.

Most recently, it reopened its doors to foreigners after closing the border for two years.

However, the government’s mandatory “sustainability fee” for tourists has risen from $65 per night to $200 per night, causing considerable controversy.

According to estimates by local travel agencies, after the price increase, the minimum daily consumption of international tourists will reach 335 US dollars (about 2,450 yuan).

This cold country rejects most poor backpackers with “expensive”.

For many years, Bhutan has remained isolated from the rest of the world. Not only is it the last country in the world to have a TV and an internet connection, but it still has no railways and no traffic lights.

Many Chinese people heard about it for the first time, starting from Tony Leung and Carina Lau’s wedding of the century.

14 years ago, the two superstars did not choose the luxurious venues in Europe and the United States, but came to the southern foot of the Himalayas. They were surrounded by countless monks and completed their wedding in this untouched secret area, which made Bhutan into the public eye.

Sanga, who works in a local hotel, saw more and more Chinese tourists from that year, and decided to seize this opportunity to study Chinese in Beijing and come back to open his own travel company.

The high barriers to entry have made Bhutan an extremely pure paradise and was once rated as the happiest country in Asia.

Over the years, Sanga has seen people from all over the world set foot on this land, wanting to see another life that has not been swept by the wave of modernization. But for him, real life is nowhere else, it is here and now.

The following is his narration.


TV and Internet only in 1999

Mandatory charges for foreign tourists

I was born in a small remote village in Bhutan and lived there until I was 18. After graduating from high school, I decided to venture out to the capital, Thimphu, which was my first time away from my hometown.

At the time I had no idea about the future. I was walking down the street one day and saw that Aman was recruiting. I knew this was one of the most expensive hotels in our area, and the treatment must be good. .


It was 2007, and “tourism” was still a very fresh and vague concept to me. Although Bhutan has been open to tourists since 1974, not many foreigners actually come.

In order to ensure that tourism is not over-exploited and destroy the ecological environment here, the government has many restrictions on tourists, stipulating that they must join a group, be accompanied by a local guide throughout the process, and can only visit some designated scenic spots.

On top of that, each visitor has to pay a “sustainability fee” of $65 per night, which alone keeps many people away.

What’s more, Bhutan is a relatively closed country. Television and the Internet did not appear until 1999. There are not many people who know us.

In short, before work, I rarely have the opportunity to contact the outside world. One of the few impressions of foreigners is that when we were in elementary school, we held a prayer ceremony at the morning meeting, and sometimes we saw some blond tourists take pictures of us with cameras. smile.

Luckily, I caught up with the rise of tourism. In 2008, our fifth king was officially crowned with a grand ceremony.

He is young, handsome, and immediately attracted the attention of the media. I remember the overwhelming international news at the time describing him as “the most handsome king in the world”.

In this way, Bhutan has become the focus and gradually become a popular travel destination. I also fell in love with the job while dealing with tourists from all over the world.

In fact, the pressure on Aman is very high. After all, the price of 2,000 US dollars a night means that the requirements of guests are also high, and we must provide matching top-level services.

But compared to the friends around me, I can meet more people and have the opportunity to show our culture to the world, which I can’t experience in other industries.


Although the journey is hard

But only smiles remain in my heart

Bhutan is the only country in the world based on Tibetan Buddhism, so most of our attractions are related to religion.

Tiger Cave Temple, located in Paro Valley, is the most sacred Buddhist temple in China, built on a cliff more than 900 meters high.

According to legend, Guru Rinpoche, who introduced Buddhism to Tibet, once rode a tiger and flew over, meditating in a cave here, and there is now the Tiger Cave Temple.

Although the mountain road is steep, we Bhutanese believe that only by walking up the mountain can we express the piety of the pilgrimage. What’s more, the scenery is beautiful, and it is worth suffering for it.

Punakha Dzong, the second oldest monastery in Bhutan, is also a place I often recommend to my guests. In 2011, the world-famous wedding of the king and the commoner queen was held here.

Its location is exactly where two rivers meet. When the weather is good, the sun is reflected from the water on the white walls, and the shadow of the linden tree is mottled.

The Thimphu Buddha is also worth seeing. At 51.5 meters high, it is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. There are also 125,000 small Buddha statues inside, all of which are gilded and very spectacular.

Including me, 75% of the people of Bhutan are Buddhists. But we seldom use our own customs to restrain people from other countries. For example, although I would advise guests to take off their hats and shoes before visiting the temple, and not to dress too revealingly, this is not a mandatory requirement.

Don’t worry about other issues. In some countries, if you want to photograph a kid chasing and slapsticking on the street, or a farmer working in the field, the other person will most likely get angry. But in Bhutan, children will only feel curious and excited when they see a foreigner holding a camera, and even take the initiative to walk into your camera.

In fact, the people here are always smiling and always happy to see tourists.

Even if you get lost in the village, don’t worry, although the locals don’t speak a word of English, they will definitely send you to where you want to go with gestures and guesses.

The only thing that may make you unaccustomed is probably the high altitude here. I have met many guests who suffered from altitude sickness, and some were sick almost all the time. To be honest, it was a very difficult journey.

But at the end of the journey, no one will remember the bad memories, only those smiling faces will stay in my heart forever.


Learn Chinese and eat hot pot in Beijing

The blue sky I miss most in Bhutan

I have been at Aman for 11 years and I have seen more and more Chinese in Bhutan.

For a long time, tourists to Bhutan have been dominated by Europeans and Americans. Since the wedding of Chinese stars Tony Leung and Carina Lau in 2008, the Chinese market has suddenly opened up.

I like chatting with Chinese tourists. As two bordering countries, although we have not established diplomatic relations, we have many similarities in culture, such as religion, such as food. I have also longed for several Buddhist temples in Tibet and Yunnan.

After chatting a lot, I suddenly had a strong idea to go to China. And over the years, I have seen the huge potential of the Chinese market. If I can learn Chinese well, it will undoubtedly benefit my future development in the tourism industry.

In August 2018, I quit my job at Aman to study Chinese at Beijing Language and Culture University.

I was the only Bhutanese student in my class, but I never felt lonely, and I quickly got used to life in Beijing.

Everything here is as good as I imagined, the four seasons of weather, and the delicious food. I especially like Szechuan food, because we Bhutanese also love spicy food, so things like hot pot are especially suitable for me.

If I have to say that there is something uncomfortable, it is that the pace of China is too fast. People on the subway are always in a hurry. The school curriculum is packed full. Although my classmates are younger than me, they are more motivated. They are very good at planning and managing time, and there is always a sense of urgency.

As for me, I have been living an idle and slow life in Bhutan, and I really couldn’t keep up with it at first.

The only thing I don’t like is the pollution in Beijing.

The city is home to more than 20 million people, compared to less than 800,000 people in the entire country of Bhutan. Although Beijing is very prosperous with countless high-rise buildings, I still miss the blue sky of Bhutan more.

We are the first country on earth with negative carbon emissions, and we have written the forest coverage rate of not less than 60% into the constitution. I think this is one of the reasons why Bhutan is called “the happiest country in Asia”.

In July 2019, I finished my one-year study and spent a few weeks in Shanghai and Yunnan during the summer vacation.

In Shangri-La, I specially visited Songzanlin Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, which finally fulfilled my dream for many years.


in Bhutan

The definition of happiness is simple

In September, I returned to Bhutan and started a travel agency with a friend. Because of the experience and connections, the company quickly got on the right track.

We provide customized travel services, which are more free than ordinary group tours, so there are often customers who find us not just for sightseeing.

I remember a lady from England who told me that she had been to Bhutan several times, and this time she didn’t want to visit the sights, so she wanted to check out the local school.

I took her to several schools, and she not only bought a lot of snacks and stationery for the children, but also took a stack of books out of her suitcase to donate to the school.

She lived in Bhutan for 10 days, and when she left, I gave her a discount for her accommodation. She’s helping my community, my fellow citizens, and I don’t know how to give back, but this is how I thank her.

Everything was going smoothly, unfortunately, the epidemic broke out very quickly.

In April 2020, Bhutan closed its borders, and since then, no foreign tourists can come in, and our business has come to a complete standstill.

In order to survive, we started a cross-border e-commerce business, selling some local Bhutanese agricultural products and handicrafts, such as Bhutanese staple red rice, incense used for meditation in monasteries, and so on.

Although the business is average, we still hope to provide such a platform for the farmers and artisans of the country, so that they can have an additional source of income in the days when they lose tourists.

Today, Bhutan has finally reopened the country, but the mandatory “sustainable development fee” for foreigners has risen from $65 a day to $200 a day.

Another corresponding change is that group tours are no longer necessary, and tourists can choose to travel independently. But for someone like me who runs a travel company, this is not good news.

But I won’t give up, I hope that by the end of this year or early next year, the company will be able to start the tourism business again.

I hope more people can see the beauty of Bhutan. Although it is not rich, I definitely agree that it is the happiest country in the world.

For some people, the definition of happiness may be complicated, requiring a mansion with a swimming pool, or a Mercedes-Benz.

But in Bhutan, we think very simply, food to feed and clothing to cover is all one needs.

There are no beggars here, no homeless people. The air is pure, and the land always produces food. This is our greatest wealth.

Text, editor / strawberry

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