20. May 2009 23:57
The most cherished memories from our Bolivian motorcycle adventure last year involved our encounters with people in remote villages that rarely receive “tourists.” For our next ride, I wanted to visit another country where we might find communities that had managed to retain their traditional cultures, with minimal influence from outside visitors. As soon as I heard about Bhutan, the “Land of the Dragon,” my heartstrings were clutched in a vice-grip that eventually pulled me across the Pacific Ocean.
Protected by the massive snowy Himalayan peaks along its northern border with Tibet, and the mountainous jungles along its southern border with India, Bhutan remained a fairly isolated country until the 1960’s. Many of the people still practice the same traditions that have existed for hundreds of years. The majority of people in Bhutan are Buddhist. The government is concerned with “Gross National Happiness”, instead of Gross National Product. Economic decisions are made with the goal of maintaining cultural and religious values and preserving the pristine condition of the natural environment, which is an ecological wonderland.
The flow of tourism is strictly regulated. The government understands that unrestricted tourism can have an irreversible negative impact on Bhutanese traditions and culture. The law requires all visitors to travel with a licensed Bhutanese guide or Bhutanese-owned tour operator. Tourism is steadily increasing, however, and contact with outside visitors has already influenced the country in many subtle, as well as blatant, ways.
I was eager to see and experience Bhutan before too many more changes had occurred. Ben and I chose to ride motorcycles from one end of the country to the other on a series of unbelievably amazing, narrow, twisty roads. We also spent a few days riding in the tea-bush covered mountains of northeastern India. Our time in these two countries was truly magical.
Click on each “Day” below to read the details of our journey.