Si­mon Ur win’ s Bhutan

Lonely Planet (UK) - - The Photographer’s Story -

BEST VIEW

It doesn’t mat­ter how many times you’ve seen images of the Tiger’s Nest monastery (above), the view, the at­mos­phere, the sounds you ex­pe­ri­ence there are magic.

MOST IN­TER­EST­ING THING I LEARNT

The claim that Bhutan is the ‘hap­pi­est nation on Earth’ is a myth. It seemed no more or less happy than any of the other of the coun­tries in the re­gion I’ve vis­ited.

FAVOURITE MO­MENT

Play­ing foot­ball in the af­ter­noon sun­shine with a group of young monks in their monastery grounds out­side the cap­i­tal Thim­phu.

MOST EN­JOY­ABLE MEAL

The Bhutanese love chill­ies and you’ll find them on the menu at al­most ev­ery meal. I en­joyed the ema dat­shi – hot chill­ies cooked in a cheese sauce.

THING I WISH I’D KNOWN BE­FORE I WENT

Bhutan has al­most zero nightlife. I should’ve down­loaded more boxsets onto my lap­top.

WILDEST AN­I­MAL EN­COUNTER

Packs of street dogs. Take good sil­i­con ear plugs as they can keep you awake all night with their inces­sant bark­ing.

BIG­GEST SUR­PRISE

How good the lo­cal beer (Red Panda) tastes.

MOST CU­RI­OUS CUS­TOM

Bhutan’s phal­lo­cen­tric­ity. Elab­o­rate paint­ings of penises on Bhutanese homes are said to drive away the evil eye and ma­li­cious gos­sip. Farm­ers also bury wooden phal­luses in their fields to en­cour­age a good crop.

BEST WAY TO MAKE FRIENDS

Bhutan has a cul­ture of gift-giv­ing. Bring small tins of Bri­tish-branded sweets from home as ice-break­ers or thank yous.

AD­VICE FOR BUD­DING PHO­TOG­RA­PHERS

Bhutan’s monas­ter­ies might be ridicu­lously pho­to­genic but show re­spect to th­ese sa­cred places and the peo­ple who re­side and wor­ship there. Not caus­ing of­fence is far more im­por­tant than any pho­to­graph you might want to take. Visi­tors who want pho­tos of the Tiger’s Nest with clear blue skies head there early in the morn­ing. The af­ter­noons of­ten cloud over so you might not get the per­fect photo, but this is the time to have Bhutan’s most fa­mous monastery al­most to your­self.

TOP TIP

If you’re fly­ing into Bhutan from Kath­mandu, be sure to get a win­dow seat on the left of the plane. On a clear day you’ll be spoilt with stag­ger­ing views of the Hi­malayas, in­clud­ing Mount Ever­est, for al­most the en­tire jour­ney. It’s quite pos­si­bly the most beau­ti­ful flight in the world.

Lonely Planet Trav­eller 103

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