Take the First Train to Bhutan

bhutan train.photo

Image from himalayantours.com

Train travel is the way of the future: clean, environmental, fast and easy. Now you can even take one to the remote and magical kingdom of Bhutan. Known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, it is one of those small countries in the Himalayas that seems lost in time; they had no roads or telephones until 1960 and no television until 1999.

Now they are going to have their first railway: an 11-mile (18km) link between India and Bhutan. Their first steps into the modern world. It's all very political, of course, with India worried about China's influence and thus eager to solidify ties with the small country.

monks bhutan.photo

Image from zimbio

Bhutan is the world's newest democracy, having held its first elections last year. The king, who was educated at Oxford, wants to forge new and strong economic ties.

He is also eager to protect its environment and has identified climate change as a major threat to mankind. The country has said it wants to become carbon neutral regardless of whether it receives outside assistance or not.

It's a country that rates its gross national happiness (not its GNP) very highly. The foreign minister has said that its goal is "seeing its people living happily in their own country; for which the tiny Himalayan kingdom gives stress on enhancing the gross national happiness of the nation."

monastic life.photo

Some Facts about Bhutan

It is the eighth-happiest country in the world according to one survey.
Archery is the national sport.
Knocking down a tree and killing fish are both illegal.
Only 10,000 tourists a year are allowed to visit
Smoking is illegal
Population is 635,000
20,000 of all Bhutanese are monks

Don't try and book your ticket yet; the new railway won't be ready for a few years.

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