I have a very special relationship with Bhutan, a spiritual bond that has lasted for more than 10 years.
Bhutan is a magical country and when I first set foot on it, in 2005, it was an unspoilt place, where very few visas were granted and hotel infrastructure was very small; at that time there was only one boutique hotel, Uma Paro by COMO. It was a difficult country to access, and there were no mobile phones nor coverage. Back then, Bhutan was beginning to open to the world, but it still received very few visitors. Everything was clean and well kept, it was easy to find yourself alone in the most amazing places (in fact, we did not run into a single tourist on the whole trip) and we were even allowed to enter the temples.
The temples and ceremonies are certainly breathtaking, in fact we were able to attend ceremonies where women are not usually admitted, which was a great honor, but the best thing about Bhutan is definitely its people. The best experience was meeting its inhabitants, with whom we shared unique moments. I also remember with special fondness a visit to the post office, where we took pictures to make stamps with our own faces.
Curiously, one day we met the king’s brother as he was leaving the golf course after playing for a while. He was surprised to see us, since he didn’t see tourists often, and we were surprised to see him, surrounded by helpers but with a warm attitude.
My first encounter with this incredible country was a very special experience indeed.
On my second visit to Bhutan in 2012, I was able to enjoy this mystical country for whole three weeks. The first thing that surprised me was that I did not find the green landscapes I admired on my previous trip. The colours had changed a lot and the vegetation was dry due to the winter weather. It was also colder, and the atmosphere was different since the children and monks were on vacation.
On the other hand, in these years Bhutan had opened up to the world; I could feel there was more commerce and something else caught my attention: everyone was already with a mobile phone in hand, even the monks!
Being low season, I was able to appreciate the day-to-day life of the inhabitants from another perspective, visit the markets and discover unique festivals. This time I traveled all over the country, discovering the Amankora lodges and going deep into the Himalayas.
I had the honor of being the first Spanish person to set foot on Bathpalathang Airport and fly in the king’s nephew’s Pilatus aircraft, sharing the experience with the Minister of Tourism of Bhutan.
Best of all: the blessing ceremony. We bought three flags in Thimphu and made a donation to raise them in front of the Royal Palace, in a sacred zone. The flags represent three gods: Wisdom, Compassion and Power. When the wind blows, it gathers the prayers and blessings that have been made at the foot of the flags and spreads them all over the world. This ceremony perfectly represents the Buddhist philosophy in Bhutan: the Bhutanese pray for all living beings.
There was a special ceremony and a blessing ritual while we prepared and raised the flags, which stood there for a year and a half afterwards. Now I’m already planning my next trip to Bhutan to raise the flags again!