If we are to point out one product that has attracted the world to Bhutan and elevated Bhutan’s position, it is undeniably Gross National Happiness (GNH). Over the last couple of years, it has become a subject dissected by scholars and critics; a literature in itself.
Bhutan is the home of GNH and it sprung from the pine clad palace of Samtenling, when the Fourth King, Jigmi Singye Wangchuck said in the early eighties, that “Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than Gross National Product.” A very philosophical statement, its essence is very simple, propounding the fact that accumulation of material gains alone is not the gateway to happiness, which is the ultimate desire of all human beings.
While wealth is one of the elements for happiness, there are other factors, abstract in nature, without which even the world’s richest man cannot live happily.
With this concept, Bhutan embarked on a unique form of development, where economic development received equal footing as promotion and preservation of the culture, and environment. Good Governance was given prominence and within a short span of time, the merits of GNH became visible. Bhutan developed, its GDP soared, but there was no effect on the environment. Despite the forces of modernization knocking on the country’s doors and entering the nation, Bhutan’s age-old values, embodied in its culture remained intact.
It wasn’t long before GNH flew beyond Bhutan’s borders. It became an international anthem, a literature in itself, with several eminent scholars discussing and dissecting the concept. Countries such as Brazil, Japan, and even France started adopting and implementing GNH in its policies. GNH reached its pedestal when the United Nations endorsed it and even dedicated one day of the year to Happiness, as World Happiness Day.
Bhutan, a country that very few had heard of gained popularity and today, the Himalayan Kingdom sparkles in the sky amidst other stars.
While GNH is Bhutan’s gift to the world, how different is a GNH country from others? What is so special about Bhutan? Are the people happy?
These are questions most people who have not been to the country ask. The Experiencing GNH Trip will answer these questions. Apart from showcasing Bhutan’s middle path approach to development and the importance placed on preserving and promoting the country’s unique culture and environment, you will be taken to sites that reflect GNH. You will see and experience how modernity has perfectly blended into the Bhutanese culture. As your trip ends, you will find answers to your questions. You will realize why the world has embraced GNH and other elements that make Bhutan special.
The environment is a crucial aspect of GNH. The small Himalayan Kingdom houses over 5,400 species of plants, including 300 species of medicinal plants, some thriving even at 3,700m above. It has 369 species of orchids, of which 82 are unique to the Kingdom and 46 species of rhododendrons. The tropical evergreen forests growing below 800m are repositories of a unique biodiversity. The tropical vegetation of the lower zones gives way to dark forests of oak, birch, maple, magnolia, and laurel. Above 2,400m altitude is the home of spruce, yew, and weeping cypress, and higher still, growing up to the tree line, is the east Himalayan fir. At about 5,500m are low shrubs, rhododendrons, Himalayan grasses and flowering herbs. Bhutan’s national flower, Blue Poppy grows above the tree line 3,500 – 4,500m elevation.
In this 12 day sojourn, you will see all these and more.