December 17 is Bhutan’s National Day and it marks the date of the coronation of the first King of modern Bhutan. In Thimphu, the capital, celebrations are held in the stadium and the King of Bhutan addresses the crowd. It gets a bit confusing but there are two Kings of Bhutan, sort of.

The fourth King is Jigme Singye Wangchuck (or K4 as he’s called by the people) and he handed over responsibility to his eldest son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in 2006. Since the current King was born in 1980, that made him 26 years old when he became King. He is colloquially known as K5 and there is even a whiskey named K5.

The reigning King is revered by the people of Bhutan and so I really wanted to hear his address and see if I could catch a glimpse of him. I’ve walked by his small palace here in Thimphu and apparently he bicycles around the capital as does K4. What I didn’t think about was – the crowds. I’m not so great with hordes of people. I’m not claustrophobic but a get a little uneasy when pressed up against people. Prime opportunity for pick-pockets and catching germs if you ask me!

No need to worry about theft here in Bhutan though. I feel very safe here and, the other day, a shop-owner literally walked out of her shop with me (to take me to another shop), leaving her shop unattended for about 10 minutes. She said don’t worry, everything is safe in Bhutan and indeed it is. Including His Majesty.

I have no idea what His Majesty spoke about (I was later told it was the Bhutanese form of State of the Nation) and I enjoyed the colourful dancers. What I was most astounded by was this – I was told His Majesty likes to meet people and there he was walking amongst the crowds pressing the flesh.

He had a couple of Royal Bodyguards with him and was followed by the Prime Minister along with the King’s wife, who I believe is 23 years old. The Royal Prince (a son of K4) was also in the procession of dignitaries who walked amongst the crowd. K4, who attended the national celebrations, remained in the area for official guests and VIPs. Alas, I was not in this area LOL.

So there was His Majesty, dressed in a traditional Goh with bright yellow sash, greeting old and young as he passed amongst the crowd. I was stuck on a staircase, literally pinned to the railing by the crowds, but he walked pretty close to me. I have to say, to me he looks like a modern-day Elvis with his sideburns, and I’ve been told he was a real heart-throb before getting married. Here’s a photo of him.

Since Bhutan only has a population of around 750,000, I guess His Majesty can meet and greet. Can you imagine that tosser, Tony Abbott (current Prime Minister of Australia and not my favourite politician) being so revered by the Australian people or walking amongst the “commoners”? Or John Key? Or Obama?

Being a Buddhist nation means that the Bhutanese are very polite, very traditional and very respectful. I’ve heard no unkind words or criticism of the current King and We Love The King balloons were released in the stadium at the end of the celebrations.

I was a bit worried that I’d be crushed by the crowds as we exited the stadium but everything was very orderly. Everyone was happy and it’s an experience I won’t be in a rush to forget. Interestingly, I had no cell phone signal – I was told later that all telecommunications were blocked.


Traditional Bhutanese dancing.


Such colourful crowds!


Many people wear masks in Thimphu – because of the dust and pollution.


At the start of the celebrations, the Bhutanese army lined up. I’m not sure what all the different colours mean or whether they are all from the Army.