I am somewhat kicking myself for not bringing my beloved Nikon D40 camera with me. But honestly, I had to lug enough over here for a one month stay in Bhutan without having a heavy camera bag hanging off me. And for the whole time I’ve been here, I’ve been in the apartment working or walking up and down the hill to the office. No time really for sightseeing or exploring. I’m afraid I won’t have seen much of Bhutan except the capital, Thimphu, and Paro, which is where the international airport is located.

So I’m not really in a position to tell you what I think of Bhutan. It would have been better to visit during Spring or Summer but I couldn’t dictate the work schedule. Although it’s Winter here now, the days are warm and sunny. Bright blue skies and a hint of frost in the mornings. I’m told the scenery is gorgeous in Spring and Summer with emerald green mountains and colourful flowers.

I have to be honest with you – Thimphu is not the greatest of places. It’s in the western region of the country and has a population of around 100,000 (maybe a little less). The first week I succumbed to all the dust, smoke and pollution here. I’m used to the clear, crisp air of the South Island of New Zealand.

Bhutanese households still use firewood for cooking and heating purposes and this results in a lot of smoke. Public transport is zippo so there are many cars on the road and this is a major source of air pollution. All this pollution irritated my respiratory tract (which hasn’t been the same since I caught pneumonia in 2004) – so I spent the first week with a blocked nose and nasty, rattling chest cough.

Then in week three, I caught some stomach virus or urinary tract infection; not sure which. I brought antibiotics with me just in case but fought it off with a herbal remedy I found here – Himalaya Herbals Renalka. Basically cleared everything up in less than 48 hours. I really don’t like taking antibiotics if I can help it. I found a lovely Indian lady at a pharmacy counter in Thimphu who knows exactly what herbal remedy to take. You tell her the symptoms, she nods sagely and proffers the suitable remedy.

Where was I? Oh yeah: so now I can reveal what I’ve been doing. I was invited to Bhutan to write the strategy for a research institute. This institute will conduct research into Gross National Happiness, which is a concept originating in Bhutan. I started work on December 2 and had less than two weeks to prepare a major strategy for presentation to a Committee. No stress LOL.

This meant I was locked up in the apartment, working diligently. But we needed to visit a College in Paro and this was a day trip, so I managed to see a bit of scenery. Majestic mountains and bridges lined with fluttering prayer flags are a feature in the region outside the capital. I saw a 1,000 year old bridge festooned with vibrant prayer flags and it was a pleasure to breathe in crisp, fresh air.

This is the point I thought “should have lugged the Nikon”. Fortunately, El Hubs brought his little Panasonic with him and the photos have turned out well – I’ll see if I can steal a few to show you. Meanwhile, it’s trusty old iPhone photos below.

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The 1,000-year old bridge is in the background. Bridges seem to be lined with colourful prayer flags.

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I imagine the scenery would be spectacular in Spring and Summer.

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Majestic mountains.

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