Roger M. Kaye
A retired physicist reinvented as thriller novels writer

Bhutan – A Lesson For Our Times

The Tiger's Nest, Paro, Bhutan (photo by Roger M. Kaye)

Today was a strange day, a new world for me.

Normally, when I have finished writing a blog, I find a word or phrase that sums up the blog and then look for a suitable photo to accompany it. But this time, casually glancing through some old holiday photo albums, I found one that I could not resist. I had to write a blog about this photo.

The photo showed the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, better known as the Tiger’s Nest. This Buddhist sacred site and temple complex is to be found clinging to a cliffside in the upper Paro valley in Bhutan.

Not many people get to see this remote monastery. Bhutan strictly limits the number of tourists that visit the small kingdom high in the Himalayas. Last year there were just 71,807 international tourists. It is also one of the most expensive countries, for tourists that is, in the world. In the low season, there is a minimum charge of some $200 per day per person, rising to $250 per day per person in high season.

I had the good fortune to visit Bhutan a few years back, in the days when we could leave the confines of our house. It was an interesting trip.

Those who think that the Jewish religion has some strange requirements and restrictions, have not visited Bhutan!

Sadly, as Bhutan is reluctantly dragged into the modern world, polygamy is no longer practiced, although it is still legal. This is probably a good thing as it works both ways – many Bhutanese women would take two husbands. As is often the case, these marriage arrangements were more about protecting the family assets than just love. A quite literal interpretation of the old song – Love and Marriage, go together like a Horse and Carriage. Bored with the old …….  carriage. Just take a another wife and get a exciting new carriage that will take you for an unforgettable …….  ride.

Eating in Bhutan is an interesting experience for us Westerners. Bhutanese consider spoons and forks to be a foreign, imported idea. They prefer eating with their fingers. This is believed to improve the food’s flavour. We washed our hands so much that everything we ate had a flavour of soap. Little did we know that this was useful practise for living with the coronavirus.

A major attraction for tourists are the many dzongs. These are ancient fortresses, complete with towers, courtyards, and temples. You must take care to dress appropriately before entering, no hats, shorts, short skirts, flip-flops, or t-shirts – and certainly no kippot.

It was a warm day, and I made the mistake of wrapping my red jacket around my waist, as I have done innumerable times in many countries. I was leapt upon by the dzong’s guards. Only Bhutanese men are allowed to wear the traditional kera, a woven red cloth belt, wound tightly around the waist. Wearing a jacket round your waist is strictly forbidden.

There are many more ways that a tourist can inadvertently offend the local population. As an ignorant foreigner, you cannot be trusted on your own and you can only travel around Bhutan with a registered guide. In these coronavirus days, when many people cannot be trusted to do something as simple as wearing a mask, perhaps we should only be allowed out of our houses with a registered warden,  er, I mean, guide.

About the Author
The author has been living in Rehovot since making Aliya in 1970. A retired physicist, he divides his time between writing adventure novels, getting his sometimes unorthodox views on the world into print, and working in his garden. An enthusiastic skier and world traveller, the author has visited many countries. His first novels "Snow Job - a Len Palmer Mystery" and "Not My Job – a Second Len Palmer Mystery" are published for Amazon Kindle. The author is currently working on the third Len Palmer Mystery - "Do Your Job".
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