A Place Like No Other
by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck , , pp.,
October 2006, volume 30, No 10

Nearly two decades ago, I made my first journey to Bhutan. I was told that I should take the road up from Phuntsoling rather than go by air, because that way I would be entering Bhutan “the right way.” That was sane advice. From the moment that one crosses the Bhutan gate at Phuntsoling, one is in a way entering another world and it is best to do it gradually. As the 184 km road snakes its way across verdant valleys of incredible beauty, vanishing now into the eternal fog around Chukha and emerging under clear blue skies where the Paro Chu meets the Thimphu Chu in a dramatic confluence, Bhutan’s charm begins to wind around the heart, unobtrusively but ineluctably. Leaving aside the occasional coffee table book or travel guide, not much has been written about Bhutan. For that reason alone, A Portrait of Bhutan written by Bhutan’s seniormost queen, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, is a valuable contribution. In just two hundred pages, the book seamlessly weaves travel with history, legend with custom, nature with development. Written as part memoir and part travelogue, the book succeeds eminently in providing the reader an insight into various aspects of Bhutanese life and shows how a people of charming traditions and deep religious beliefs have successfully handled the challenges of modernism and development.

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