A photo journey of Bhutan (part 2) – People and life

In March 2011, we made an education exchange trip to Bhutan. This blog is part 2 of a series documenting life in Bhutan in the form of a photograph journey, as I saw the country. The photographs in this blog are reduced in size for ease of download. All photographs are copyright of the author unless otherwise stated.


Bhutan is a relatively closed country. Its indigenous population is the Drukpa, which is broken down into three main ethnic groups, the Sharchops, Ngalops and the Lhotsampas (of Nepalese origin). Bhutan’s earliest residents, the Sharchops reside mainly in eastern Bhutan. They can be traced to the tribes of northern Burma and northeast India. The Ngalops migrated from the Tibetan plainsa and bringing with them Buddhism, which is widely practiced in Bhutan today. Most of the Lhotsampas migrated to the southern plains in the early 20th century seeking agricultural land and work.

Merchant in Sunday market in capital city, Thimphu. The market is a vibrant place during Sundays.


A monk in a very old monastery. According to our tour guide, there are lay monks who can have a family and those who consecrate their lives for Buddhism. He said he would like to be a consecrated monk one day.


Grade 1 student in a village school


Cheeky boys getting ready to return to class after recess


Lady on handphone at the midway point in a 900 metres ardous climb up to the Tiger's Nest monastery. The monastery is located on a steep cliff at 3,120 metres above sea level. Many prayer flags are hung along mountains in Bhutan.


A lady merchant lying down by the path on the climb up Tiger's Nest monastery, waiting for customers to purchase her souveniers. Many peddlers have set up makeshift stalls along the mountainous pathway of this popular attraction. Not many sales take place, due to small number of tourists and large number of peddlers.

We were fortunate to be in Bhutan during the annual Paro Tsechu, a colourful festival in spring lasting for five days. Most of my photographs of Bhutanese in colourful outfits were taken at the event.

Three girls dressed for the Paro spring festival, watching the show from a vintage position.


A multitude of thousands lining the hillside watching the Paro festival show.


A young boy with titbits, waiting for Paro show to start.


Three girls walking to Paro spring festival. We saw many people on the road walking many tens of kilometres to the festival on our way by private bus there,


A boy concentrating on his handphone at the Paro festival, even in the mdist of much noise and movement.


Two ladies in their festival best


Young girl in sunglasses at the festival


Looking cool in traditional outfits


Deep in concentration despite noise and multitudes of people



 Life in Bhutan

Men at archery in an open field by the road. It is common to see men practising archery as it is their most popular pastime. The typical distance is around 140 metres from the target, as opposed to 50 metres in Olympics. Amazingly, a group of young ladies were happily dancing between the archers and the target, at a little angle off the line of shot. These men were fairly accurate. Unfortunately, Olympics archery format is different from that practiced in Bhutan and they did not do well in their first participation at the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games.

Young ladies dancing a little off line of flight of arrow from archer to target. One of our team members joined in the dancing. Nope, none of us were close to being shot at.


Children skipping rubberbands during breaktime in school


Rice sellers at the Sunday market in capital city Thimphu. The market is open only on Sunday.

Shoppers on Sunday in Thimphu. There are many Indians living and working in Thimphu.


Colourful handicrafts on sale at Sunday market in makeshift tents in Thimphu


A teacher from south India teaching in a private school in Thimphu. He was originally sent by the Indian government to teach in Bhutan and has now joined the private education sector.


A provision shop in Thimphu with a window shop front, manned by a young lady back in town during the school holidays.


Fresh vegatables in a roadside stall in capital city Thimphu on sale in the evening.


Negotiating to buy Yak cheese, apples and dried persimmons on a mountain pass trail. Yak cheese is tasteless and hard. After sucking at it for half an hour, my jaws were tired and I had to discard the half eaten Yak cheese. Good thing it's inexpensive.


Our tour operator giving us a surprise picnic with home-cooked food by a stream. Picnics are popular in Bhutan.


A dog lying peacefully amongst a crowd of people at the Paro festival. Dogs are very common throughout Bhutan. One of my team members woke up earlier to jog while at Thimphu but was scared off by a horde of dogs trailing her. I did not see cats though. Not with so many dogs everywhere.


A bull making its way through the crowd in Paro festival. People around it seemed unconcerned about its movement. Cows are fairly common in Bhutan, but not as much as in India.


With a Singaporean restaurant cum tour owner in Thimphu (in black). She is one of only two Singaporean ladies who have settled permanently in Bhutan after marrying Bhutanese. Her daughter now studies in an Indian high school based on the Cambridge examination system. By sheer coincidence, I met members of both Singaporean families on the same day. One was the daughter of the other Singaporean lady who is a student in a private primary school. In the evening, we stumbled into this restaurant and the owner recognised us by our 'Singaporean' English accent!

A villager with a basket of manure to prepare the padi fields for the next round of planting.

A villager giving direction to our bus driver when we lost our way navigating to a village school. There is hardly any road sign in the outskirts. We had to do a multi-point turn to change direction of the bus along a narrow dirt path on the edge of the cliff to backtrack our path out. I believed most on the bus prayed anxiously for safety as we perched close on the edge doing the multi-point U-turn.


A cluster of prayer flags on the way up Tiger's Nest. Such prayer flags dot the entire mountainous landscape. Bhutanese believe the wind will catch the prayers on the flags to take the prayers to their loved ones. At funerals, large prayer flags are flown.


An 'interesting' sign spotted at the Paro festival. Most Bhutanese speak English. In schools, most subjects are taught in English, except for learning of the Bhutanese language. Textbooks are in English.


5 comments on “A photo journey of Bhutan (part 2) – People and life

    • Happy index is more than that. It’s actually a more complex thing that most understand to be. Gross National Happiness measures group happiness, not individual. It’s covers 4 broad areas: Sustainable economic development, perservation of culture and religion, preserving natural environment and good governance.

      I don’t fully understand it yet but I like the idea of group happiness not individual. It also factor in development and is not just a feel good thing.

      But yes, I see many happy faces everywhere,

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