Bhutan is a Himalayan Kingdom like no other. A clever approach to tourism has protected their culture and kept their country unique and unspoilt in a world where mysterious places are disappearing fast.
The introduction of a new “Sustainability Tax” has further made it an exclusive destination but can you blame them for wanting to preserve such a unique atmosphere.
This new tax is aimed at “…. targeting mindful travellers who are sensitive to Bhutan’s culture, environment and aspirations,” said Dorji Dradhul, director general of the Tourism Council of Bhutan.
It will go towards making sure the hotels on offer are up to scratch and improve the general infrastructure for tourism.
With arrivals for 2023 projected at on 22,000 from outside the immediate region it really does mean “high value, low volume”. Will this set the bench mark for environmentally conscious tourism?
There are the famous not to be missed sites like Punakha Dzong or The Tigers Nest in stunning settings surrounded by flowering jacaranda trees. Mountain passes that wind through the rhododendrons and valleys little touched or changed by limited tourism.
Riding Bhutan is a very special experience. Long days in the saddle can be relieved by unwinding in hot stone baths infused with wormwood. Or tales told over some fabulous beers brewed locally like Red Panda a locally brewed weiss beer.
Having traversed half the country our arrival in Bhumtang signified the half way point and a day of rest or at least only a local ride up a nearby valley.
The Tang Valley was a true revelation of the nature of Bhutan and the hidden gems that lie just off the beaten track.
Oygen Choling “A Traditional Manor in Central Bhutan” a veritable Himalayan Estate, curated by Kunzang Choden daughter of the last landlord and who herself grew up here.
It is a museum in it’s own right with much of the original trappings of a life that has long since disappeared. Much like the west these buildings would have fallen into disrepair, being unsustainable for the family and it’s heirs.
So this labour of love and preservation of Bhutanese culture is one of the unexpected highlights of the ride as we head into the wild and lesser travelled east of the country.
Motorbike touring is many things to many people. It is important to rev and travel but to keep your eyes open and ready for surprises in the twists and turns of the road.
For some it is just the road, for others the places and for some it is all about the people you meet on the journey.