For those who love traveling as much as I do, I suggest adding Bhutan to your list. Though not as much on the travel radar as larger countries like China or Japan, it was one of my most memorable trips to Asia. This tiny kingdom is landlocked between India, China, and Nepal. Closed off from the outside for thousands of years, it was never colonized, unlike its neighboring countries. Ultimately, the lack of colonization allowed Bhutan to keep its traditions, culture, religion, and way of living entirely intact.
My adventure to Bhutan started with the wild Drukair (which translates to Dragon Air) flight. An interesting aspect about flying to Bhutan is that King Wangchuck owns the only three planes that are allowed to land in the country. These planes require specially trained pilots to navigate the close mountain ranges into the capital city of Thimphu. During this three-hour flight from India, I was able to see eight of the world’s tallest peaks, including the incredible Mount Everest.
Once in Bhutan, I chose the Amankora resort as my new home away from home. I instantly fell in love with the perfectly simple and modern interiors created within the traditional Bhutanese architecture. The earthy colors, combined with the light woods and beautiful views, made this place the perfect destination to unwind. Since a great part of my trip entailed traveling by car from one part of the country to another, I was able to experience a different Aman hotel every other night. It was a fantastic way to travel and cover territory, to really enjoy the cities and countryside.
During my stay, I had many invaluable experiences: I was lucky enough to have the king’s astrologer read my fortune, saw the migration of the white heron birds, hiked up several mountains, crossed suspension bridges over rivers, climbed to Tiger’s Nest monastery, and spent time in Paro and Punakha. Experiencing the truly calm Buddhist lifestyle that has been lived for hundreds of years was inspiring. Bhutan was everything you could imagine a monk would dream of: lush, green, dramatic, and full of natural beauty.
Aside from the jaw-dropping views and incredible hikes, as a designer, one of my favorite things in Bhutan was the discovery of some of the most outstanding handmade textiles that I’ve ever seen. Unlike textiles in so many countries, which are specifically made for the tourist industry, these are unique and richly colored pieces of art. Because of their intricate patterns and sophisticated geometrical shapes, Bhutanese fabrics are one of the most time-consuming pieces to weave.
The king of Bhutan and his advisors all studied abroad in England and the U.S. and collectively came up with a purpose for their rule which they named “gross national happiness.” They felt they should cultivate basic needs and measure personal happiness in their population, instead of focusing on material goods. People who have housing, food, clean water, and medical care are happy. It was such a lovely concept and was so refreshing to hear that somewhere in the world money was not necessarily the primary objective in day-to-day life. And so, Bhutan, the land of the Thunder Dragon, has remained one of my favorite places in the world.