Bhutan

Did you know?

*  The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means "Land of the Thunder Dragon."

*  Landlocked, wedged between China to the north and India to the south, Bhutan remained closed to the outside world until 1974.

*  The department of tourism pursues a policy of "Low Volume, High Quality." Fewer than 8 000 people were granted visas to enter the country in 2000, and the cost of a tourist visa is approximately 200 USD per day.

*  A hereditary monarchy was established in Bhutan in 1907. Power is shared between the King, the Tsogdu (National Assembly) and the Je Khemp (Monastic Head) of the lamas. Bhutan still has no formal constitution.

*  Bhutan is roughly the size of Switzerland.

*  Forests make up 72.5% of the total area of Bhutan.

*  Bhutan is the only country in the world that practices the Tantric form of  Mahayana Buddhism as its official religion. Tantras are sacred texts from India, written between the third and tenth centuries.

*  Bhutan has more than 2 000 temples and monasteries spread across the nation.

*  English is taught in schools and it is used as the official working language, but national leaders advocate the use of Dzongkha, Bhutan's national language.

*  Police may fine any Bhutanese not wearing official national dress  in public. Men wear the robe-like gho and women wear the apron-like  kira. Although it has always been customary to wear national dress,  it didn't become law until 1990.

*  Archery, Bhutan's national pastime, is the only Olympic sport the country has ever participated in since it first competed in 1984. While most bows are factory-made from fiberglass, Bhutanese bows are hand-carved from bamboo, and their arrows are made from pheasant and eagle feathers found in the forest.

*  Bhutan's main language is Dzongkha, with 14 other languages spoken there as well. One of those is Nepali, used by the Nepalese minority (30%). The main people group is the Drukpa (63%), most of whom live in northwest Bhutan. They believe in leading a virtuous life to ensure happiness in the next.

*  The flag of Bhutan ("Land of the Dragon") features a dragon grasping jewels; this represents natural wealth and perfection. The white colour is for purity and loyalty, the gold is for regal power, and the orange-red is for Buddhist sects and religious commitment. The flag may have been introduced as recently as 1971.

*  National Game: Archery The national sport of Bhutan is archery. Other traditional sports include digor - a kind of shot put, darts and wrestling. Today, most international sports, such as soccer, basket ball, volleyball,  tennis, and table tennis are becoming popular. In Bhutan a game of archery has always been a serious business. Tradition has it that if two villages or districts were to compete in a game of archery, elaborate preparations preceded the actual duel. Astrologers consulted the stars and their books of wisdom to divine the most auspicious day to play the game, including even the most favourable sequence of shooting for their players.