We’re honoring Bourdain, his curiosity, and sense of adventure by airing the last episodes of Season 11. This week: Bhutan
This note was taken from Anthony Bourdain’s narration of the episode.
“Bhutan. A remote, relatively rarely visited kingdom of myth and legend high in the Himalayas. Known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon, one of the reasons it’s not on the tourist trail is it’s hard to get to.
Flying in, you hang on to your seat, as the plane negotiates some alarming maneuvers through narrow mountain passes before dropping into the country’s only international airport, said by some to be the most dangerous in the world.
Located between India and Tibet, Bhutan, about the size of Switzerland, has a population of only about 750,000. Though still much revered and active in politics, Bhutan’s king recently abdicated his throne in favor of a constitutional democracy.
The country is in a period of transition. Tourism was only allowed starting in the 1970s and, even today, only in small numbers. The amount of foreign visitors each year is strictly limited to protect Bhutan’s culture and environment.
Thimphu is Bhutan’s capital and largest city. It has a rapidly growing population of 100,000 as Bhutanese—as in so many other places—have begun the inevitable move away from a rural, agrarian lifestyle. Carefully and deliberately kept free of development, non-Bhutanese influences, and Western architecture, the tiny kingdom is caught between the old world and the new.
All visitors are assigned a mandatory tour guide, and there was a deliberately prohibitive $250-a-day per person minimum fee required for tourist visas. There’s no Starbucks, no KFC.
Basically, they don’t want you to come here—at least not en masse.”
Highlights from Bhutan on Explore Parts Unknown:
- An illustrated guide to hiking the Tiger’s Nest
- A perfect day in Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital
- An essay on fleeing Bhutan during the Lhosampa Exodus
- A political primer on Bhutan—and how it’s opening up to the world
- A photo essay on archery, the Himalayan country’s national sport