We’ve been up and over into remote valleys, here is some rambling babble and findings from the past couple of days. ( I take no responsibility for incorrect info or poor writings, this is me trying to write down info as fast as possible as our insanely knowledgeable guides answer every random question we throw at them)
The main tourist seasons here are spring (March, April, May) and autumn (Sept, Oct, Nov). Summer (June, July, Aug) is monsoon when it can rain for days and weeks at a time. Winter can get pretty chilly and snowy up high but places like Punakha (described by our guide as the ‘Florida’ of Bhutan, are ideal temps and far too hot in summer.
Over the Lawala Pass, 3300m, and dropping down into the Phobijikha Valley at 2900m, you feel like you’re in Switzerland. Something about the land, the valley, the villages scattered around the hills, the wooden/ rammed earth 3 storey houses with small family farm land around.
The bowl-shaped glacial valley is protected due to the large flock of black necked cranes that spend the winter here and fly to Tibet to breed in summer. There are only a few thousand left in the world is this is the main place to see them.
Lots of potatoes, turnip, radish grown here and exported to Indian and Bangladesh. It’s too high here for rice so there are no terraces.
We knew that we were travelling at the very end of winter/ start of Spring, meaning that but were slightly shocked to wake up to a complete blanket of snow over the whole valley. After some worried discussion from the guides a decision was made to leave as soon as the storm ended and sun came out, a day earlier than planned, as it was due to ice up the next day and we still had the 3300m pass to get back across. So back down it was to ‘Florida’ for a hike up to a mountain village and down the otherwise.
Bhutan is working towards self sufficiency. At the moment a lot of food is imported from India and they home in the future this will change. The government encourages farmers to stay on their land rather than move to the city. The government provides assistant with agriculture techniques and crop knowledge.
There are 4 hydro power stations in operation and 3 more being built. All the gas and oil for Bhutan has to be imported from India at great expense- the income that comes from one hydro station is just enough to cover it. They are importing 200 electric cars from India as a trial for civil servants and then hope to encourage others to buy.
To try and prevent to overcrowding of the capital Thimphu, the government aims to develop a major town in each district/ valley so that people will move there rather than the capital. Wangdi is the first example of this, it has the added advantage that the 2 new hydro power stations are being built just down stream so there is a great need for accommodation and services. But it feels like any new-build town does.
Bhutan is trying to build a massive education city for masters/ postgrad uni. Outside investors for good will rather than business opportunity would be involved. They are aiming to educate 25,000 students as too much money is going outside of country for postgrad levels studies. They are waiting on land commission permission for the 1000 acres site, since the change in government there has been a hold up.