Bhutan was on my bucket list. I finally went there in early June 2016. √
Little did I know that much of Bhutan was funded, built and even maintained by India. About 70% of tourism revenue also comes in from India. Tourism is the 2nd largest contributor to Bhutan’s GDP (as per my guide).
That was a pleasant surprise. It even made me proud as an Indian.
But the reciprocity (if any) ends there!
Dantak is the project that’s laid all of Bhutan’s black top main roads linking it’s cities and towns. Museums and other structures are built by India at Indian taxpayers’ money. But Bhutan does not allow Indian Airlines or even it’s mobile service providers into Bhutan.
The first shock I got was through an SMS from Airtel (my ISP) letting me know that in the first 24 hours I spent in Bhutan, I was charged over Rs 10,000+ for “data charges” by TashiCell (meaning Good Cell). I had studiously disabled all but Whatsapp and FB on my phone and couldn’t for the life of me understand this daylight robbery!
Then we checked into a hotel in Thimphu that claimed to be 3-star and didn’t have a lift (I was on the 2nd floor but managed to switched to a room on the 1st floor with lots of arguments from the front desk) at Hotel Amodhara (below).
This hotel would barely make 1-star around the world.
The “Free WiFi” touted by all but a rare few hotels is a fake. As soon as our group checked in, the wifi would “die” a slow death within an hour. Being tech savvy I decided to investigate why this happened in Thimphu, Panakha and Paro with predictable regularity.
The findings were easy to zero in on. Some settings in the internet connections were disabled. Then, after some time (usually an hour of check in) the internet cable going into the wifi router was pulled out! So hotel guests would be “connected” to the router showing good signal strength but could not browse the internet!!!
Perhaps the most striking thing was the rather adversarial attitude of the locals towards Indians. It started with the cabin crew on Druk Air from Delhi and ended with the same crew on the return flight.
My travels are more or less documented on Trip Advisor (see https://www.tripadvisor.in/members/jsvasan) and I would not recommend Bhutan for the discerning traveller.
Bhutanese people need to appreciate the contribution India has made to their country and drop the holier than thou attitude. From what I saw, they have nothing to be proud about. On the contrary, there is plenty to be humble about.
Happiness is a cover up for mental laziness that grips the whole population.
Do check my blog “Bypass Bhutan“.