About the Book
Tucked away in the eastern Himalaya, between the riverine plains of India and the cold and arid Tibetan plateau. Bhutan is the country of dreams, dragons, legends and landscapes. With its sparkling verdant valleys, gurgling streams and forests aglow with wild orchids, this picturesque country is like none other.
But Bhutan is more than just temperate forests and tropical jungles. It is the land where the king initiates the move towards democracy, where the people are firmly rooted in religion and are fiercely proud of their history. Most of all, it is a country on the path of development but without sacrificing its values or polluting the environment. This book brings alive all these aspects of the dragon country through some exquisite illustrations in colour and a flowing narrative.
About the Author
SANJAY ACHARYA is a writer, broadcaster and documentary producer. His camera has taken him to adventures in mountains, deserts, rainforests, coastal mangrove swamps and even underwater to the fascinating world of coral reefs. In 1980, he moved to Thimpu on a two-year UNICEF project to help the Royal Government set up the Development Support Communication Division.
Sanjay has also taught photography at the Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia and the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. He currently lives in Geneva. Switzerland, where he works for the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society. His passion, apart from photography and music is soaring the skies in sailplanes.
It was the beginning of an adventure when in July 1980, with the monsoons breaking over New Delhi, my life Sonya and I, along with tons of baggage and our golden retriever, boarded the Tinsukhia Express. Some thirty gruelling hours later, we were deposited unceremoniously on a dark platform at the New Jalpaiguri railway station. Rufus was worn to a frazzle having barked all the way at every passing train and animal, and Sonya was so benumbed by then that it made little difference to her where we had reached, as long as we were off the train. It was a relief to find Ugyen Norbu, a young photographer, who had come to meet us at the station, but it was still a long drive to Bhutan across the hot and dusty foothills of north Bengal.
For six more hours we bumped our way to Phuntsholing on pot-holed highways along a series of neatly pruned tea estates, until we passed under an arched gateway into Bhutan. Apart from the signboards and a number of policemen dressed in blue, it seemed no different from the crowded little towns we had hurried through on the way. And this was the mythical land which had so fired our imagination that we proposed to spend the next few years here! Greasy omelettes at the Kuenga Hotel-which offered both 'Fooding and Lodging'-didn't help our state of mind.
Five kilometres out of Phuntsholing, leaving behind the checkpost at Kharbandi, the atmosphere changed dramatically. The narrow highway wound its way up the hills blanketed by a thick mantle of dark green foliage. Giant ferns drooped from the slopes, and orchids and vines sheltered under the dense canopy of the tropical jungle. As we climbed higher, the temperature dropped steadily, and soon we were wrapped in the clouds. Peering through the swirling mist, the terrain looked even more dreamlike. Passersby were dressed in traditional Bhutanese attire, and even the architecture was different from anything we had seen before. It was another world we had entered, and we would come away transformed by it.
Communications were difficult in those days. Long distance telephone calls were almost impossible to connect and even telegrams took days to reach. There was no airline flying in and out of Paro, and the only way to get to Thimphu was to drive from the railway station at New Jalpaiguri or from the airport at Bagdogra in India. The 185 kilometres of winding highway from Thimphu to the plains took a little over five hours, but almost never became tiresome. Little excuse was needed to kick the Enfield motorcycle to life and ride the curves of the mountain road. One winter afternoon, after frozen pipes had deprived us of free-flowing water for a couple of days, Robert and Hootoksi astride their vintage Matchless and my Enfield set out on icy road from Thimphu to Phuntsholing so we could get a hot shower!
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