Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Rinpun Dzong

Rinpun Dzong

Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Phallus painting

Phallus painting

Rinpun Dzong

Rinpun Dzong

Paro Chhu

Paro Chhu

Rinpun Dzong

Rinpun Dzong

Between Thangthangka & Sharna Zampa

Between Thangthangka & Sharna Zampa

Jhomolhari, from Thangthangka

Jhomolhari, from Thangthangka

Bhutan

Paro

October 2016 • Bhutan is a collection of feints that are beguiling to the eye and plausible enough to believe. Its star attraction is actually a replica; the original, centuries-old Tiger’s Nest Monastery was destroyed by fire in 1998. Weather is also a head fake—rainy midway into the so-called dry season—yet the tourism sector is loath to admit it. When asked about the ominous forecast two weeks before arrival, the tour operator assured that recent treks had been "fine" and the rain was becoming "lesser by the day." Only after an 8.5-hour slog across mud bogs and slippery rock did our guide finally come clean. He said once a trek is booked, nothing is mentioned that might discourage the client because too many local incomes depend on it. Tourism is the country’s leading source of revenue, and hydroelectric power (rain) is second. For visitors this makes an awkward pairing—and I’d argue a dangerous one, especially for trekkers. Bhutan needs to do a better job of respecting the safety and well-being of anyone who pays $250/day for the privilege of hiking its trails and hanging a few overpriced prayer flags along the way. Informed consent is good karma. Or maybe the cloying propaganda about Gross National Happiness is the cleverest feint of all.

Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Rinpun Dzong

Rinpun Dzong

Taktshang Goemba

Taktshang Goemba

Phallus painting

Phallus painting

Rinpun Dzong

Rinpun Dzong

Paro Chhu

Paro Chhu

Rinpun Dzong

Rinpun Dzong

Between Thangthangka & Sharna Zampa

Between Thangthangka & Sharna Zampa

Jhomolhari, from Thangthangka

Between Thangthangka & Sharna Zampa