Misty forests, flying penises, goat-headed cows and barking deer. For #83 HAPPINESS, Colors scaled the Himalayas to find the happiest place on earth. Whether you opt for a free yak ride or prefer window-shopping in the latest Asian boomtown, only here will the government do everything in its power to make you smile. Welcome to Bhutan, 21st-century Shangri-la.
If you’re not thrilled with the accommodations during your stay, the King wants to know. He’s brought “welfare state” to a whole new level by replacing GDP (the traditional economic measurement of a country’s health) with GNH (Gross National Happiness). Now the whole country thinks in terms of joy.
The government keeps track of GNH through the Gross National Happiness Survey, which tabulates every detail of Bhutanese life - from how much archery citizens play (every village has an archery field) to how many are afraid of ghosts (one in every two).
But there’s no laissez-faire in a smile-based economy. The Bhutanese monarchy sees tradition as a pillar of wellbeing, so foreign influences (Coca-Cola) have been banned, and advertisements must comply with an officially approved aesthetic. Speaking in verse is encouraged, but smoking is officially frowned upon, as is drinking on Tuesdays. Tourists are encouraged not to linger.
The Bhutanese road to happiness can appear difficult for outsiders to navigate, so an official guide might come in handy. That’s why we’ve asked Bhutanese writer Kunzang Choden to take us on a tour of her native country. Over the next eight weeks, Kunzang will show us how to be happy in Bhutan, how not to be happy in Bhutan, and why.