It was a coronation, not an election today in the small Himalayan country of Bhutan. 28-year old Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, a Western-educated son of the former king, was crowned. The optimal day was picked based on astrology, and the entire country of 700,000 joined in the festivities.
Bhutan, a country the size of Maryland, is rugged, breathtaking and its culture has remained intact because of an insular and protective approach to governing. Travel to Bhutan is not easy or cheap. Foreigners are restricted; only 20,000 tourists are allowed in each year.
Trips are well-organized, supervised and expensive. In recent years Bhutan has been in the news having been crowned the happiest nation in the world. With isolation and preservation of culture, the country values GNH or Gross National Happiness more than GDP. GNH is an ethos and political philosophy of the country that measures the happiness of its citizens holistically. GNH seeks to balance material gains with spiritual well being. Bhutanese hope that the new young king, who wears his hair like Elvis, might open the country further. Let’s hope Bhutan can remain quirky, well-preserved and happy—the antidote to globalization.