Bowled Over by Bhutan - 2007

THE QUIET NATION

Many of the sights and impressions I have described so far are fairly evident after only a

few hours or a day or two in the nation. The most salient characteristic takes a few

days to register on the busy Western traveler who is gaping, exclaiming, and snapping

photos of all the exotic features of the land. Then a realization bubbles up into one’s

conscious mind—how quiet it is in Bhutan. Missing from the ambiance is noise! No

honking horns, no loud radios, TVs, or music played in public places. No raised

voices. Very little mechanical aural disturbances because there is not much traffic. Only

four flights a day (and that only in good weather when the clouds or fogs do not hang too

low in the Paro Valley). No one talking too loudly into a cell phone (though there are many

of these devices in use). Instead, you hear the wind soughing in the trees, the ravens

croaking from the skies overhead, the rain tapping on the roofs, a woodpecker

hammering at a trunk, rivers rushing through their rocky beds, waterfalls tumbling,

crashing, tinkling down the rock faces, prayer wheels lightly grinding on their axles, prayer

flags flapping in the breezes or, most amazing of all, complete silence. Andthen you find

yourself speaking more softly, or maybe even refraining from speech at all, just listening

and really hearing the Quiet Country.

The big exception to the quietude of the cities was the night-time incessant barking of

the dogs. Most dogs in Bhutan are not owned by anyone in particular. They run the streets

at will and at all hours. Buddhists are concerned with the natural environment so the dogs

are cared for in a community fashion. People put food out for them and they are

rounded up once a year for rabies vaccination paid for by the government. The people

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