Friday, June 3, 2011

The King of Bhutan

The 31 year old King of Bhutan announced his engagement in parliament 2 weeks ago. It was major news in Bhutan, here in the USA I've only read about it online. Another indication of how little gets reported about Bhutan outside of Bhutan. The Bhutanese are OK with this, they know theirs is a small, remote and little known country and they know what happens in Bhutan, to paraphrase a cliche, (mostly) stays in Bhutan. The Bhutanese one meets all seem so secure with their invisibility. At the same time they are proud and pleased that when the outside world takes notice if them, the notice is most always favorable.

Like Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Bhutanese King and his bride to be are both educated in England. The King at Oxford, the would be queen, 20 year old Jetsun Pema at Regent College. There are probably few other parallels. The wedding is set for some time in October, and you can bet it will not be televised world wide. With an absence of paparazzi in Bhutan (and interest outside Bhutan) don't expect much news about this. (Stay tuned here, I'll report).

Coincidentally I'll be in Bhutan for all of October, so while I'm not expecting an invitation, it seems likely to be an interesting time to visit an always fascinating country. I've glimpsed the king, and many have met him, all report him to be gracious, humble and smart. He seems to take seriously his stated role as 'servant of the people' and is now on a campaign to visit each household in the country. Much of this needs be accomplished by walking, as there are few roads in Bhutan. All Bhutanese seem to love him, and when they talk about him it's always with reverence and warmth. Many wear a button with his image, or an elastic wrist band that he gives out to people. Those who have met him (and many have) all speak very highly of him. It's touching to see a county that so reveres its leader, and the reverence appears to be because he earned it, with actions and words that show he has the country's best interest at heart (not a power or money hungry leader).

Visiting in March we were on the flight from Bangkok to Bhutan with the king and his entourage. That's right, he flies commercial, though business class. I was seated in economy, but 2 of my clients were in business class, and during a fuel stop in Bagdogra, India they came back to tell me, excitedly that he was just seats away from them. Upon landing in Bhutan the king approached my clients to wish them a pleasant visit to his country. A 5 minute conversation ensued, causing the disembarkation of the plane to be delayed. He presented them with buttons with his image, which they wore daily and were recognized by Bhutanese as having been given to them by the king himself (they must differ from the king buttons one can buy). They were understandable thrilled, my small worry was, 'how do we top this?'


  1. Nice story John! Do the king and queen wear crowns? It would be interesting to see a photo of them in their royal garb.

  2. The king wears the raven crown, the raven being the national bird and the crown used only for coronation, (I think) it has the head of a raven (not actual bird, but a depiction) facing forward. Very nice looking and unusual crown.