36 members enjoyed an excellent presentation by Geoff Queen about his visit to one of the world’s most unusual countries, where there are no traffic lights, no plastic bags and no tobacco. This is the land of the Thunder Dragon, Bhutan, an isolated country the size of Switzerland but with a population no bigger than Leeds. It is a land of three layers – plains, foothills and Himalayas and 75% of the country is forested. Its history is shrouded in myth and legend but Buddhism arrived in the year 746. Prayer wheels and flags abound. We all learned the word DZONG, buildings which are part monastery, part fort and part school, many dating back several hundred years. Dzongs are architecturally very beautiful and we saw their influence even on the airport buildings. The capital Thimphu is smaller than Harrogate. A hereditary monarchy was established as late as 1907 and the first king’s belief that “gross national happiness is more important than gross national product” still applies today under the 5th king Jigme Wangchuck. Tourism is rationed but schools and health care are free for all. This gentle and peaceful people still wear national dress ( skirt and a dressing gown style garment for men) except when off duty.
Geoff’s excellent slides showed this beautiful country at its best, although we shared his disappointment that heavy rains prevented his visiting the most remote Dzong, the Tiger’s Nest. He told us not to visit the country if we did not like chillis as they form a large part of the national diet with buckwheat as rice does not grow at high altitudes. Numerous questions followed before Richard Wright gave the vote of thanks.
Members voted overwhelmingly for a 2 course lunch for the special anniversary meal at Ascot House on 2 May.