The Last Shangri-La be damned
A local journalist talking to a group of tourists was asked if tourism posed any threat to Bhutan’s indigenous culture and the “purity of the Bhutanese way of life” (whatever that means). No, he said, the number of tourists coming to Bhutan was still too small to be influential enough, and tourist dollars did us more good than anything else for us. He could not have guessed how wrong and yet so right he had been.
Only days earlier, in two separate incidents two groups of chilip trekkers had been robbed. A day’s walk from Drukgyel Dzong, in Gunitsawa, a group of trekkers ate dinner by firelight while behind them, in the darkness, thieves slashed open their tents with razor blades and made away with whatever money they could find.
That same night, farther up the route at Thangthangka, another group lost their backpacks, passports, wallets, credit cards, even their boots, to thieves. The American group was left without even a dollar between them. Now, days after the incident, they are still inconsolable, unable to understand how their dream vacation in this magical land of Buddhists could have gone so horrendously wrong.
The travel company managing the trek has lost face, as has the tourism industry, as have we, Bhutanese. The company at least is trying to make it up to their guests. It gave the guests spending money and has offered to foot the bill for the Americans to travel to Bangkok and stay there till they are able to sort out paperwork at the US Embassy. Regrettably, the Department of Tourism doesn’t seem to be too concerned. It has not made any gesture of consolation, help or good will for the tourists.
The tourists’ loss was material. The greater loss is ours. In that one single incident, we irreparably lost the trust that visitors here almost customarily placed in us. The Bhutanese are no longer an honest and trustworthy people.
Source: Bhutan Observer