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Bhutan: taking active to a whole new level

Culture shock of the best kind: columnist Betty Doyling in the Jigme Dorji National Park, Bhutan, south Asia, recently (Photograph supplied)

So, I recently returned from a trip to Bhutan, the self-proclaimed happiest country on Earth, in heavy competition with Bermuda, of course! It was definitely a culture shock of the best kind. Here in Bermuda, we're all about embracing the laid-back life. But Bhutan? They take "active" to a whole new level! It was an epic real eye-opener.

Here in Bermuda, we've got a certain … well, relaxed approach to life. But Bhutan? They have truly embraced their countries beauty. While we were in Bhutan, my experience did not include any Netflix and chilling.

My Bhutanese adventure was filled with Netflix and hike.

Actually no Netflix, just hiking. Seriously, these people spend so much time outdoors.

Farms, fresh air, and family. They even walk places! Imagine that, using our own two feet for transportation.

Speaking of exercise, let's talk about snacking. Here in Bermuda, idle snacking is pretty much an Olympic sport. But in Bhutan? Meals are big, delicious, and (surprise!) healthy.

We're talking mountains of rice, potatoes, noodles, and veggies, with the occasional side of chicken or beef.

And guess what? No Doritos between meals. Just afternoon tea and maybe some fruit while conquering a mountain (because apparently that's a thing people do for fun in Bhutan). We trekked for five days, which was about 56 miles!

Desserts were another revelation. Forget sugary delights like cakes and cookies. Bhutan is all about fresh fruit.

We ate watermelon, apples and pears instead of wafer cookies? Who knew happiness could taste so good?

Speaking of happy, Bhutanese people seem to enjoy cooking hot food for all their meals.

Every meal is a home-cooked masterpiece, made with fresh, minimally processed ingredients.

Here in Bermuda, rice isn't exactly a star at every meal, but in Bhutan, it's served at every meal with delicious stews, soups, and veggie dishes. And let's not forget their national treasure: ema datshi, a chilli cheese stew so good we even learnt to make it ourselves.

Now, wealth isn't everything, but it's nice. And guess what? Bhutan seems to have figured that out too. Even the folks who might not be rolling in dough were kind and welcoming, just like here in Bermuda.

Maybe there's something to be said for fresh air and a healthy dose of chilli.

Finally, let's talk about traffic. Here in Bermuda, it's … well, it's there. But Bhutan? No traffic lights! Just scenic, winding roads shared with the occasional cow or horse.

Now, don't get me wrong, it was a bit nerve-racking at times. But the Bhutanese drivers? They're the picture of courtesy while passing another car.

So, here's my takeaway from Bhutan: maybe it's time to trade the Netflix for a nature hike, ditch the chips for some fresh fruit, and learn to cook a few low calorie dishes with some chilli cheese on the side.

After all, happiness might just be a mountain climb away — or at least a trip to the grocery store.

• Betty Doyling is a certified fitness trainer and figure competitor with more than a decade of experience

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Published June 26, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated June 26, 2024 at 7:34 am)

Bhutan: taking active to a whole new level

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