BHUTAN: Tshering Choki Wangchuk
TSHERING CHOKI WANCHUK
BHUTAN'S FIRST FEMALE MOUNTAIN GUIDE
There's plenty of women in this world forging the way to a much more inclusive tourism industry. The more I keep my eyes open to the possibilities, the more my path crosses with these so-called women trail leaders.
Bhutan is no exception.
But, first, where is Bhutan? It's a country that not many know about, one that retains a mystery around it and that prides itself to have an unwavering cultural identity. It happens to be next door to India and remains one of the only few countries in the world that has never been colonized. Bhutan has a fascinating culture that dates back to the Mongols migrating to this little nation but the locals are inherently Tibetan in culture and majority of them are Buddhists. The Bhutanese people share similar language and traditions with the Tibetans despite its close proximity and close political ties with India. In Bhutan, it's easy to notice the local's dedication to safeguarding nature and the environment. Equally prominent in this country is the locals' strong commitment to maintaining their culture and values. Despite the struggle with new ideas permeating the psyche of the people from allowing undeterred access to internet, the people remain loyal to their identity, so much so, that the government and the people are striving constantly to balance globalization with the preservation of their identity. This in turn amounts to the country's national gross happiness - a philosophy that Bhutan has been known for the most.
The country is not perfect, however. They struggle with social issues like all other nations such as the rise in youths' involvement with drugs over the past few years. But what strikes me about Bhutan is the close knit family model that the society exercises as a whole. Everyone who is in need is given help. If the government does not deliver, locals themselves regardless of background can directly meet with the king to seek assistance. For that reason, the king is admired and treated with high respect. Bhutan left me with the impression that Bhutanese people along with their king treat each other as an extension of their immediate families. No one is ever left unattended. Hence, there's no homelessness in Bhutan. The king himself gives land to those who don't have any and ensures no child is left without a home.
Going back to the women in Bhutan, the trekking tourism industry is yet to see more women leading the way on the mountain trails as it was merely 12 years or so ago when the first woman ever became a mountain guide in this country. Enters our feature, Tshering Choki Wangchuk, the first female mountain guide of Bhutan. I'm honored to have crossed paths with her and learn first-hand how it's like to be a woman in one of the most unique places on earth - the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Podcast credits: Florina Iona Dan