In pursuit of happiness Bhutan-style

When a spiritual organisation was looking for peace and contentment, they didn’t have to look far. Just Holidays’ MICE division delivered a programme of contentment to the client, as Shekhar Niyogi reports.

Bhutan, the land of Gross National Happiness was an obvious choice for a social and spiritual organisation, the Bhagwad Gyan Yagna Prachar Samity (BGYPS), when it decided on a retreat and rejuvenation trip for 101 members of the fraternity.

The kingdom in the hills neighbouring north east India is a pristine, environmentally sustainable land with extensive green cover of exquisite flora and a devout Buddhist populace. An enlightened monarch, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, has benevolently led his country to an enviable balance of progress and moderation, of modernity and tradition, without losing focus on the primary goal of life – happiness.

Stuti Sharma, spokesperson for the organisation, said: “The objective of the trip was to offer a break from hectic professional lives to an unhurried, relaxed time with complete immersion in the peaceful environment of an idyllic land, Bhutan. The purpose was achieved, as it was a seamlessly planned and executed trip. Just Holidays did an immaculate job for us. We are very pleased with their services and transparency.”

Nikhil Agarwal, assistant manager MICE of Just Holidays, said: “The client gave us a clear directive. They wanted to be in a destination that was peaceful without distractions of modern city life that would contribute to an amenable environment for relaxation and spiritual healing. Bhutan is the just the place for such excursions and we planned the trip to suit the specific needs of this group.

On day one, the delegates assembled at Kolkata airport to board the two flights, Bhutan Airlines and Druk Air, to Paro. Landing at Paro after the 55-minute flight they were transported to the Le Meridien Paro Riverfront where they checked in. After having lunch at the hotel they visited the Ta-Dzong Museum also known as Trongsa Dzong – a multi-storey watch tower converted into a museum – and Rinpung Dzong, the monastery with a panaromic view of the Paro City. Later the group visited Kyichu Lhakhang, a small temple, with a cheerful, celebratory ambience, as well as the Tamshing Lhakhang Temple, the oldest temple in Bhutan, built in 1501 BC. The duration of the tour was about three hours. The evening was spent at the hotel with Katha, a rendition and discourse from the ancient Indian Hindu scripture, the Bhagwad Gita, a treatise steeped in conventional wisdom and philosophy. The discourse was conducted by the renowned spiritual speaker Balvyas Shreekant Ji Sharma. Dinner was served at the hotel.

On day two, after breakfast at the hotel, the group set out on a six-hour road trip to visit Chele La Pass, the highest motorable pass in Bhutan. Being at one with nature and the panoramic view of the hills added to the sense of relaxation that was the objective of this group event. The group returned to the hotel and had lunch. Much of the afternoon was spent at rest. The evening unveiled Katha, a talk by Balvyas Shreekant Ji Sharma, at the hotel. Dinner was served at the hotel.

On day three, after breakfast, the group checked out and was transported by coach from Paro to Thimphu, the capital city, a one and half hour drive away. They arrived and checked in at the Taj Tashi, a luxury property. Lunch was served at the hotel. In the afternoon the group visited Tashichho Dzong, a Buddhist Monastery and fortress at the northern edge of city of Thimphu for one and half hours. In the evening the delegates were regaled with spiritual talk and chants with sessions of meditation that calmed city-bred nerves. Dinner and overnight stay was at the hotel.

On day four, after breakfast at the hotel the delegates visited the National Memorial Chorten, a Buddhist temple, made in the memory of the thrid Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan; Kuensel Phodrang, the world’s largest sitting Buddha bronze statue; BBS Tower for a sweeping view of the entire Thimphu valley; and Takin Zoo Reserve, a wildlife reserve area for Takin, a rare goat-antelope found in the eastern Himalayas, and the national animal of Bhutan. Duration of the tour was approximately two and half hours. They returned to the hotel for lunch. In the afternoon the participants visited the Handicrafts Emporium and National Library for about two hours. The evening was spent with a fun-filled discourse and joyful interface with the speaker, Balvyas Shreekant Ji Sharma, who regaled the group with entertaining anecdotes with life lessons of patience and perseverance. Dinner was served at the hotel.

On day five, after breakfast at the hotel, the delegates proceeded for a daytime excursion to Punakha to visit Dochula Pass, where you can get a clear and spectacular view of the Himalayas and is home to 108 Stupas – Buddhist religious monuments. Fortified with a packed lunch and other outdoor amenities, the group spent their time interacting with one another along the way. Later that afternoon, they arrived at Punakha Dzong and Punakha Suspension Bridge, the longest suspension bridge built over Po Chu River. After an exhausting but exhilarating expedition, the participants returned to Thimphu in the evening. Vegetarian dinner was served at the hotel.

On day six, the group, checked out of the hotel and were transferred to Paro airport on the 70 kilometre journey, where they boarded their respective flights to Kolkata.