I recently returned from the Kingdom of Bhutan where our group of nine photographers spent a week capturing the marvels of this small, landlocked country. Sandwiched in between India and China and bordered in the north by the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is a photographer’s dream come true: its terrain ranges from subtropical plains and forests in the southern part of the country to the lofty Himalayan foothills and mountains of the North. Here you will find a land ranging from subalpine forests to snowy shrouded mountains perpetually encased in white crystals of frozen water. Add to this that Bhutan is the last stronghold of Mahayana Buddhism and couple this with its distinctive architectural style, and then you have a magical kingdom steeped in mystical tradition that simply must be experienced.
No Free Ride for Travelers to Bhutan
An international traveler wishing to enter Bhutan must have a Visa: the only exceptions are Indian, Bangladeshi and Maldivian passport holders. According to the Bhutanese governmental tourism site (www.tourism.gov.bt) all travelers “must book their holiday through a Bhutanese tour operator or one of their international partners. The tour operator will take care of Visa arrangements for visitors.” In other words, Bhutanese governmental regulations require that the visa must be pre-arranged, through a licensed Bhutanese Tour Operator or one of their international partners, and it comes at the cost of USD $40.
The other requirement is that a traveler must pay from USD $200 (low season) to USD $250 (high season) per person per day for a minimum daily package that, according to www.tourism.gov.bt, “includes a minimum of 3 star accommodations, costs for food, an experienced guide and transportation (with driver) within the country. Also included in the price is a $65 per day royalty that goes towards free education, free healthcare and poverty alleviation. All of these services will be arranged by your tour operator.”
The governmental website goes on to say: “In order to protect our culture, traditions and natural environment the government has adopted a strict policy of “High Value, Low Impact Tourism”. This policy is aimed at attracting discerning tourists that will respect the unique culture and values of the Bhutanese people while also providing the visitors with an unforgettable one of a kind experience.”
Huffington Post blogger purports to have traveled to Bhutan on nothing but kindness of strangers
How is it then that Huffington Post blogger, world traveler, adventurer, author, and TV host Leon Logothetis purports to have traveled to Bhutan with no money, no credit cards, no gas, no food, and no places to stay? (www.huffingtonpost.com/leon-logothetis/kindness-one-in-bhutan-ha_b_4245556.html)
Logothetis contends that he is circumnavigating the globe on nothing but kindness from strangers. Specifically, he states: “I am currently on a journey that is powered by the kindness of strangers. With no money, no credit cards, no gas and no place to stay, I am circling the globe on a bright yellow, vintage motorcycle with a sidecar, Kindness ONE.®”
While I definitely embrace his concept of human kindness around the globe, I question his journalistic integrity in giving readers the impression he has no resources on his journey other than the kindness of strangers. So, unless the government of Bhutan gifted Logothetis with a visa and waived the required minimum fee of USD $200 - $250 per day, it was impossible for him to travel to Bhutan and rely on the kindness of strangers to sustain him.
Try a little "Truth in Travel"
Please travel writers, bloggers, TV hosts, and whomever: try using some “truth in travel.” This will be of far greater value to your readers rather than distorting, bending, or making false statements to potential travelers who may try in vain to replicate journeys that cannot be replicated.