31 December 2022

Top 10 Brand Bhutan Promotors Beyond Borders

The year 2022 has been a tremendous year of transformation and risk-taking for Bhutan. We have finally done many things that we have only thought about or didn't even think about to this day. It's too early to get any sense of where it would take us but what matters is that we have done it. I am optimistic that it will be worth it. 

Of the many things that we braved to change, even though they seemed to be working fine (because just fine isn't enough anymore), is the transformation in the tourism sector. The sudden rise in the SDF from $65 to $200 shocked the sector, but that's where the idea of an exclusive destination gets real. We just have to wait and see if this was a masterstroke. I have reasons to believe it is. But we have to put in some effort to promote Brand Bhutan as an exclusive destination across the world and not just on paper. We must make the world curious as much as we have to make ourselves ready. 

I made a list of the top ten Bhutanese citizens who have managed to create curiosity in parts of the world and made people ask, "Where is Bhutan?"

Department of Tourism could use these people as ambassadors in the regions they are popular or at least recognize them in some form because if we are to put a cost on their contributions to the promotion of the brand Bhutan- it's going to be priceless.  


1. (Druk Thuksey) Pawo Choyning Dorji: We all know about the Oscars nomination of Pawo's Lunana, a Yak in the Classroom, but we will never know the extent to which his film has promoted Bhutan globally. There is no way we can ever organically reach so many countries, cultures and languages as Lunana did. Therefore, I put him at the top of the list. 

Pawo Choyning Dorji, Filmmaker 

2. Dasho Tshering Tobgay: Dasho's TED Talk captured the attention of millions of people across the globe on our country's extraordinary leadership, environment and culture. That talk alone must have created billions of dollars worth of goodwill, network and climate action.  

Dasho Tshering Tobgay, Motivational Speaker

3. Sangay Tsheltrim: A bodybuilding champion turned actor with a military background fascinated the Bollywood audience, as he played against Bollywood superstars like Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. He has introduced Bhutan to parts of India where we are hardly known.   

Sangay Tsheltrim, Bodybuilder, Actor

4. Kelly Dorji: Kelly was the only Bhutanese we had in the international film industry for decades. He has shared the silver screen with the biggest names in Indian cinema, and to this day, we see him on TV every few days. His roles in south Indian cinema are particularly glamorous even though they are negative roles.    
Kelly Dorji, Actor

5. Pinda Panda is a celebrated gamer and streamer living in Malaysia. She is living a life that most young people dream of. She has a huge fan following; for them, she is their introduction to Bhutan. She should appear in kira sometimes to fascinate her fan on the big gaming platforms. 
Pinda, Gamer

6. Chencho Gyeltshen: He took Bhutanese football to a whole new level by breaking the glass ceiling and starring in clubs in India. He made the whole country watch Indian premier leagues on TV. He made the commentators shout "Chencho from Bhutan" a hundred times in a match. 

Chencho Gyeltshen, Football Player

7. Phub Zam: Chechey Phub Zam, who emerged from a singing show, found her calling as a different breed of a singer who could touch people's hearts with a special voice for spiritual songs. She tours Buddhist countries across the Himalayan region, singing spiritual songs and spreading happiness. 

Phub Zam, Singer

8. Ryhaan Giri: This young man introduced himself to us from the Voice of Nepal stage. His captivating voice, combined with his sweet nature and good looks, is capturing the imagination of the Nepali population. He is creating an image of Bhutan in Nepal that they haven't known.

Ryhaan Giri, Singer

9. Ugyen Choden: When Ugyen appeared on some foreign TV shows giving interviews, she amused us with her candid remarks. We didn't know she was building a career in Nepali Cinema back then. Now, she is much loved in Nepal with back-to-back projects. If Ryhaan makes the Nepali girls scream out his name, Ugyen will do that for the boy. 

Ugyen Choden, Actor 

10. Tashi Choden: Tashi was into modelling and acting in the last few years, and it seemed like that was it, but the young girl changed it all for a new beginning by contesting for Miss Bhutan 2022 and winning it. The next phase of her life has just started, and she will undoubtedly represent Bhutan on the world stage in vogue. 

30 December 2022

Reviving School Museum in Bajothang

One of the last things I did before leaving Bajothang was starting a school museum club and physically creating a school museum. But that was in 2014, and after I left, my idea almost died. In the first few years, I would call my old friends to inquire about the status of my museum; each time called, I got more disappointed until I stopped calling. 

2014: My Students and I on the trip to Matalungchu

Fast forward to 2022, and out of the blue, I got a call from a teacher in Bajothang, Mr Norbu, who traced me out as the founder of the museum and shared his passion for reviving it. He called to ask me to attend the opening of the museum.  

2014: Look what we found.

The Oven Maker

After he called, I walked down memory lane on my blog to the time my 22 students and I joined forces to start a new club. I remember starting the club to convert the old building into a museum and protect it from being demolished. That old structure has a fascinating history that makes it worth preserving. It's said to be the first structure built on the empty plains of Bajothang during the reign of the Third King. The place was created to serve as the centre of commercial ventures, a new idea of a marketplace back then.  

Mr Norbu posing with the Museum Signage ( It's the same board we made in 2014)

The Old Structure housing the Museum.

I am grateful to Norbu for gathering a bunch of young people around him to revive the project I had started and for reaching out to me to be a part of it. He recognized the importance of that project, which showcases rural artefacts that are alien to urban Bhutan. The importance of the school museum will only grow with time as we distance away from our roots. Even when we were starting the project in 2014, many of us couldn't recognise half the artefacts we collected. Imagine what it will be like now and worse in a few years when Bhutanese children are born in a foreign land. 

My Kids who made this happen. I wonder where they are now. 

Mr Norbu knows more than just reviving the dying project; he made it an important event in Wangdue Dzongkhag but inviting the Lam Neten and Dzongda to inaugurate the School Museum on the 115th National Day. 

Chening Dorji- A Driver to a Published Birder

Chening Dorji is more than a person; he is one of the most inspiring stories you will hear. He was a primary school dropout who had to leave because of financial difficulty. He dropped out to help his parents and lived a life of a villager. After over a decade of cow herding, his desire for education brought him to Thimphu, where he became a driver for RSPN Bhutan.

A villager man coming to Thimphu and becoming a driver is no story to tell. But wait, as a driver, he just didn't drive around people, wash the car and wait for his salary. He did more. He drove around environmentalists, ecologists, conservationists, and all prominent wildlife experts. He didn't just drive them around and wait for them near the car; he joined them in the field.

Among many, while driving Aum Rebecca Pradhan, a renowned ecologist with RSPN, to the field, he showed his interest in learning from her about plants, animals and wildlife. She took notice of his genuine thirst for learning and started grooming him. He was her driver on the road and apprentice in the field, that too a great one.
On the other front, his former executive director at RSPN, Dr Lam Dorji too saw the passionate learner in Chening and sent him for a basic English language course in India. What difference can a basic language course make to an ordinary person? But Chening proved to be more than an ordinary learner, which Dr Lam Dorji recognized. In a few months, Chening returned with impressive literacy skills that opened his gate to unlimited knowledge.

The pleasant man, now equipped with literacy, didn't spare any opportunity to learn while driving wildlife experts around in the field and turned himself into a professional birder and photographer, who is now a resource person for young Bhutanese Birders(YBB). And now, he is a published author of a bird photography book, Wings of the Dragon, Birds from the Kingdom of Bhutan.
The second edition of his books is out. But it's not for sale, sadly. If you wish to grab a copy, contact WWF Bhutan, where he works. The book is published by his office in recognition of his extraordinary talent and story.

23 December 2022

Personal Transformation 2022

When I came out of the last lockdown, I could feel my cheeks hanging and my belly visibly swollen. I was beginning to snore while sleeping, which often awakened me. I had backaches and beginning to feel older than my age.

That's when Sangay Tsheltrim reminded me of the offer he gave me a year ago. He said, "you are younger than me but look at you..."
I owe it to you, brother.
That's when I told my lazy self that it was now or never and started going to Thimphu Muscle Factory Champion's Gym.
It wasn't easy. Every morning I wished I didn't have to wake up to go to the gym, but soon things changed. The snoring disappeared. Backaches gone. After the morning gym, the day felt so good. Gradually, the tummy went back in.