Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, February 25, 2016



Big news this week from the Himalayas! The King and Queen of Bhutan released personal photos to the world of their two-week old baby...also known as the DRAGON PRINCE. He is absolutely adorable! The photos appeared on Tuesday on their Royal Facebook page. Four of the five shots are with the proud parents, but we here at the DUNER BLOG particularly enjoy the touching close-up of the sleeping tot. Wrapped in a vibrant, shimmering gold swaddling cloth, the peaceful prince looks content. We bet you have a number of questions about this item, so let's get started...

Never heard of Bhutan? It's easy to do. The remote Asian kingdom has a long history of forced isolation. Nganwang Namgyal, the nation's founding father, was a leader of a persecuted Buddhist sect in nearby Tibet. He fled to the south and found a fabulous region of mountain valleys bisected by fast flowing rivers. The charismatic leader united a number of warring fiefdoms and created Bhutan. While neighboring states of Sikkim and Assam joined the new nation of India in 1948, this kingdom chose to remain an independent state.

Your next question: Why is he called the 'Dragon Prince?' This Buddhist sect calls their homeland the 'Land of the Thunder Dragon.' A prominent tenet of the Drukpa Lineage involves the belief that the Royal Family descended from the mythical beasts. Over time, this unworldly quality created a unique type of devotion amongst the subjects. Although the Bhutanese have the right to leave the landlocked mountain kingdom, none ever do.

Just how isolated is Bhutan? Geographically, it's hard to get to. First, you go to Calcutta. Then cross the Ganges River and head northeast about 250 miles. You end by climbing 10,000 feet straight up. Culturally, the kingdom is also horribly isolated. Televisions were banned up until 1999. The Internet ban was lifted in 2001. Both came with a stern warning from the King: "Misuse of television will erode traditional Bhutanese values," he cautioned. You might think the citizenry would be angry? Wrong! It turns out Bhutan is the 8th happiest nation on earth, according to the GNH (Gross National Happiness) scale.

So raise a glass and toast the good fortune of the Royal Family of Bhutan. DO NOT, however, light up a cigar to celebrate the Dragon Prince. See, six years ago, Bhutan became the only nation on earth to outlaw smoking! (The $220 fine is about two month's salary.) Also, don't plan to move to Bhutan: No immigration is allowed. It's even difficult to visit the mountain paradise. The government slaps a $250 daily visa charge on all tourists (excluding citizens of India). On second thought...it's probably best to just look at the cute baby photo...then forget all about Bhutan!

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