Image by Shrirang Swarge

Reshma Krishnan Barshikar

There’s something to be said about travel that surprises you, something that happens rarely these days. I mean you know what to expect from Paris- romance and wonderful macaroons served with impertinence. But what do you know of Bhutan I wonder? Well it’s the first country to eschew Gross Domestic Product and adopt Gross National Happiness, a trait I found in abundance. Its constitution mandates that 60% of all land be forestland, so you can imagine the landscapes, the people- blazing smiles, and the wonderful food. There are no stoplights and they have outlawed tobacco, breathe in the air! Combine this with literature and you have Mountain Echoes, the shining beacon of Indo-Bhutanese relations that is being held at the Kingdom’s capital Thimphu from 19th-22nd of August 2015.

The festival was conceived by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, author of Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan in 2010 and Siyahi, a literary agency based out of Jaipur headed by no other than my very own agent, Mita Kapur. The festival is renowned for it’s intimacy and stands for everything JLF is not- warm, slow and up close and personal and this year won’t be different. You have heavy weights like Ashwini Sanghi and Chetan Bhagat alongside writers like Lucy Hawking and travel show host Mayur Sharma from Highway on a plate. There are between 8-9 sessions every day that comprise a mixture of music, readings and debates. It addresses everything from female empowerment, biodiversity and political freedom to mythology, space, poetry and puppeteering. Kalki Koechlin throws in a little bit of glamour.

Watch Suhel Seth talk about Highway Food and listen to Ashwini Sanghi discuss history and modernity and end the day being tickled by Sorabh Pant across three venues, the gorgeous Taj Tashi and the Tarayana center. Film buffs can take a break with wonderful indie films all day long at the Nehru Cultural theater, while there’s something to listen to every night at the clock tower, be it the Raghu Dixit project on the 22nd or local Bhutan artists. I would get a plate of chilli beef from Mojo Park and head to the clock tower with a few beers and sway under the stars. The beef was some of the best I have ever had. Or take a few hours off from the discourse and head to the national park to pay homage to some local wildlife. I give you the ‘Dong Gyem Tsey’ Takin, a large goat antelope and the national animal of Bhutan. If you really have some time off then take a trip to Tiger’s Nest, a monastery that stands precipitously overlooking a cliff. Other than a wooden mask that hangs in my living room, my favorite souvenirs were friendships that I created over jabbering away with like-minded people. All of them have lasted because really when you’re among the happiest people on earth, you cannot help but feel the love.

For more information on visiting Mountain Echoes and Thimphu, check the respective pages on Eventraveler.

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