1. Bhutan legalized television broadcasting only in 1999. It was the last country in the world to do so.

2. Thimphu is the only capital in the world where traffic lights are non-existent. A single set had been installed previously, but the residents protested against it so much that not long after, the lights were taken down and the good old traffic police officer was back.

3. To some people, phallic symbols may look obscene, but to the Bhutanese, these are potent tools for warding off evil. In fact, many houses and buildings in Bhutan prominently bear phallic drawings. Other forms of phallic symbols are used in rituals and community traditions.

4. Bhutan is widely considered the first non-smoking nation in the world. It has strict anti-smoking laws. The sale of tobacco and smoking is banned in many areas.

5. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck first introduced the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index in 1972. Believing that policies should concentrate on the well-being of the population, he said that his priority was GNH not GDP (gross domestic product).

6. In 2006, many years after King Wangchuck’s GNH declaration, Business Week ranked Bhutan as the eighth happiest country in the world.

7. Polygamy is allowed in Bhutan. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, now the King Father, married four women – all sisters. They are known as the Queen Mothers.

8. It is more common and accepted for the Bhutanese groom to move into the house of the bride’s family rather than the other way around, contrary to the practice in other Asian countries such as China.

9. Gangkhar Puensum is the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. Since climbing mountains higher than 6,000 meters is banned in Bhutan, and the Gagkhar Puensum is 7,570 meters tall, there’s zero possibility it will be climbed.

10. Bhutan has impressed stamp collectors with its creative stamps, the most innovative of which was the CD-ROM stamp released in 2008 to celebrate the kingdom’s important events, including the 100th anniversary of the monarchy and the coronation of the fifth king. The commemorative stamp contains videos of the evolution stories of the kingdom.

11. It is the only carbon negative country in the world. Despite its size, forests cover more than 70 percent of Bhutan’s land area, which is greater than the government goal of 60 percent. More than 6 million tons of carbon emissions are absorbed by this lush greenery.

12. Bhutan exports hydroelectric energy. While the landlocked country is surrounded by mountains, the government harnesses the power of its river networks to provide electricity. Currently, the country has more than 20 hydropower facilities and exports energy to India.

13. In the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, even the Yeti is protected. Teeming with biodiversity, the Sakteng is home to snow leopards, red pandas, among other animals, and has extended protection to the mythical abominable snowman

14. Cities have a huge stray dog population. With a predominantly Buddhist population, the Bhutanese community feeds the dogs and allows them to roam freely everywhere. Several years ago, a nationwide spay/neuter program was implemented to curb the dog population.

15. Every village has an archery field. If you are well-adept in this sport, you will be most welcomed in this kingdom. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport. Both males and females participate in events, even tourists are encouraged to try it out.

16. They regard the black-neck crane as sacred. Just to emphasize this point, causing injury or killing one could earn a life-term in prison.

17. Marijuana plants used to fatten pigs. While the country bans the use of the plant for recreational or medicinal purposes, marijuana grows wild in the mountains and has been used by farmers as feed for pigs.

18. They got their first internet cafe in 2000. Bhutan has traditionally been cautious about adopting technology. Their first internet cafe opened following the lifting of the ban on TV broadcasts.

19. Bhutan is one of the few uncolonized countries in the world. Nestled snugly in the Himalaya region, the small nation’s geographical location made it difficult to conquer.

Photo Credit: Black vanilla @flickr