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Himalaya

Day 104: Gantey

Michael Palin - HimalayaAs night falls and the warm sun is replaced by steadily falling snow, we sit around the stove, eating red rice and yak stew and a fierce plateful of what must be one of the oddest national dishes in the world, hemadatsi, chillies in a cheese sauce.

Bhutan, which has only had a king since 1907, must now rank as one of the most successful monarchies in the world. The current ruler is a widely respected, modest man who prefers to live, not in his palace, but in a log cabin in the grounds.

He tours the country regularly, consulting local people and hosting big meals at which he himself serves the food.

'He's not a king who goes on European holidays,' says Benji.

He is, nevertheless, an absolute ruler. Though he himself is working on a constitution that will limit his power, King Jigme, is to all intents and purposes, free to do as he likes. Benji sees no problem with this.

'It's very important to have an absolute monarch, a guy who cares for the country, who knows where he's taking us. Left to ourselves...we'd be squabbling.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 104: Gantey
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Gantey
  • Book page no: 243

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