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A Trip to Bhutan

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The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small Himalayan country east of Nepal, nestled between China and India, with an estimated population of 700,000. Last month, Bhutan celebrated the wedding of monarch Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth Druk Gyalpo ("Dragon King"), to 21-year-old commoner Jetsun Pema, now Druk Gyal-tsuen ("Dragon Queen") of Bhutan. The deeply traditional nation has been slow to adopt modern development; a country-wide ban on television and the Internet was only lifted in 1999, and only after the previous king abdicated power in 2006 did the nation have its first parliamentary elections. Bhutan, often rated as one of the happiest countries in the world, is the birthplace of the concept of "gross national happiness," an alternative to the more traditional measure of gross domestic product. The popular Oxford-educated king is now seeking to strengthen ties with other nations while preserving as much of Bhutan's independence and culture as possible. Collected here are recent images of people and places within the Kingdom of Bhutan. [38 photos]

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The Paro Taktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in the Paro district of Bhutan, viewed on October 16, 2011. The first temple was built on this cliffside location in 1692. (Reuters/Adrees Latif)
The Paro Taktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, in the Paro district of Bhutan, viewed on October 16, 2011. The first temple was built on this cliffside location in 1692. (Reuters/Adrees Latif)
A Drukair Royal Bhutan Airlines Airbus A319-114 passenger jet prepares to land at the international airport in Bhutanese district of Paro, on June 29, 2009. In the background is the Paro Dzong (the fortress of Paro). (Reuters/Singye Wangchuk) #
School children react to a photographer through the window of their classroom in a school in Thimphu, Bhutan, on September 22, 2010. (Reuters/Singye Wangchuk) #
The Himalayan Mount Jomolhari -- or Chomolhari -- seen from the Chilela pass situated between the Bhutanese valleys of Paro and Haa on October 6, 2010. Straddling the border between the Yadong county of Tibet and the Paro district of Bhutan, Mount Jomolhari stands around 7,350 meters tall and was first climbed by a five-man expedition led by British explorer Freddy Spencer Chapman in May 1937. As of 2010 the mountain has been ascended only six times due to access restrictions imposed by the Bhutanese government forbidding climbers on the mountain which is considered sacred. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Bhutanese Buddhist Monk wears a mask as he prepares himself during a rehearsal for a dance to be performed during the wedding festivities of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and future Queen Jetsun Pema, in the capital of Thimphu, Bhutan, on October 11, 2011. The 31 year-old reformist monarch of the small Himalayan Kingdom was set to wed his commoner bride later in the week. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
Bhutanese shopkeepers prepare a large banner of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and future Queen Jetsun Pema, before hanging it on their storefront in the capital of Thimphu, Bhutan, on October 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
An elderly woman watches from a balcony in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, on October 12, 2011. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
Bhutanese women wearing traditional costumes prepare to take part in a rehearsal ceremony ahead of the royal wedding of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in Thimphu, on October 11, 2011. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
Bhutanese shoemaker Tshering Tobgay makes traditional boots at a shop in the capital city of Thimphu, on August 23, 2011. The royal dress weavers are at work and excitement is building in Bhutan ahead of the royal wedding that will see the young king of the Himalayan nation wed in a fairy-tale ceremony. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images) #
Ceremonial Dancers wait for His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to come out of the wedding ceremony, on October 13, 2011, in Punakha, Bhutan. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen of Bhutan Ashi Jetsun Pema Wangchuck wed in Bhutan's historic 17th century Punakha Dzong the same venue that hosted the King's historical coronation ceremony in 2008. (Triston Yeo/Getty Images) #
Guests and locals take part the final dance, or Tashi Labay, during wedding celebrations of Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema at the main stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan, on October 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, center, and Queen Jetsun Pema, behind him, dance the traditional final dance with guests at the main stadium, as part of their wedding celebrations in Thimphu, on October 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
Marchang is offered by Gyalpoi Zimpoen to His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Her Majesty Queen Ashi Jetsun Pema Wangchuck at the Chang Lime Thang stadium, on October 15, 2011 in Thimphu. In this final day of wedding celebrations for the royal wedding, more than 50,000 people turned up at the stadium with about 500 performers to entertain the guests. (Triston Yeo/Getty Images) #
Buddhist monks perform a sacred dance during wedding celebrations of Bhutan's King and Queen at the main stadium in Thimphu, on October 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
People watch the dancing during the wedding celebrations for King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema, on October 13, 2011 in Punakha, Bhutan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #
Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck kisses Queen Jetsun Pema in front of thousands of residents gathered for the third day of their wedding ceremony at the Changlimithang stadium in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, on October 15, 2011. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
Residents line the streets to meet Bhutan's "Dragon King" and his new Queen in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, on October 14, 2011. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
School girls holding Bhutan's national flags race down a hill to line-up with thousands of others gathered to see the King and Queen in Bhutan's capital of Thimphu, on October 14, 2011. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
People wait on the main street for the arrival of the Royal Couple, on October 14, 2011 in Thimphu, Bhutan. (Triston Yeo /Getty Images) #
King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, right, holds a young child as he greets locals with Queen Jetsun Pema during a celebration after they were married at the Punakha Dzong in Punakha, Bhutan, on October 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
A Bhutanese man walks past prayer flags at Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, outside Paro, Bhutan, on April 30, 2010. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup) #
A statue of Buddha, after a snowfall at Kuensel Phodrang in Thimphu, Bhutan, on January 1, 2011. (Reuters/Singye Wangchuk) #
Novice monks at the Dechen Phrodrang Buddhist monastery look down from a hilltop in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, on October 12, 2011. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
Locals run through a huge flaming gate made from dry grass during "Mewang", the fire blessing ceremony during the Jambay Lhakhang Drub festival, at Jakar in Bhutan's Bumthang valley, on November 10, 2011. Locals believe that running through the flaming gate in this ceremony will cleanse them of their sins for the year. (Reuters/Tim Chong) #
A Bhutanese man walks over the traditional wooden bridge in Punakha, on December 9, 2009. Five decades ago, Bhutan was a feudal, medieval place with no roads, proper schools or hospitals and scarcely any contact with the outside world. Today, education and health care are free and life expectancy has risen to 66 years from less than 40. (Reuters/Singye Wangchuk) #
The former administrative center of Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan's largest buildings, is seen in Punakha, on March 13, 2011. (Reuters/Michael Smith) #
Sangey, 6, reads during class at the Dechen Phodrang monastery, on October 18, 2011 in Thimphu, Bhutan. About 375 monks reside at the government run monastery that also doubles as a child care facility for under privileged and orphaned males. The monks average about 10 hours of study a day waking up at 5 am. Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion, although in the southern areas many citizens openly practice Hinduism. Monks join the monastery at six to nine years of age and according to tradition many families will send one son into the monkhood. They learn to read chhokey, the language of the ancient sacred texts, as well as Dzongkha and English. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #
A man in Bhutanese national dress standing at the site of a sky burial looking towards the Paro valley, near the Chilela pass situated between the Bhutanese valleys of Paro and Haa, on October 5, 2010. A Sky Burial is a traditional Tibetan funeral ritual, where the body is deliberately exposed to the elements, including birds of prey. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man prepares food near a small cat in Jityang village in Punakha, Bhutan, on March 22, 2008. (Reuters/Desmond Boylan) #
Buddhist monks are silhouetted as they gather following a ceremony for Bhutan's newly married King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema at the Taschicho Dzong in Thimphu, on October 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
Buddhist monks stand inside the complex of Tashichhodzong, also known as the "The Fortress of the Glorious Religion" in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, on April 27, 2010. The Tashichhodzong was built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1641. (Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri) #
A boy reacts to the camera as he plays during recess at a school in Kamji village near the Indo-Bhutan border, on November 14, 2009. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi) #
Traditional paintings on part of a bridge overlooking the weekend market in the capital city of Thimphu, Bhutan, on August 20, 2011. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Paro Taktsang Palphug Buddhist monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, nestled into a cliffside in Paro district, Bhutan, on October 16, 2011. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
Traditionally dressed students of Yangchenphug higher secondary school wait to perform during the rehearsals for their annual concert in Thimphu, on August 15, 2009. (Reuters/Singye Wangchuk) #
Prayer flags on the Chilela pass, between the Bhutanese valleys of Paro and Haa, seen on October 5, 2010. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
Novice Bhutanese monks Sangey, 6, Tenzin, 7, Tandin, 4, and Pembar, 10, rest after hours of prayer at the Dechen Phodrang monastery, on October 18, 2011 in Thimphu, Bhutan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #
A hilltop monastery in the Haa valley, Bhutan, seen on October 2, 2010. Haa lies along the western border of the country and to the north is bounded by the Tibet autonomous region of China. This valley was closed to tourists as recently as 2002. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #

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