Where is the First Country to Ban the Sale of Tobacco?

If you intend to smoke a cigarette in Bhutan, think again – there are very harsh restrictions about the purchase and smoking of tobacco products. Bhutan first banned the sell of tobacco in 2004, claiming that it contradicted the teachings of Buddhism. You can receive up to 3 years in jail for smuggling it into the country. If brought in legally, you are charged a hefty tax (anywhere from 100-200%) and then given a receipt that is valid for only 30 days and must be on your person at all times if you intend to smoke in public. Moreover, you can only bring in 200 cigarettes, 30 cigars or 150 grams of chewing tobacco.


Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2057774,00.html

Tourism Council of Bhutan: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/


Check out These 10 Superstitions From Asia!

In current times, many people avoid tradition and folklore in lieu of scientific evidence. While some superstitions may seem far-fetched or are rarely practiced, such as avoiding black cats or not rinsing your hair on exam day, these beliefs do offer insight into the history and traditions of different cultures. Check out these 10 cool superstitions from Asia, and please post any other superstitions (with country of origin) in the comment section below!

1.      The word “four” (si) in Chinese is considered unlucky, because if it is pronounced with a different tone, it means “death”  (Source: personal knowledge). The number 8 is considered a very lucky number, because its pronunciation is similar to the word for “lucky” or “fortunate”. In 2003, Sichuan airlines paid 2.3 million yuan in order to reserve the auspicious telephone number 8888-8888 (Source: Economic Times)


2.      In some parts of Bhutan, it is considered ill-fortune to sell needles or other sharp, pointy objects after sunset  because it will either shorten your life or cause a dispute (Bhutan Majestic Travel)

3.      If they awake from a bad dream, some Georgians will not speak to anyone until they have brushed their teeth. This is so that the badness from the dream can be cleaned away and the dream will not come true (Falkor ICY)


4.      Among the Sinhalese (an ethnic group that compromise about ¾ of Sri Lanka’s population) tt was once popular practice for the new born to be feed golden milk. Here, one would gently grind part of a golden object (such as jewelry) and then mix it with a mother’s breast milk. At a predetermined auspicious time, this is put on the baby’s tongue so that it will prevent disease and ensure a long life ( Folklore and Folkloristics)

5.      The name of the popular Kit Kat chocolate bar is similar to the Japanese phrase for “you will definitely succeed” ( “kitto katsu”). As such, many students will take a Kit Kat bar to a major exam for good luck, or eat one right before the exam starts. Due to its high popularity in Japan, there are over 80 flavors of Kit Kat available (source: Modern Tokyo Times)

6.      In Singapore, individuals may knock on the door of an unoccupied room before entering, so that they will not disturb any spirits that entered the room while they were gone ( Inquirer Lifestyles)


7.      It was once in poor taste to compliment babies in Thailand. It was believed that if you said a baby was adorable or lovable, evil spirits would harm the baby or take him away from his parents. Instead, you should remark on the baby’s poor looks and demeanor, so that the parents could keep the child and evil spirits would look elsewhere. To further ensure the baby’s safety, family members wold give children unsavory nicknames, such as “Pig” or “Fat”(Source: Chiang Mai City News)


8.      Some believe that if you meet a girl carrying a bucket of water or firewood on her back while you are on a journey of some kind, your mission will be successful. Some Bhutanese consider this to be a bad omen, and will immediately turn back if they encounter the girl (Bhutan: Ways of Knowing)


9.      For some Laotians, putting a sharp knife underneath your bed will keep away bad dreams and malevolent spirits (Southeast Asia Resource Action Center)


10.  Some Koreans refuse to wash their hair on the day of an important exam or presentation, as they fear it may rinse out important information and memories for the test (TOPICS Online Magazine)

Recipe for Bhutan’s Iconic Dish, Ema Datshi

The Kingdom of Bhutan’s most iconic dish is ema datshi, a cheese-and- chilly mixture that accompanies virtually every meal. Depending on region and preference, you may want to include beans, ferns, mushrooms and potatoes into your ema datshi. However, be forewarned: Bhutanese cuisine is exceptionally spicy, and as the Tourism Council of Bhutan points out: “most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that s not spicy”. Enjoy!

          4 1/3 cups water

          2 tsp vegetable oil

          1 cup Bhutanese red rice

          9 oz green chilies, sliced

          1 medium-sized onion, sliced

          2 tomatoes, chopped

          5 crushed garlic cloves

          3 stalks cilantro

          4 ½ oz. Danish blue cheese

          4 ½ oz feta cheese



1.      Boil the rice in about 2 ½  cups of water. After water has boiled, lower the heat and let the rice cook covered for twenty minutes, or until the water  has evaporated.

2.      In a separate pot, mix chilies, onion, and vegetable oil. Once water has boiled, reduce to a medium heat. Boil for ten more minutes, and then mix in sliced tomato and garlic cloves.

3.      Boil for two more minutes, and add in cheese. Allow to cook for an additional three minutes before removing from the burner.

4.      Stir and let stand for several minutes. Serve over red rice.

If you want to read up about Bhutanese recipes and culture, check out the following sites:

Food.com ( where today’s recipe came from): http://www.food.com/recipe/ema-datshi-bhutan-477883

Tourism Council of Bhutan: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/about-bhutan/food

BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4315155.stm



Celebrating Birth in Bhutan

May 17, 2013

In Bhutan,  it is typical for a child to remain nameless for several days until the leading lama (Buddhist priest) at the local temple chooses a name for the him/her. Sometimes children are named for the day on which they are born, or a name associated with the local deity from whom the mother and child are given blessings. The child is also given a horoscope according to the Bhutanese calendar, which predicts his future and outlines certain rituals that must be carried out at special points in his life.

For the first three days of birth, only a newborn’s immediate family are allowed to spend time with the baby and mother. Once the baby is three days old, he participates in a purification ritual and extended family and friends are allowed to visit the mother and child and give gifts. Birthdays are not typically celebrated, though some Bhutanese are beginning to adopt this practice.

If you would like to learn more about Bhutan’s customs, culture and cuisine,

Official Website of the Tourism Council of Bhutan offers a wealth of information:  http://www.tourism.gov.bt/about-bhutan/birth

Bhutan Creative Tours: http://www.bhutancreativetour.com/about-bhutan/culture-and-tradition-of-bhutan/