Sunday, 16 October 2011

Bhutan and Brands

Paro, rather than the capital Thimpu, has Bhutan's only international airport. It's a remarkable setting: as if the Buddha himself reached down from the sky and scooped the strip of runway through the heart of the town, between steep mountains on either side of a narrow valley. The approach involves some breathtaking banking, sudden loss of height, sharp braking and not a little apprehension. But it works.

We stayed hotel lovely hotel called the Rema Resort. It features a central building and a series of wooden bungalows, all made from blue pine. This was our base for exploring Tiger's Nest.

So, I'm sitting in the bar admiring the view over the valley and ordering an 11000 (a local beer packing a 8 per cent punch instead of the usual 4-5 percent). Bhupen, our guide has joined me and is looking dashing in the national costume, which is a knee length wrap-around robe worn with knee socks (sounds strange but it does work).

Anxious to catch the Rugby World Cup semi-final, we flick on the television to see if we can find an obliging channel. Needless to say, there is a satellite dish on the wall of the hotel. We scan every channel - no sign. But we do find Liverpool v Manchester United. And an India v someone cricket match. And a host of other global brands advertised. Oh, and a special James Bond movie marathon.

My first reaction was irritation: why are these brands so intrusive, especially at the expense of local culture? Who wants to watch Man United or Liverpool anyway? Especially in Bhutan, for God's sake? (conscious I am risking losing a few blog readers as I say this).

OK! I'm just mad my global brand didn't get the same air-time as the others.


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