The Kingdom of Bhutan

Now here’s an intriguing country.

Trongsa DzongDid you know that in Bhutan, instead of a Gross National Product they measure the Gross National Happiness (GNH)? It’s an attempt by the government to define the quality of life in a more holistic, spiritual way . Bhutan is located between India and China and has a predominantly Buddhist population. Some interesting tidbits:

  • There is a king. It’s an absolute monarchy.
  • Skateboarding was banned a few years ago due to accidents with cars.
  • Televisions were only introduced in 1999 which makes Bhutan the last country in the world to have them.
  • Plastic bags and tobacco are banned on the grounds that they make the country less happy. Bhutan is the only non-smoking country on the planet.
  • In the capital, Thimpu, there is one junction where there is a man employed as a human traffic light. They did introduce the computer kind once upon a time but the people found them too frustrating so they had to bring the man back.
  • You cannot obtain a visa to travel independently in the kingdom, you have to be part of an arranged tour. You are also required to pay a tourist surcharge which is anywhere between $165-240 per night.

Bhutan_archery-1

How to get to Montanita

f0000018Oh Montanita. If you are on the South American backpacking trail, there is no doubt that you will hear tales of this mystical land. And let me tell you, everything is true. Really. And it is actually even better than that.

Great waves, spectacular sunsets, friendly locals and a party scene that makes the Thai full moon fiesta seem like a pizza party – this tiny surf village on the west coast of Ecuador is the stuff that dreams are made of. But how do you get there?

Your trusty English language guidebook will probably tell you that there are 3 buses a day from the bus terminal in Guayaquil. What I have seen most tourists (including myself) do is plan the entire journey to make one of those 3 bus connections, thinking that if they were missed you will get stuck in Guayaquil for the night. Ignore your guidebook completely.

DSC01428The truth is that you are in Ecuador and everything is possible, always. There are 3 direct buses a day from Guayaquil to Montanita but loads and loads of indirect buses leaving all the time. When you find yourself in the bus terminal in Guayaquil, buy a ticket on any bus to Santa Elena or Salinas. Santa Elena is a small little town abut 1h 45min away, the bus driver will announce loudly when the bus stops there. As soon are you are off the bus, loads of locals will be trying to hoard you towards Montanita.

If you are there during the day time, you can get on a local bus to Montanita (the locals will point you to the stop where more than likely loads of other gringos are waiting). If you arrive late at night, you will get pointed to a collectivo or a shared mini-bus taxi where you pay $4 for your seat to Montanita. A private taxi from Santa Elena is about $15.

Next stop, Montanita. Enjoy. I’m jealous.

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Solar Powered Tent

the tent glows when called

this tent glows when signalled

You are at a camping festival and cannot find your tent… imagine sending an SMS and seeing your tent light up in response. No phone signal, no worries. If you get within a general vicinity, your phone can use the same technology found in “tap and go” cards (like the Oyster card in London) to connect to your tent and have it light up.

Is it cold? When the temperature drops, the tent automatically heats the groundsheet. Need to charge your gadgets? Forget wires and cables, this tent has a charging pouch where you simply drop your device.

solar power your gadgets

solar power your gadgets

An electric current is generated by a coil in the pouch and voila, your devices are recharged easily. This tent is also capable of emitting a wifi signal. Everything can be controlled by an LCD screen inside the tent and the best part of all is that everything is run by solar power.

The tent I’m talking about is a concept tent called Glastonbury created by the telecom giant Orange in conjunction with an American company called┬áKaleidoscope. The aim was to come up with an idea for a tent that would benefit people going to Glastonbury (the music festival in England). Unfortunately it is still only a concept but this is one idea I would love to see come to life. Finding a way to use solar power in a tent could really revolutionise the camping experience.

Solar power has started to arrive in real world camping though… in a camping area housing homeless people called Tent City in Lubbock, Texas, solar panels have been installed that provide power to LED lights inside the tents. This is far from the ecological dream product described above but we know how exponentially technology advances so hopefully the Glastonbury tent (or one like it) is not too far away.