The Two Faces of the Thunder Dragon – Vlad Sokhin

In the age of universal mobile phone connectivity, Facebook, Twitter and Lonely Planet

guides there are still a few countries, which circumscribe independent tourism by way of strict laws

and visa requirements. All visitors must pay around $250 per day and be accompanied by a guide.

For much of the 20th century, the ‘Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon’ was largely isolated from

the outside world with the ban on television and the internet only being lifted in 1999.

In 1972, the king had floated the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH),

a more social counterpart to the economic Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Ever since, Bhutan’s domestic policymaking has revolved around what will make the people happiest,

measured by sustainable development, conservation of the natural environment,

preservation of cultural values and the establishment of good governance.

Yet Bhutan’s record as the guardian of its citizens’ well being is by no means universally applied.

In the 1990s the government expelled and forced to leave over 100,000 members of the Lhotshampa minority,

an ethnically Nepalese group which had settled mainly in the south of the country.

The Lhotshampa ended up in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal, which refuses

to give them citizenship and many thousands remain here.

Due to its proximity to India, a giant neighbor with virtually inexhaustible cheap labour,

Bhutan is a popular destination for migrant workers who

are mainly employed in the construction industry.

Another well known, yet relatively hidden aspect of Bhutanese life is the drayang,

a cross between a bar, a burlesque dance club, and in some cases, a brothel.

Though it is hard to gauge how widespread the practice is and how many of 30 odd drawings

are merely late night bars with entertainment yet the issue was important enough

to be raised in national parliament, an illustration of how seriously the government takes the peoples’

well being, both material and spiritual.

Vlad Sokhin

is a documentary photographer, videographer and multimedia producer. He covers social, cultural, environmental, health and human rights issues around the world, including post-conflict and natural disaster zones.

Vlad has worked on photo, video and radio projects, collaborating with various international media and with the United Nations and international NGOs. Vlad’s work has been exhibited and published internationally, including at Visa Pour L’Image and Head On photo festivals and in the International Herald Tribune, BBC World Service, the Guardian, National Geographic Traveler, GEO, ABC, NPR, The Atlantic, Stern, Le Monde, Paris Match, Esquire, Das Magazin, WIRE Amnesty International, Sydney Morning Herald, Marie Claire, The Global Mail, Russian Reporter and others.

He is fluent in English, Russian and Portuguese and also speaks Spanish and Tok Pisin (Papua New Guinea). He is currently learning French and Arabic.

Location : Jongro Cheonggwamul Market – 종로청과물시장  from Nov 1st till the 15th

Jongro Cheonggwamul Market - 종로청과물시장

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