My experience writing my master’s thesis in Bhutan

Embarking on a unique adventure, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Bhutan in the autumn of 2022 as part of my master’s thesis at LTH. My mission was to test and optimize a solar food dryer while figuring out future improvements. I am very thankful for this experience as it introduced me to the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan, gave me unforgettable experiences, and a greater appreciation for spicy cuisine.

Due to the recent opening of Bhutan’s borders post-COVID-19 and the tourist fee being higher than ever, the country was relatively untouched by tourism, it provided me with the opportunity to experience Bhutan without the crowds. As one of the only foreigners in the area I was worried that I would feel alone, however, the locals welcomed me with open arms, treating me with kindness, curiosity, and respect. Their warm reception sometimes made me feel a little bit overwhelmed, as I had never received this much attention from strangers before in my life.

My base in Bhutan was the charming town of Dewathang, where I had the privilege to stay at Jigme Namgyel Engineering College (JNEC). The picturesque location and warm hospitality of the people made it an unforgettable experience. It didn’t take long from the time of my arrival to make friends, which is mostly due to many friendly people approaching me and inviting me to different gatherings. During my stay, I had the pleasure of witnessing various cultural events. From vibrant festivals to religious ceremonies, each occasion left me in awe of Bhutan’s rich and unique culture.

One of the many exciting experiences during my time in Bhutan was trying traditional Bhutanese archery. After some practice with friends, I managed to hit the target from an impressive distance of 100 meters. The satisfaction I felt upon hearing the resounding thud of the arrow hitting its mark was indescribable. I am now trying to import bow and arrows but sadly Post Nord does not seem to agree with my enthusiasm. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but hopefully one day I will be able to bring this exciting version of archery home for me and friends to try.

Bhutanese cuisine unveiled a whole new world of flavors and spice levels that challenged my perception of ”spicy.” Initially, I considered myself to have a high tolerance for spicy food, but Bhutanese dishes pushed the boundaries beyond what I thought could be normal and made me realize that Swedish cuisine had given me false confidence.

However, with time, I gradually acclimatized to the fiery flavors. After about one month, my taste buds adjusted, and I found myself relishing the famous dish, ema datshi, a delectable combination of chilies and cheese, without sweating profusely. Now back in Sweden, I still enjoy cooking ema datshi from time to time, it’s an acquired taste that not many of my friends dare to try.

My time in Bhutan for my master’s thesis proved to be an unforgettable adventure filled with friendly people, cultural immersion, thrilling archery experiences, and culinary revelations. The welcoming nature of the Bhutanese people and the untouched beauty of the country left me in awe. As I look back on my time in Bhutan, I cherish the memories and hope to return one day to meet my friends again and explore more of this enchanting land.

Christian Rissler

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