At the Carwash

Posted on December 17, 2009

Bhutanese have only been driving for 50 years, it's about exactly that along ago the first car made its appearance in Bhutan. They built the first road from the Indian border to Thimphu, making automobile travel possible. You meet people who tell when they glimpsed their first vehicle. And their reaction, often one of fright, thinking it some sort of monster. The way you might react if a UFO landed in your neighborhood.

Throughout the mountainous areas, (just about everywhere) streams and waterfalls pour out of the hillside, these too become impromptu car wash sites. Not in the guidebook, but interesting cultural sight none the less.

The roads are so narrow and twisty so small cars are popular.. Price is also a factor. Big trucks also share the road, but you see no USA style SUV's. The royal family travel about in Range Rovers, sturdy but not luxurious. Most cars are Toyota or Hyundai or Indian models. The tiny Indian car introduced last year is not permitted in Bhutan though it would be very affordable, it is thought not to be safe, so the government is banning it.

The drivers are a very cautious lot, a really good thing when you see these roads. Speed limit is only 30 miles per hour. Seems very well observed. Drivers use their horns constantly in the mountain, to warn oncoming cars around curves. Big trucks have hand painted sing on back, "Blow Horn." Drivers do so and truck drivers signals when is OK to pass. Cooperation on the road.

Most cars seem late model and in good condition. And always clean. Each visit our driver washes car end of day and then wipes it clean in the morning. Water in no short supply here. A few of the rivers can be reached by gentle grade from the road, and the beds are gravel and stone. You see cars parked in the rivers, with owners throwing buckets of water over them, then toweling them clean. Dorji say they use no soap, as soap leaves a residue unless washed away with hose. Throughout the mountainous areas, (just about everywhere) streams and waterfalls pour out of the hillside, these too become impromptu car wash sites. Not in the guidebook, but interesting cultural sight none the less.. Appear to be festive. They are also, not surprisingly, banned by the government, Said to be environmentally unfriendly, but I absent soap I fail to see the downside. Come see the car wash before the crackdown.