Gelephu transformation ignites hope and excitement among citizens


Excitement is abuzz among Bhutanese as the transformative “Gelephu Mindfulness City” project gradually takes shape.

Landowners see visions of financial security, while entrepreneurs dream of co-working spaces and vibrant communities. Local businesses, painters are hoping for a greater income source, and tour guides are designing a way of gracing a vast number of tours within the country with their experiences. They are gearing up for an influx of residents and visitors. Despite hurdles in infrastructure and environmental impact, the people are hoping this “Mindfulness City” will revolutionize the country.

“It’s a chance to secure our family’s future. Land prices have been stagnant for years, but with the mindfulness city, I expect a significant increase. It would allow me to better serve my children’s future and provide them with a better life,” Sangay, a 40-year-old woman land owner said. She currently resides in Trashigang, but her hopes are big given that she owns four plots of land in Gelephu.

However, not everyone is solely motivated by financial gains. Phuntshok, a young entrepreneur, sees the project as an opportunity to contribute to a more mindful world. “I envision opening a café for sustainability,” he shares. “It would attract conscious businesses and individuals, creating a vibrant community that aligns with my initial start-up local tea bag.”

With global visitors in mind, painters are dreaming up a captivating art showroom that will leave a lasting impression and enthrall world visitors.

Dechen Lhendup, 27, and currently working in Thimphu, is excited about a specific visionary project that aligns with his current career aspirations. He said, “This opportunity will give me a significant advantage that clears a path forward and makes me feel secure about my ability to sustain myself in the long run.” Having his land in Gelephu makes it an ideal location to showcase both traditional and modern art designs.

The excitement isn’t limited to landowners. Local businesses are abuzz with preparations, eager to capitalize on the anticipated arrival of residents and visitors. Tour operators are already crafting plans to gear up the whole country tour with mindfulness-themed itineraries.

Even tour guides like Tshering Dorji, a guide with nine years of experience, see promising opportunities. Currently, he supplements his off-season income by driving a taxi. Tshering Dorji acknowledges the impact of the pandemic on his career. However, His Majesty’s vision for Gelephu ignited a new spark of hope for him. He envisions opening a tour agency in the city, catering to the anticipated influx of visitors seeking mindfulness experiences beyond Gelephu itself.

This project, in Tshering Dorji’s words, offers “hope for the future,” a chance to expand his career and secure his long-term sustainability. Just like the painter, Tshering Dorji embodies how the Mindfulness City project is touching the lives of individuals across professions, offering a collective vision for a brighter future. So, in this way, Gelephu Mindfulness City’s potential extends beyond local businesses.

However, challenges remain. Where, infrastructure development, ensuring the project aligns with Bhutan’s cultural values, and managing potential environmental impact are just some of the hurdles that need to be addressed.

Despite the challenges, the Gelephu community is united in its optimism. The “Mindfulness City” project represents a chance to revitalize their town, create a unique space for global well-being, and contribute to Bhutan’s vision of Gross National Happiness. As Tshering Dorji concludes, “This is more than just a development project; it’s an opportunity to shape the future of Gelephu and, perhaps, inspire others to embrace a more mindful way of living.”

Only time will tell if the “Mindfulness City” vision will become a reality. But for now, the excitement in Gelephu is palpable, fueled by a potent mix of hope, opportunity, and a shared desire to create something truly special.

On 10 February in a special ceremony befitting the profound significance of the occasion, His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck received the Royal Charter for the Establishment of Gelephu Mindfulness City Special Administrative Region from the sacred Machen Lhakhang in Punakha Dzong.

His Royal Highness The Gyalsey offered Marchhang – libation offerings made to all deities and dharma protectors of the land – to invoke their blessings and protection for the successful launch and realization of His Majesty The King’s vision for the future of Bhutan. The Marchhang offerings were made before the Zhabdrung Khamsum Zilnon.

His Royal Highness The Gyalsey received the Royal Charter placed at the sacred Machen Lhakhang of Punakha Dzong. This is in keeping with the tradition of receiving blessings from the Machen Lhakhang for matters of the greatest national importance.

In recognition that the Gelephu Mindfulness City is established for the future of Bhutan, about 400 children from the region were invited to participate in the ceremony.

Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen graced the ceremony, which was attended by the Prime Minister, ministers, and senior government officials, and presided over by the His Eminence the Dorji Lopen. 

The Royal Charter, granted on the 1st day of the 1st month of the Male Wood Dragon Year, is a significant milestone in the establishment of the Special Administrative Region which will be known as Gelephu Mindfulness City, as announced by His Majesty The King on the 116th National Day. 

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