What started as a visit to my daughter’s 24th birthday in Yamanashi, Japan resulted in a whirlwind of a journey in the pursuit of Happiness from the land of the Rising Sun to the far less known Katong district of Singapore to the iconic Petronas twin towers in Malaysia. The destinations were as diverse as they are intriguing. Japan was once a global empire that bore the brunt of the atomic holocaust but rebounded to lead the industrialized world. Singapore story seen from East Katong district is pretty much the heart of LKY’s 1000 page memoirs on the island nation, while Malaysia who is overshadowed by the island that they kicked out of the Federation is still trying to recover from the shock of the 2018 elections. My travelogue is a catalogue of interactions with some most wonderful people whom I met and who went out of their way to greet someone from the land of the GNH. In the process, I was making an attempt to see what values most to each of these societies given their economic level of development through the stories of my friends, whom I met and what eventually made them happy. I have taken the liberty to share the names of all the friends whom I met because they will be incredible resources to any Bhutanese who are traveling in these countries in the future. It may also contain some tips on how we can build a network of GNH advocates and alumni network, create a memorable and lasting memories for those you love and care, and maybe even focus our limited time on learning things that really matter to us back in Bhutan.
For a happiness trip always start with a 24-hour plan.
Sites like hotwire.com and expedia.com have become a permanent feature on my web browser. As a mid-career student, travel is expensive. Since flight costs and hotel accommodation accounts for the bulk of the costs you are always surfing for the best deal. As I was browsing for a return flight ticket from LAX to Bangkok, Japan Airlines popped up on the list with a one-way ticket cost of $670.00. Seeing this as an affordable ticket I clicked on the details and found out it was a journey of over 30 hours for journey that would take a mere 18 hours on a direct flight. This was because, JAL flights converged in Tokyo before passengers are sorted out for their onward flights to different destinations. I was prepared for this wait since every hour seem to cost $50.00 on an earlier flight. What I was not prepared to was the idea that suddenly popped up. What about if I can get a 24-hour visa to visit my daughter who is in Japan, and who had just finished her first job as a teacher in Funatsu School at Yamanashi prefecture? My wife and I have always been discussing about visiting Japan someday while our daughter is still there. I just needed Expedia.com to convince me that JAL would make that happen. How the plan of the 24 hours’ trip snowballed into a happiness travelogue of 32 days was another story.