MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) – Google now provides a glimpse of the obscure mountainous Kingdom of Bhutan in Street View; allowing access to scenes of beautiful landscapes, exotic architecture and daily life in the hermit kingdom.
Tightly squeezed in between India and Tibet, the Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the least visited and most isolated places in the world. The “happiest nation in Asia”, according to Businessweek, has only allowed television, Internet and Western-style clothing to come into the country in 1999 and transitioned to democracy in 2004.
Recently the Bhutanese Government granted Google the right to take its Street View cameras around the country, so people all over the world could see the long-isolated country on the Internet. One of Thimphu’s main considerations in doing so might have been the desire to boost tourism as foreign visitors are charged a minimum of $200 a day while in Bhutan, AFP reports.
"Most governments love Street View because it promotes tourism - they are drawn to its commercial benefits", Divon Lan of Google’s Street View team said as quoted by AFP. “In Bhutan, the conversation was very different – essentially along the lines of ’how can we bring Bhutan to the world without having floods of tourists turn up and erode our culture?”
Google started taking its Street View cameras around Bhutan in March 2013. Over a million photographs were taken and the vehicle on which the camera was mounted attracted a lot of attention from local residents during its 3,000-kilometre journey through the mountain kingdom.
"Villagers would see this strange-looking car and ask the driver about it. When he told them it was being used to take photos, they would get very excited and try to peer inside", Lan said. Now, thanks to Google, the whole world can see the nation which welcomed its first tourist only 40 years ago.
Bhutan is the only official Buddhist Kingdom in the world and it has been avoiding globalization and modernization, preserving as much of their culture to be true to how things were in the 17th century. Even today wearing traditional clothing is compulsory for both men and women in public office.
"Google Street View is a way of preserving our culture at a time of great change. It reminds us of what we have in Bhutan", Damcho Rinzin, spokesman for the Tourism Council of Bhutan, said as quoted by the Economic Times. He added that although tourists are welcome, there are limitations in number and scale of their activities as the nation does not want to be “just another tourist destination”.