Younten Tshedup | Buli

With the annual arrival of visitors, local and international, increasing in Zhemgang, the quiescent settlement, considered to be one of the remotest and poorest dzongkhags is witnessing a slow but steady transformation.  

Homestays are a budding business in the dzongkhag today. And the business for now is focused in Buli, a clustered village in Nangkor gewog in middle Kheng region.   

Tshewang Buthri, 67, owns one of the two homestays in the village. The facilities were established less than six months ago.  

“Business has been good so far. I was not expecting it to be this successful when I first though of converting my house into a homestay,” she said. 

Tshewang Buthri said she was skeptic of entertaining different people at her place since she had been living on her own for a long time. “My sons are settled in other dzongkhags so it’s just me here. Allowing strangers at my place was an unusual idea in the beginning.”

However, much to her surprise, she said the experience so far has been pleasant. “Who knew that the best part of homestay would be interacting with different people,” she said. “I’ve had very entertaining and considerate guests so far.”

Organised by dzongkhag administration, some 19 residents of the village were sent for a familiarisation tour to Haa last year.

Buli tshogpa, Kinley Wangchuk, said that Haa today has some of the most successful homestay facilities in the country. “We were sent there to learn and understand how a homestay functioned.”

Following the tour, he said that majority of them were hopeful of the opportunity back home. “It wasn’t easy but it was not impossible either, which is why many of us expressed our interest to start up the business.”

However, one of the major challenges was the lack of toilet attached to the house. Tourism Council of Bhutan requires a homestay facility to have a mandatory attached toilet, said the tshogpa. 

The dzongkhag had received at least 15 applications for homestays in Buil last year. Only two were certified and awarded license by TCB. 

Dzongkhag officials said that Buli was identified for the homestay project mainly for its rich cultural heritage and the unique clustered settlement comprising of only traditional structures. 

A construction moratorium on modern structure has also been imposed on the village to deter people from damaging the traditional look of the village.  

Officials said that Buli has potential to become a tourist hotspot in the coming years. 

Meanwhile, Tshewang Buthri said that the homestay experience in Buli is nothing like in the rest of the country. “We consider the visitors as our guest and not as customers. Only local cuisines native to our village are served.”