10 NOVEMBER 2008

By any yardstick this was no ordinary royal walkabout. Bhutan's newly crowned king followed Thursday's lavish coronation ceremony with four days of festivities for his subjects - and greeted thousands of them in person.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel, an Oxford graduate and - at 28- the world's youngest monarch, surprised foreign visitors by mingling with his people in the capital of Thimpu's Changlimithang stadium.

The scene was a riot of colour as the crowds enjoyed dance performances and traditional events such as a cap-snatching competition and pillow fights over a tub of cold water.

Meanwhile the Dragon King, as he will now be known, wandered around chatting, occasionally stopping to gather up children in his arms.

It's a hands-on approach the Bhutanese have got used to since the previous king, his father Jigme Singye, stepped down two years ago, paving the way for democracy and a constitutional monarchy.

In an address to the nation on Friday his son emphasised he would continue the elder Jigme's philosophy of promoting what he once referred to as 'Gross National Happiness'.

"Destiny has put me here. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother and serve you as a son," he promised. "I shall give you everything and keep nothing. This is how I shall serve you as king."

Photo: ©
Hugging one of his young subjects, the world's youngest monarch shows why he's so popular in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan Photo: © Getty ImagesClick on photos for gallery
Photo: ©
Charismatic Jigme Khesar didn't stand on ceremony as he led his people in four days of festivities marking last week's coronation. Here he joins in a traditional dance Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
His hands-on approach extended to taking part in one of the nation's traditional sports Photo: © Getty Images
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