If Bhutan was the happiest place in Asia before the lavish wedding of their dashing 'Dragon King', then the country was positively euphoric as their monarch and his new bride took to the streets to meet their subjects. The down-to-earth newlyweds greeted huge crowds of well-wishers on Friday as they set of from the capital along winding Himalayan roads.
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They started out on foot from Punakha, and had covered only a few miles by midday due to the large amount of people lining the streets. King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck is famed for enjoying this kind of contact from his adoring subjects, and it isn’t the first time he has navigated miles of rocky terrain so he can connect with people face-to-face. "He has walked the length and breadth of the country and met nearly every citizen," parliamentary opposition leader, Tshering Tobgay, proudly said of the royal. This time around, he has been joined by his quietly exotic young wife and, perhaps to ease her into her duties gently, the pair planned to cover less populated areas of the route by car.
In anticipation of their arrival, lines of schoolchildren with the national orange-and-yellow flag eagerly started to queue up for a glimpse. "There are people lined up along almost the entire stretch," royal spokesman Dorji Wangchuck told AFP by phone from the scene. After marrying the beautiful 21-year-old student, Jetsun Pema, in a colourful Buddhist ceremony, the journey represents a return to what the ‘Dragon King’ loves love best – meeting his people. On a normal day, 'King 5', as he is also affectionately known, lives his life as “down to earth, fun loving royal” He is appreciated for smashing a legacy of royal elitism and often cooks his own food and eats with his people when out and about on his famous walking tours.
"The king has finally got a companion who is from a noble family, and she has very good qualities," Bago Dem, a local resident in her 60s, told AFP. "They understand the problems of the people." Her elation was echoed by Karma Tshiteem, the head of the Gross National Happiness Commission who joked: "You can be sure that our happiness is increasing".More on the King of Bhutan's spectacular wedding