by Lisa Napoli
When McKinsey consultants, hired for US$9.1 million, descended on Bhutan recently to advise on how the kingdom could brand itself better, they recommended that it liberalise tourism and nix its US$200-a-day tariff. The government responded by raising the visitor tax to US$250 a day after hearing alarm bells about how a deluge of sightseers could affect Bhutan. The country's rapid transformation - especially since television and the internet were permitted in 1999 - is the real story in Lisa Napoli's book, which appears at the outset as a tale of a woman's mid-life crisis. Some readers will be put off by a description of what led her to the 'mysterious kingdom', including guff about a 'happiness class' in the US, an encounter with a guy called Sebastian and grabbing the opportunity to help with a startup radio station in Thimpu. The author's romanticised notions of the place are soon dashed; another cliche is that, despite this, she falls in love with Bhutan. Napoli knows how to present information and spin a yarn. But the book would have been better without her own baggage.