Sounds exotic and remote … where is Bhutan exactly? Bhutan is a small Buddhist kingdom with a population of just 750,000 tucked away in the Himalayas between India, Tibet and Nepal. It's as exotic and expensive as it is obscure. The Bhutanese got television for the first time just 15 years ago, and, in a ploy to keep out the riff-raff, visitors must spend at least US$250 a day. And remote is spot on. To get to the country, you have to fly to Bangkok, stay overnight, and then get a connecting flight the next morning that stops off in Darjeeling, India, for 45 minutes or so before continuing to Bhutan's international airport, in Paro. Then there's the small matter of a four-hour drive over rough and scary mountain roads and, hey presto, you're here - at the Dhensa resort in Punakha, the country's one-time capital.
So not the best place for a quick weekend break then? If your idea of fun is a night out clubbing, then no: but if you're an adventurous sort with a bit more time (and money) on your hands, and you want to have bragging rights over yoga-loving chums who've been on pilgrimages to Kathmandu or Lhasa, this could be the place for you. Bhutan is probably less visited than anywhere else in the region outside North Korea and only gets a few thousand tourists a year. It's unspoilt and enigmatic and brimming with colour and people genuinely interested to see you.
Isn't a luxury spa resort a bit incongruous in such a spiritual country? It is a bit. But when you've got tourists spending a minimum of US$250 a day, they're entitled to expect a bit of pampering. So Dhensa, which opened in March, offers very comfortable, air-conditioned, chalet-style rooms with fine dining and all the usual spa services, in a setting overlooking the Punakha Valley, one of the lower-lying, greener and more fertile corners of the kingdom.
Is the food up to much? It's good. The resort's one and only restaurant serves up decent Western and Indian cuisine in a part of the world where doing so is something of a logistical challenge. Vegetables are bought locally but the meat is mostly imported. Bhutan's Buddhists prefer to let their animals die of old age rather than slaughter them, which might be good for their karma but not for their chicken korma.
What is there to do outside the resort? There are temples and monasteries to visit. You can go for a picnic or meditate in the mountains. You can go rafting or ferreting around the markets in Punakha for herbs and spices. The emphasis is very much on getting away from it all, or, as the Dhensa salesmen put it, "reviving your senses, and immersing yourself in the peace and beauty of nature at its most brilliant". What they don't mention in their sales blurb is that it's also a good place to head for if you're interested in willies.
Come again? You heard me. Willies - penises, phalluses. They're everywhere in Bhutan, and in Punakha in particular. A few miles from the resort is the Temple of the Divine Madman - a 15th-century Buddhist called Drukpa Kunley, who, legend has it, had sex with thousands of women and turned demonesses into protective deities by whacking them with his manhood. Enormous, rather intimidating penises in a state of high excitement are painted on walls (above) and rooftops in his honour and infertile couples come to the temple to seek help in conceiving. Souvenir wooden willies in all shapes, sizes and colours can be bought. Think long and hard before you buy one as a gift though - you might find yourself with some explaining to do at the Chek Lap Kok customs desk.
How much will this spiritual enlightenment cost me? Rooms start at US$350 a night and can be booked through Lightfoot Travel www.lightfoottravel.com on 2815 0068. Every visitor to Bhutan must pay a minimum of US$250 a day, which is included in the package price, and also goes towards a government levy of US$65 and tour operator costs.