I’ve been all over the world for ABC News, but Bhutan may be the most exotic spot I’ve ever seen. They didn’t have paved roads, public schools or a postal service until the 1960s. They got their first airport in the 1980s and television didn’t arrive until 1999. Just last month, they got their first escalator. I watched people ride it the other day, awkwardly, for the first time.
The royal couple at the center of this week’s celebrations, however, is anything but backwards. King Jigme Khesar — at age 31, the youngest king on earth — was educated in Massachusetts and Oxford. He has a great head of slicked-back hair, which has earned him the nickname the ”Asian Elvis.” His bride is Jetsun Pema, a beautiful 21-year-old commoner-turned-queen, the daughter of an airline pilot.
Thursday’s wedding was the polar opposite of the William and Kate affair in the United Kingdom. It consisted of hours and hours of Buddhist prayers and chanting, punctuated by a rather tender moment when the king crowned his new queen and then touched her face reassuringly. There was no dramatic kiss on a balcony, though; they’re too modest for that here.
The personal highlight for me was when I was out in the crowd with a camera, trying to get a few extra shots of the king as he mingled with his subjects. Out of nowhere, he approached me and struck up a conversation.
Always cool under pressure, I very smoothly let my camera drop to the ground. Luckily, a cameraman from the Bhutan National Television Network was there, broadcasting the whole thing live.
The king asked me if I was enjoying my stay and if it was my first time in the country. I answered in the affirmative, and then congratulated him on his wedding.
As he continued to work the rope line, he called me back over, asking if I wanted to take a picture as he met two identical twin girls. They were adorable, but very shy.
And then, as quickly as it began, my little “King and I” moment was over.