Thimphu – The Most Happening City of Bhutan

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Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan. This was the only place in Bhutan which had the city city feeling. You know like, new buildings, traffic, high end sales showrooms, sewage smell, etc.. It is pretty much catching up with westernization. Ladies are moving from Kiras to Jeans and T shirts. Youngsters hanging out at karaoke bars in the evening. Cafes trying out western dishes. Luxurious hotels offering fine dining experience. The only city where I saw a gym! And since it is the capital, it is also the most populated place. Though they are catching up with new world, they also have some rules in place to preserve their culture. The newer buildings that are coming up have to have the tapering roof on top with their traditional colored blocks around it. The government officials have to wear kira and gho. Smoking is illegal and you will be fined if caught. Traffic snarls at 30kmph within the city however deserted the road is. They have started promoting their arrow root cereal which has been replaced by rice. Thimpu has something for everyone, be it pubs and bars or dzongs and datshi.We spent two days at Thimpu and here is my journey,

1. Memorial Chorten

Memorial chorten is located at the heart of the city. A memorial built by the queen to her son, the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, It is like our Ganesh temple next street where everyone stop by on the way. It was the week of the late third King’s birthday and hence the chorten was decked up. The place was flocked by older generation walking around the chorten, chanting prayer and whirling the prayer wheel. Surprisingly, I stopped couple of youngsters to ask what the occasion was and they blushed away with. “I don’t know”. It was the security guard of the chorten who told me stories.

Memorial Chorten Thimphu
Memorial Chorten

2. Buddha Dordenma / Buddha View Point

Like many Buddhist cities, this one also has a Buddha statue overlooking the city. It is still a site under construction, planned to open sometime by end of 2015. Once opened it is believed to be the eighth wonder as it is the tallest Buddha statue and the inner room under the statue will host around one lakh twenty five thousand small Buddha statues offered by devotees. The wind was heavy. View from this place was amazing with hills on all the side. It is at a greater altitude and I was gasping for breath. Altitude!

Buddha Dordenma
Buddha Dordenma

 

3. Thimpu Dzong / Tashichho Dzong

Thimpu dzong is open for public to visit only when the King is not inside the premises. And this we were able to figure out only after reaching the gates of the dzong. On such days, the dzong will open from five to six in the evening; once the king leaves the premises. Flag down ceremony happens around 4.30pm which is also worth watching. Soldiers performing a small drill, music played, pretty Bhutanese women to collect the flag; a small show is put up. Unfortunately this is something you have to hang around the compound wall and try to peek through the plants. Public is not allowed inside.

Tashichho Dzong - Flag down ceremony
Tashichho Dzong – Flag down ceremony

Once the drill is done and important authorities have left the premises the gates are thrown open. It’s a huge Dzong, big huge! While walking towards the entrance of dzong, to the right you can see the parliament and the King’s palace. Apparently king’s palace is made of just two bedrooms!!! Hmmm, simplicity at its best. You need to show your permits for entry. The colorful walls welcome you to the inside of dzong. The Dzong houses the temple of Buddha. The wall of the Lhakang (temple) has the life of Buddha painted. The complex is big and you can spend considerable time here listening to all the stories of Buddha, cosmic mandalas, wheel of life, etc. It was beautifully lit in the night. Pictures to speak the rest.
This picture is taken from a view point. Thimphu Dzong and opposite of it is the parliament.

Tashichho Dzong Bhutan parliament
Tashichho Dzong

Inside campus of the Dzong

Tashichho Dzong
Tashichho Dzong Campus

Steep stairs leading into the mighty Dzong

Tashichho Dzong
Tashichho Dzong

The Buddha’s Lhakang inside the Dzong

Tashichho Dzong – the Lhakang

 

4. Motithang Takin Preserve:

I have never heard of Takin before nor seen one before! Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. It looks more like a goat’s head attached to cow’s body or rather a nilgai’s body and was lazily grazing around. It is a big enclosure with fence put around a big grazing area. There were few deer too in yet another enclosure. Good to stop by and catch a glimpse of this rare animal.

takin preserve
Takin lazing around

 

A poser – Takin Preserve

 

5. Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar

This is the bamboo huts lined in front of the Wangchuk Cultural Centre, neither of which you can miss. The bazaar has numerous shops lined up. Shops selling a variety of things from authentic Bhutanese musical instruments, souvenir, kiras, paintings, phallus, prayer flags, masks, jewellery, handmade papers, traditional vessels, everything, I mean everything! So stop by to make some purchase here. We walked around the bazaar at morning ten and the shops were just opening, we came back by seven in the night and the shops were closing down. So try to make it a little early.
This is a traditional Drum of Bhutan. You can see the monks playing this drum during the prayer sessions.

Bhutan drum

 

6. Dochula Pass

The most mesmerizing place that I loved to hang around. It is so very touristy yet so so peaceful! There are 108 chortens lined up in certain fashion, built as a memorial to honor the victory of Bhutanese army in the 2003 war. It is also to mark the victory of the Fourth King in the war. There is also a temple atop the hill in honor of Him. Dochula is so beautiful. From here you get to see the panoramic view of Himalayas and as you are watching, the mist comes from nowhere clouding everything. It is like the sun wants to play around for a while and when tired the clouds take over and the trees dance to the tune of wind while you are lost watching this little play put up nature.
Changing moods of Dochula.. These two pictures were taken just five minutes apart.

Dochula pass
Dochula pass

 

Dochula pass
Dochula pass

Few other places at Thimpu which are must do. Some of it we did not have time to do:
1. Textile museum – apparently it is one of the best places to learn everything about textile in Bhutan. With the museum in Paro just class, I guess this should also be the best.
2. Weekend market – we were not there on a weekend, so we could see only the empty stalls. I heard it is the most colorful place to be. Anytime, local markets are the best place to learn about the city and this should be top on your list if you are there on a weekend.
3. Archery at Changlimithang stadium – The stadium is big! And if you are lucky, you should be able to catch an archery show. Even otherwise archery being their national sport, you should be able to see people playing it.
4. Karaoke bars – This is for those party animals who wish to retire the night singing away. There are plenty of Karaoke bars lined around the clock tower street. Just walk into one.
5. Clock tower square – where you can just sit around and watch the locals spending their time at leisure. There are plenty of souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants and bars lined around. If you are lucky, there might be some show going on that you can watch.. We were lucky and so got to see Bhutan Idol (like Indian idol, American idol,etc).

Read more of Bhutan,
Bhutan Travelogue – Bhutan Overview
Paro – Places to Visit
To book this tour and other offbeat location – Exotic Expeditions


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7 comments on “Thimphu – The Most Happening City of Bhutan
  1. Yogi saraswat says:

    Very Attractive and appreciative pictures with detailed description from Thmpu .

  2. neha says:

    Loved the pics and the info.

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