Thimphu – The Most Happening City of Bhutan

Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, was the only place in Bhutan which had the city feeling of westernization. 

Laiden with new buildings, traffic, high-end sales showrooms, sewage smell, etc. It is pretty much catching up with development. 

There is a shift from Kiras to Jeans and T-shirts for women. Youngsters are hanging out at karaoke bars in the evening. Cafes are trying out western dishes. Luxurious hotels were offering a fine dining experience. The only city where I spotted a gym. 

And being the capital, it is also the most populated place. Even though they are catching up with the new world, they also have some rules to preserve their culture. 

The newer buildings coming up have to have the tapering roof on top with their traditional colored blocks around it. The government officials have to wear their traditional dress, Kira and Gho. Smoking is illegal, and you will be fined if caught. Traffic snarls at 30 km within the city. However deserted the road is. They have started promoting their arrowroot cereal which has been replaced by rice in recent times. 

Thimphu has something for everyone, be it pubs and bars or dzongs and datshi. 

We spent two days at Thimpu, and here are the must-visit places at Thimphu.

Places to visit in Thimphu

Memorial Chorten

Memorial Chorten is a memorial built by the queen for her son, the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, and is located at the city’s heart. 

It is like our Ganesh temple next street where everyone stops 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 the older generation walking around the Chorten, chanting a prayer or two and whirling the prayer wheel. Surprisingly, I stopped a couple of youngsters to ask what the occasion was, and they blushed away with, “I don’t know.” 

I got familiar with the story only after the security guard of the Chorten told me about it.

Memorial Chorten
Memorial Chorten decked up

Buddha Dordenma / Buddha View Point

Like many Buddhist cities, Thimphu also has a Buddha statue overlooking the city. This site was under construction for a long, and it was opened sometime by the end of 2015. It is believed to be the eighth wonder as it is the tallest Buddha statue and the inner room under the statue hosts around one lakh twenty-five thousand small Buddha statues offered by devotees. 

The View from this place was terrific, with hills on all sides, at a greater altitude with the wind, due to which I gasped for breath.

Buddha view point
Buddha view point Thimphu

Thimphu Dzong / Tashichho Dzong

After reaching the gates of the Dzong, I figured out that Thimphu Dzong is open for the public to visit from five to six in the evenings only when the King is not inside the premises. 

Flag down ceremony happens at around 4.30 pm, which is also worth watching. 

Soldiers perform a small drill, and music is played; pretty Bhutanese women collect the flag, a small show is put up. Unfortunately, the public is barred from seeing this, and from catching a peek, one has to hang around the compound wall and try to peek through the plants. 

Flag down ceremony Thimphu

Flag down ceremony Thimphu
Flag down ceremony Thimphu

Once the drill is done, and essential authorities have left the premises, the gates are thrown open. It’s a vast Dzong. 

While walking towards the entrance of Dzong, to the right, you can see the parliament and the King’s palace. The King’s palace is made of just two bedrooms. 

This exemplified simplicity at its best. It would be best if you showed 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 magnificent, 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. 

The Buddhist temple inside the Thimphu Dzong

Thimphu dzong
Thimphu dzong

Inside campus of the Dzong

Campus of Thimphu Dzong
Campus of Thimphu Dzong

Steep stairs leading into the mighty Dzong.

Steep stairs inside Thimphu Dzong
Steep stairs inside Thimphu Dzong

The Buddha’s Lhakang inside the Dzong.

The Buddhist temple inside the Thimphu Dzong
The Buddhist temple inside the Thimphu Dzong

Motithang Takin Preserve

Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. 

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

Takin lazing around
A poser – Takin

Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar

The bazaar has numerous bamboo huts lined in front of the Wangchuck Cultural Centre, worth seeing. Many shops are selling various things from authentic Bhutanese musical instruments, souvenirs, kiras, paintings, phallus, prayer flags, masks, jewelry, handmade papers, traditional vessels, everything! 

So, it is a must to stop by to make some purchases here. 

We walked around the bazaar in morning ten, and the shops were opening, and when we came back by seven in the night, the shops were closing down. So try to make it a little early!

Tradition Drum
Tradition Drum

Dochula Pass

The most mesmerizing place that I loved to hang around was flocked at by tourists and very peaceful. 

There are 108 Chortens lined up in a particular fashion, built as a memorial to honor the victory of the Bhutanese army in the 2003 war at the Dochula pass. 

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 the 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 in nature.

dochula pass
A bright Dochula Pass
dochula pass
A misty Dochula pass

Read more from Bhutan – Must see places at Paro –

Few other places at Thimpu which are must-do. Some of it we did not have time to do:

Textile museum – it is one of the best places to learn everything about textile in Bhutan. 

We were not there on the weekend so that 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 the weekend.

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.

Karaoke bars: This is for those party animals who wish to retire the night singing away. There are plenty of Karaoke bars lined around clock tower street. Just walk into one.

Clock tower square – where you can 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 got to see Bhutan Idol (like Indian idol, American idol, etc.).

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