We began our journey in Bhutan, a quaint little town with Bhutan’s only roundabout junction. Fun fact: Bhutan doesn’t have traffic lights so this junction is monitored by policemen.
Thimphu is arguably as busy as Bhutan gets, which is not very busy if you compare it with the hectic streets of Singapore. Buildings rarely go past 4 stories in height and people are still nice and friendly. I’ve heard from a local guide that there is a drug problem in Thimphu because of the abundance of marijuana in Bhutan. I’m not kidding, wild marijuana actually grows freely on the streets.
Crazy right? Aside from the single junction in Bhutan for tourists to gawk at, Thimpu has various quintessentially attractions as well.
The first is the Tashichhoe Dzong which now serves as the main political office in Bhutan. Because its an active offcie of sorts, you can only visit after 5pm, which is quite an interesting experience to be in a Dzong in the later times of the day. Monks are shuffling in and about getting to their rooms for the day. The contrast of their red robes against the whitewashed walls of the dzong makes for excellent photography!
Aside from the dzong, something special in Thimphu is the memorial chorte which was built in 1974 to honour the 3rd king of Bhutan. While the chorten doesn’t hold any mortal remains, you can often see pilgrims walking around the chorten everyday in a clockwise position. Many elderly also congregate here to chat with their friends and to offer their prayers.
Atop a hill overlooking Thimphu city stands the newly built Buddha Dordenma statue. You literally can’t miss it. Upon completion, it will be one of the largest Buddha statues in the world.
Aside for the towering Buddha statue, the hill offers some panoramic views of Thimphu city as well.
My favourite attraction would be the Motithang Takin Preserve. I have resigned to the fact that I am an uncultured person and cannot appreciate the finer intricacies of Bhutanese culture except for taking photos and gawking at the immaculate architecture. Please take me to see animals instead.
As explained in my introduction to Bhutan , the national animal of Bhutan is the Takin. A strange hybrid-goat-bear-elephant(?) looking thing. It can be aggressive but most of the time they’re quite silly and just look fun to be with.
Thankfully, their enclosure is quite large and mimics their natural environment closely—well, because it is their natural environment, the park officials just fenced off part of the pine forests for the Takin.
Another fun-fact: initially, the preserve was a zoo but the king thought it would be improper for a Buddhist country to keep animals in an enclosure. However, when he ordered for the zoo to be dismantled, the Takin stayed put and refused to leave. Some of them even went to Thimphu town and roamed the streets! As a result, this preserve was created for them to roam freely without terrorising the citizens of Thimphu!
What an odd-looking fellow!
If you’re staying in the Taj Thimphu, they also offer Bhutanese dances in the evenings, a glimpse into what festival dances are like! Beside the bonfire, they give a sense of the festivities during festival season and you won’t have to feel left out that you didn’t see the festivals anymore!
There you have it! The highlights of Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan! As one of our first few stops, Thimphu offered us a glimpse into Bhutanese life and culture.
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