If you are travelling to Bhutan then a trip to Thimpu has to be on the itinerary. Only an hour’s drive on quite a decent road, Thimpu is the nation’s capital and has some great things to see and do even if you have just a day.
Here are top tips for the best things that you can do in Thimpu.
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1. The National Memorial Chorten
Start your day with a visit to the National Memorial chorten. This large Tibetan-style chorten is one of the most important temples in Thimphu. Built in 1974 it is a memorial to the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who is held in very high esteem by many Bhutanese for having started the democratisation process.
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2. Buddha Dordenma
Next stop should be the huge golden Buddha Dordenna. Located on the top of a hill at the Southern end of the Thimpu valley, it is a magnificent construction over 50 meters high that is visible from everywhere in the town. The statue was cast in bronze and has then been gilded in gold leaf. Combined with the high sheen gold tiles on the base this makes for a really awesome presence.
The large base construction is actually a large meditation hall in its own right and there are plans to house 100,000 8 inch tall and 25,000 12 inch tall statues, all identical, inside the temple. Each of these mini- statues of Buddha have also been cast in bronze and gilded. Less than half the mini statues are currently in situ but the plan is for the whole project to be completed in 2017.
3. Simply Bhutan Cultural Center
The Simply Bhutan Project is a living museum that is done really tastefully to showcase some of the main features of Bhutanese culture, handicrafts and traditions. Highlights of the mini-tour are their exhibitions of giant Phallus and the incredible Foot Artist, Pema Tshering. Pema was born with severe mental and physical disabilities and was effectively adopted by one the fourth king’s four wives. He subsequently trained at the Bhutanese Art School and now make the most wonderful paintings and carvings using just his feet. Chisel in one hand, hammer in the other he is really amazing.
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4. The National Archery Stadium
Archery is the national sport in Bhutan and they are really, really good at it. In the Olympics archers shoot over a distance of 70m. In Bhutan the standard tournament is shot over 140m. Unless you have 20:20 vision you can hardly see the target at the end of the field let alone have a chance of hitting it. Not a place to spend a long time at as you probably won’t even be able to follow the flight of the arrows but definitely worth a stop to see what great archers these people are.
5. The Spice, Meat, Fish and Vegetable Market
This market only operates Thursday to Sunday but is definitely worth a stop if you are in Thimpu for any of these days. Most of the produce eaten in Bhutan is imported from India and this market is the main distribution centre. (The Bhutanese don’t actually kill animals to eat but not many are vegetarians so the business of slaughter is somewhat conveniently subcontracted to India!)
As well as a huge range of vegetables, fish and meat the market has the most fantastic rangeof herbs and spices and of course the obligatory chillis- chillis form a part of almost every meal in Bhutan and their favourite dish is red chillis in a cheese sauce. Be warned this is not for the faint hearted.
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6. Tashichho Dzong
Leaving the best to last, make your final stop in Thimpu at the magnificent Dzong which houses its government and a wonderful temple where the head of the Buddhist faith in Bhutan resides during the summer months. A Dzong was first built on this site in 1641 by Zhabdrung Rinpoche, the leader who first unified Bhutan . It has been rebuilt and extended a number of times and the Fourth King made it the centre of government for the whole of Bhutan in 1962. A truly spectacular building, Tashichho Dzong is an amazing example of the architecture and construction feats the Bhutanese managed over 400 years ago. A great way to spend a great day seeing the very best of things to do in Thimpu.