Monday, December 16, 2013

Top 9 Things to do in Thimphu, Bhutan

On my recent backpacking trip to Bhutan, I ended spending quite a bit of time in its capital Thimphu as I returned to it 3 times. Initially, I took the beaten path, then took the advice of some locals and finally simply wandered. As I did all of this, I came across parts of Thimphu that totally blew my mind. Hence, I thought it would be prudent if I wrote about it so that you can experience those things when you visit Thimphu.

1) Get closer to Thimphu’s deep spiritual beliefs at its National Memorial Chorten
Bhutanese Woman in prayer
We all know that Bhutan is a very spiritual country and its religion and tranquility bring people from far and wide. Even, if you are not the spiritual type or wish to indulge in it, just the sheer act of seeing it can give you goose bumps. The National Memorial Chorten is one such place. Young, middle aged and old people together pray at this memorial Chorten. The belief is so deep that you can feel the positive karma.

2) Have a hot cup of Thukpa on a cold night
Enjoying hot cheese Thukpa on a cold night in Thimphu, Bhutan
This is for those who have a tough stomach. Every night around 8 pm, there are hawkers selling hot Thukpa (thick broth soup) on the streets of Thimphu. While the pork and beef ones sell the most, the vegetarians have the cheese Thukpa to taste. This hot and thick soupy drink is the perfect way to stay warm on a cold night in Thimphu.

3) Watch Thimphu sunset view from on top of Changkangkha Lakhang
Sunset view of Thimphu from Changangkha Lakhang
As with most valleys, you have to be at a vantage point to see its best views. In the case of Thimphu that view can be seen from Changkangkha Lakhang, a beautiful temple located on top of a temple. But, the best view is primarily during sunset when you can see the whole city bathed in golden light.

4) Eat dessert at the swiss bakery
All kinds of local made earings on sale at Thimphu's weekend market
Thimphu is home to a lot of bakeries, but the one that has kept up its traditional flavors alive is the Swiss bakery that is located on Chorten Lam. This cosy place is ideal to have those rum cakes and apple pies along with a hot cup of coffee.

5) Visit the weekly market
Scene from Thimphu's weekly market
No where have I personally seen a more clean looking vegetable market. People from all over Bhutan bring their wares here to sell. They sell rice, cheese, vegetables, fruits, trinkets, souvenirs and more. While the main market is located on one side of the river, the touristy souvenir market is located on the other side of the river. Both these markets offer a great photography opportunity and you can also end up tasting some rare fruits and vegetables.

6) Buy some famous stamps from the Thimphu post office
The stamps of Bhutan have been famous for a long time now. It would be surprising if a stamp collector did not have a Bhutan stamp in his collection. The best place to buy these stamps would be the Thimphu post office. One can either buy the regular stamps to send home through postcards or even buy the rare stamps from the antique collection.

7) Watch a game of archery at the archery stadium
Archery - the national sport of Bhutan
Bhutan’s national sport is quite a gala event. The game of archery played in a manner similar to soccer, their traditional dances on hitting bull’s eye and the sheer exclamations of the players make for a great spectacle. Get yourself a wide brimmed hat, a pair of sunglasses, some knick knacks to munch and a bottle of water to enjoy a full archery game.

8) Buy some raw silk scarves at the Thimphu handicrafts emporium
Silk holds a very important place in Bhutan’s culture. And more than silk it is their unique designs that appeal to the eye. The hand dyed raw silk scarves are some of the best in that line of business. And the government handicrafts emporium is possibly the best place to take home some silk souvenirs.

9) Stroll along its main streets
Windows on a traditional Bhutanese building
It is a pleasure to walk along Thimphu’s quiet streets. There are a lot of shopping opportunities. You might be lucky to see some local dances. You can visit the painting museum, you can see some local artisans either paint or make their crafts, you can taste some interesting local food and basically see a whole bunch of sights that will keep you at rapt attention.

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