Wandering in Thimpu

Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital, lacks some of the charms of the rest of the country — after all, it’s the only city with six-story buildings and regular (if brief) morning traffic jams. But it has no fast food restaurants and no Starbucks; instead, it has yummy local cafes like Ambient and markets like Chuniding Food, filled with bags and jars of locally-sourced foods. It also has temples and stupas and a giant fortress. And like every other place in Bhutan, it has mountains! Here are the views from my hotel room…

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… looking out as we walked by the fortress toward the Parliament building …

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… and from the playground by the educational center, READ Bhutan, where my students were doing service work:

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Thimpu’s streets don’t feel all that inspiring at first glance:

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Look more closely, however, and you’ll find elegant paintings just about everywhere:

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Many of the buildings are protected by paintings of the four auspicious animals: the snow lion …

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… the tiger …

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… the garuda (a bird-like creature) …

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… and the dragon:

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The Bhutanese government mandates that all buildings have a specific window shape and architectural elements, so even the public housing structures in town have a sort of elegance:

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And this may be the first gas station I’ve ever seen with architectural flair!

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You’ll also find prayer wheels wherever you go in Thimpu, both large …

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… and small:

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Taking a turn at the local prayer wheels

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My awesome guide and driver from Bhutan Tours and Travels by the wheels

The smaller prayer wheels are generally cluttered with tiny stoneware tsa-tsas, miniature stupas given as prayers for the well-being of others …

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… and they may also be hung with small prayer flags:

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Even the Thimpu traffic has upsides that made me smile. Apparently they tried installing street lights some years back, but people didn’t like them (and, I’m guessing, also didn’t obey them). So the city went back to what it started with: traffic guards in a traffic pagoda in the middle of major intersections:

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Even the street signs remind you that you’re in Bhutan — note the traditional dress of the man at this zebra crossing sign:

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Finally, Thimpu has it share of animals. There are dogs everywhere, kept fat and happy by the monks who feed them (which is a good thing if you like dogs, but not if you like a peaceful night’s sleep; they bark all night long) …

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… a few cats here and there …

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…and very strange animal statues in the local park:

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I get the feeling that Thimpu is the kind of place that grows on you after a while. As an eight-day tourist and school trip chaperone, I much preferred Bhutan’s rural beauty. But there are many things to enjoy in this small city if you take yourself out for a walk.

2 responses to “Wandering in Thimpu

  1. Pingback: The Road to Haa | Traveler Tina·

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