Bhutan | Thimphu

Exploring Capital City Thimphu Bhutan

Embrace Bhutan Cultural Tour

Thimphu | Bhutan

08 Nov 2019 | Fri

Day 02 of 13

  • Exploring Capital City Thimphu Bhutan
  • Bamboo Supported Construction Site Thimphu
  • National Memorial Chorten Thimphu
  • Institute of Traditional Medicine
  • Bhutan Gross National Happiness (GNH) Centre
  • Royal Textile Academy of Bhutan
  • Lunch in Thimphu
  • Motithang Takin Preserve Thimphu
  • Tashichho Dzong Viewpoint Thimphu
  • Centenary Farmers Market Thimphu
  • Evening Lecture with Kuenzang Dechen

Exploring Capital City Thimphu Bhutan

Early Morning Thimphu Walkabout

Waking up early and taking a look from our balcony (on our first full day in Bhutan) I noticed that our two group guides (Steve & Roger) were out front of the hotel getting ready to do a quick walk (to take pictures) around the city of Thimphu, so I quickly went down to join them. It was very early and we could get it in before our group met for breakfast (in the hotel).

“Thimphu is the capital and largest city of Bhutan. It is situated in the western central part of Bhutan, and the surrounding valley is one of Bhutan’s dzongkhags, the Thimphu District. The ancient capital city of Punakha was replaced as capital by Thimphu in 1955, and in 1961 Thimphu was declared as the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan by the 3rd Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.”

“The city extends in a north–south direction on the west bank of the valley formed by the Wang Chhu, which flows out into India as the Raidāk River. Thimphu is the fifth highest capital in the world by altitude and ranges in altitude from 2,248 metres (7,375 feet) to 2,648 metres (8,688 feet). Unusually for a capital city, Thimphu does not have its own airport, relies on the Paro Airport connected by road some 52 kilometres (32 miles) away.”

“Thimphu, as the political and economic center of Bhutan, has a dominant agricultural and livestock base. Tourism, though a contributor to the economy, is strictly regulated, maintaining a balance between the traditional, development and modernization. Thimphu contains most of the important political buildings in Bhutan, including the National Assembly of the newly-formed parliamentary democracy and Dechencholing Palace, the official residence of the King, located to the north of the city.”

“The culture of Bhutan is fully reflected in Thimphu in literature, religion, customs, and national dress code, the monastic practices of the monasteries, music, and dance, and in the media. Tshechu is an important festival when mask dances, popularly known as Cham dances, are performed in the courtyards of the Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu. It is a four-day festival held every year in September or October, on dates corresponding to the Bhutanese calendar.”

– from Wikipedia Thimphu

Traditional Bhutanese Architecture

Below are some of the pictures I took on this early morning walkabout around Thimphu. It is a beautiful town that has a mix of mostly old Bhutanese-styled architecture. But it is modernizing quickly with rapid growth taking place. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and exploring the city.

Downtown Thimphu

Directing Traffic the Old Fashion Way

One of the neat things we were able to see was the famous Thimphu Traffic Circle where a single traffic policeman still directs traffic the old fashion way – with hand signals and dance-like moves. It’s reported that Bhutan is the only country in the world where its capital city (Thimphu) still does not use traffic signal lights to direct traffic. The city uses sharped dressed traffic policemen (complete with white gloves) to direct traffic at all of its major intersections.

Thimphu Traffic Policemen at Traffic Circle (Nordzin Lam 1)

It hasn’t always been like this, a few years ago the city made an attempt to use a traffic signal in the circle but the Thimphu residents quickly pushed back stating they preferred the charm of traffic policemen instead – so they were brought back.

The Traffic Circle at Nordzin Lam 1 is quite interesting and fun to watch because of the Traffic Officer’s animated, dance-like movements. Very interesting and entertaining!

I’ve included a map of this spot at the bottom of this post.

Bhutanese Prayer Wheels

Another interesting sight was capturing a local Bhutanese man turning several prayer wheels (below). As shown in the picture below, each prayer wheel has a prayer mantra printed on it. When a person spins each wheel by hand they are receiving the equivalence of someone orally reciting the same prayers but multiplied by the number of times the mantra is printed on the scroll.

Turning of the Prayer Wheels

“A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather, or coarse cotton, widely used in Tibet and areas where Tibetan culture is predominant.”

“Traditionally, a mantra is written in Tibetan language, on the outside of the wheel. The mantra Om mani padme hum is most commonly used, but other mantras may be used as well.”

“Also sometimes depicted are dakinis, Protectors and very often the eight auspicious symbols (ashtamangala). At the core of the cylinder is a “life tree” often made of wood or metal with certain mantras written on or wrapped around it. Many thousands (or in the case of larger prayer wheels, millions) of mantras are then wrapped around this life tree.”

“According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on the lineage texts regarding prayer wheels, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers.”

– from Wikipedia Prayer Wheel

Downtown Bamboo Supported Construction Site

I’ve always heard about bamboo being used in construction projects in different parts of the world (like South America and Asia) and even seen it used with Temple construction projects in Thailand. But I’ve never really seen it done on a large scale (with multiple stories). So it was a treat when we came across a large bamboo-supported construction site in downtown Thimphu.

Bamboo Supported Construction Site

To keep this post from getting too long, I decided to cover this construction site in its own post here… Bamboo Supported Construction Site Thimphu

Traditional Bhutanese Clothing

Many Bhutanese men and women still wear their traditional clothing – Gho (for men) & Kira (for women). It is compulsory (required) for all Bhutanese to wear the national dress in schools, government offices, and on formal occasions. For example, our Bhutanese tour guides must always wear their traditional Gho clothing while in public.

Bhutanese Men Wearing Traditional Gho – Waiting on Tourists to Arrive at Paro Airport

“The gho or g’ô is the traditional and national dress for men in Bhutan. Introduced in the 17th century by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, to give the Ngalop people a more distinctive identity, it is a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. On festive occasions, it is worn with a kabney.”

“The government of Bhutan requires all men to wear the gho if they work in a government office or school. Men are also required to wear the gho on formal occasions. In its modern form, the law dates from 1989, but the driglam namzha dress code is much older.”

“The traditional dress for men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied with a handwoven belt, known as kera. Under the gho, men wear a tego, a white jacket with long, folded-back cuffs.”

– from Wikipedia Bhutanese Men’s Gho

Bhutanese Women Dressed in Colorful Kira Dress Performing at Prakhar Tshechu

“The kira is the national dress for women in Bhutan. It is an ankle-length dress consisting of a rectangular piece of woven fabric. It is wrapped and folded around the body and is pinned at both shoulders, usually with silver brooches (named koma), and bound at the waist with a long belt. The kira is usually worn with a wonju (long-sleeved blouse) inside and a short jacket or toego (Dzongkha: སྟོད་གོ་, romanized: stod-go) outside.”

“A rachu (narrow embroidered cloth draped over the left shoulder) is worn over the traditional dress kira.”

– from Wikipedia Bhutanese Women’s Kira

On our return back to the hotel we noticed a Bhutanese primary school close by. Both the girls and boys were wearing their traditional school clothing.

Bhutanese Primary School

Exploring Capital City Thimphu Bhutan

Map – Traffic Circle at Nordzin Lam 1

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