We’ve visited this place in Thimphu. Young students were learning their traditional arts here. There were many classes like painting, carving, sculpture, weaving… Students were wearing a dark blue traditional dress as a uniform. We had the chance to interact with some of them. It was a nice experience trying to tell them where we came from.
The school has own souvenir shop. You can find nice examples of Bhutanese art here, wooden dragons, hand-woven textile, small figurines…
Bhutan has its own strange animals, if you are interested. Takin is one of them and it is also the national animal of Bhutan. Takin are related to sheep but weigh up 650 kg. Takin also has a story with famous Drukpa Kunley. When he came to Bhutan, people wanted to see a miracle from him. He wanted a whole cow and a goat for lunch. He ate both and put the goat's head into the bones of the cow. Then with a snap of his fingers, Takin came out. I only saw a preserved (by taxidermy) example in National Museum, but I heard that there is a zoo in Thimphu to see rare animals living in Bhutan.
The blue sheep, or bharal is another rare specie of this small country.
Visiting the zoo was not in our itinerary, but I think it had to be.
I am a huge fan of these kind of markets. I love to see and smell the fresh vegetables, people shopping... In Bhutan, there is an amazing variety of plants. This made the market more interesting for me. You can see usual chilies, tomatoes, onions (smaller ones), black eyed beans, huge okras… Also you can see strange stuff like tree leaves, some wild plants, colorful mushrooms, dried fishes, dried yak or cow skin, fresh meat, yak cheese and butter… I wanted to be a local and do some shopping for myself while we were there. Sometimes being a tourist is such a burden!
There were many opportunities of good shots in the market. We also bought some dry hot chilies and since they have seeds in it, I have some Bhutanese pepper plants in my balcony now. By the way, if you buy chilies, don’t put them into your cabin bag. If you forget, officers take them and they give you a receipt. You and your chilies travel separately.
The only pointsman of Bhutan is working in Thimphu. There isn’t much traffic to control but he is there and doing his job. I’ve read that there was a traffic light here once, but then the King decided that it was unnecessary and it removed. This traffic policeman conducts traffic with dance-like movements. Take your time and watch him for a while.
This Dzong is by the Wang Chu river and just across the palace. We've been warned about not to look towards the palace, because The King was in the garden!
The Dzong is the seat of the government. We saw ministers and officers while we were walking to the Dzong. Because of being in the Capital city, this is the most important Dzong of whole country. Coronation of the last King was held here. There are two thrones in the most sacred prayer room for the King and the religious leader Je Khenpo. Both thrones are decorated. King's throne has a dragon carving, Je Khempo's has deer carvings. Deer is the symbol of the believers.
The first dzong had been built here in 1216. After several renovations because of some fires and earthquakes, the final structure was built in 1902. In 1952, Thimphu became the Capital and the government moved in here.
The 'Tashi Choe Dzhong' or the Wonderful Religion Fortress is a spectacular fortress in Thimphu that was rebuilt in the 1770s following a fire.
What is remarkable about the building is that it is made without a single nail!!
It's a massive structure that can be only truly appreciated at some distance!
For more images of this Dzhong, see the travelogues.
This dzong, called "fortress of the glorious religion", housed the original National Assembly and now houses the secretarat, the throne room and the offices of the king. The northern potion is the summer residence of the Central Monk Body.
During our visit, we were not allowed inside and it was said because the Central Monk Body just came.
The original dzong was burned in 1771.
This large Tibetan-style chorten was built in 1974 to honour the memory of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It is one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu and for many people it is the focus of their daily worship.
For a brief jaunt out of the confines of the city, a good place to visit are the Botanical Gardens at Serbithang. Located about 15 km south of the city, this garden was established in 1999 to protect endemic plants and provide a place for Bhutanese to see some of their own native flora. IT is increasingly popular with locals on weekend excursions from Thimphu.
The gardens, while not large, offer several areas of specialized interest, including medicinal plants and flowering plants. It has several open expanses on its 29-acre grounds, perfect for picnics and letting the kids stretch their legs (there is even a small playground there). And since it is up on the hillside, you have some nice views overlooking Thimphu and a minister's traditional house set in the hills. It is a nice day to relax outdoors, without going on an extended hike or trek, and learn a bit about the plants of Bhutan.
In 2003, Bhutan was pushed towards war. Indian rebels were hiding in Bhutan, and the Indian government had given Butan an ultimatum of either driving the rebels out or the Indian Army would be forced to cross the border and do it themselves. Bhutan's traditions of pacifism and peace wanted to avoid a conflict, with an army of only 7,000 enlisted men, facing tens of thousands of rebels, and war was unpopular. So, the king made it voluntary for the soldiers, and personally led the campaign against the rebels. The mini-war was a success, and the rebels were routed with a minimal loss to the Bhutan army. Some wanted to erect a monument for the victory, but the King replied that war should never be glorified. So instead he commissioned this monument honoring the dead soldiers and the dead rebels from the conflict.
The 108 stupas sit along the main road leading from Thimphu to the east, at Dochula Pass (an altitude of about 3100 m). These solemn constructions are colorful and decorative, and the forest adjoining the monument is festooned with prayer flags, swaying in the breezes. It is impossible to miss if you're driving east from Thimphu, and marks a beautiful area with a serious and touching reminder of war.
Barely 5 kms before reaching Chuzom or Chhuzom (confluence) from Paro Airport to Thimpu, there is a temple, Tachog Lhakhang Dzong or Tachogang ('temple of the hill of excellent horse'), on your left, past an iron chain suspension bridge and was probably built around 1420 AD. This belongs to the descendants of Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464), the famous bridge builder.
It is worth stopping by the roadside and taking in the view from there. It is estimated that some 108 iron bridges were built by him in Tibet and Bhutan, some of which are still in use today. The bridge next to this one, with a wooden floor, is reserved for cattle else the hoofs of the animals would get entangled in the gaps of the iron bridge.
Though built in the 15thcentury, the iron chain bridge has not rusted – a phenomenon similar to the Iron Pillar of Delhi. The bridge is festooned with brightly-colored prayer flags, as is the practice in the Himalayan region. The base of the bridge is made up of metal netting and is quite flexible.
In 1969, flood waters destroyed the bridge. However, parts of the chains were recovered and stored away safely. In 2005, the temporary cable rope suspension bridge was replaced by using original pieces of iron chain bridge from different parts of Bhutan, like Doksum and Tashigang. The red colour of the soil of the hill on which the Tachog Lhakhang Dzong stands is owing to the high iron content found in the valley, a material which was used to manufacture the original chains.
First Written: Sep. 9, 2013
Some 24 kms and 45 minutes later, we come to a confluence of two rivers – one which had accompanied us from the airport (Pa Chhu) and the other river (Wang Chu) flowing towards us from Thimpu. At Chuzom, the two meet and happily gurgle their way down to the plains of India. We get off and walk across the concrete bridge to pay homage to the three differently-shaped ‘stupas’ or ‘chortens’ from a distance. The left-most one is the Nepali one, the middle one is the Bhutanese one and the right-most one, hidden behind a clump of trees is the Tibetan one.
On the other side of the bridge is a large prayer wheel. Gripping the base with the right hand and spinning it while walking around it thrice in a clock-wise direction, is the norm. One road leads to Phuntsholing while the other takes us to Thumpu.
The drive from the confluence to Thimpu is equally interesting. The river is now Wang Chu and it continues to stay on our left hand side. The scenery is breath-taking as is the freshness of the air. About 45 minutes and 31 kms later, we are in the capital of the Land of the Dragon.
First Written: Sep. 9, 2013
The Buddha Point is about 10 kms out of the town area. A massive statue of the Buddha has been erected on the side of a hill overlooking the entire town. Work is still going on at the site but that does not prevent you from parking your vehicle and walking the few metres to the large cemented courtyard to admire the statue.
The Buddha Dordenma Project of China consists of a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue set amidst the ruins of Kuensel Phodrang, the palace of Sherab Wangchuck, the thirteenth Desi Druk. At a height of 169 ft (51 m), it will be one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. Though its completion was planned for Oct, 2010, site construction was still on as of June 2013. The total cost of the project is well over US$100 million, with the statue alone costing US$47 million. The structure will accommodate 1,00,000 numbers of 8" tall and 25,000 numbers of 12" tall bronze and gilded in gold, Buddha statues.
The erection of the titanic statue is said to fulfill two prophecies - in the 12 century, Sonam Zangpo, the renowned yogi prophesied that a large statue of either Padmasambhava, Buddha or of a phurba would be built in the region. Also, the statue is mentioned by Guru Padmasambhava himself. Next to this site is the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park, formally opened in 2011. The park consists of 943 acres of forest area and surrounds the Buddha Dordenma statue.
First Written: Sep. 9, 2013
The Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery is about 8 kms from Thimpu town centre on the Babesa-Thimpu Expressway. It is one of the last surviving nunnery in Bhutan. Park your vehicle by the roadside and admire the view of the valley below. Thimpu sparkles in the sunlight as the bright red and yellow colours of the houses mingle softly with the greenery surrounding it while the river Wang Chu flows gently past. The air is fresh, the mood tranquil.
You turn around, cross the road and walk a few steps up to the nunnery past a traditional gate. Two or three houses, in close proximity to one another, come into view. The one on the left has waist-high prayer wheels all round it. You turn these with your right hand and circumambulate the house in a clock-wise direction. In the centre is the courtyard where children play badminton. The house furthest away is not only a monastery but also an antechamber which doubles up as a place for the nuns to meditate and pray. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, there is a statue of Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo, the famous bridge builder, depicted as an old man with white hair, white eyebrows and a white flowing beard.
First Written: Sep. 9, 2013
The Tashichoedzong is placed picturesquely in the Thimpu valley beside the river, Wang Chu. After you park your car and walk towards the main eastern entrance, you may gaze at the Royal Palace on your right but you may not take photos.
The original dzong was built by Gyelwa Lhanangpa in 1216 who named it, Do Ngong Dzong, meaning, ‘Fortress of the Blue Stone’. It was located strategically to repulse attackers on a spur of the nearby mountain which now houses the Dechen Phodrang. In 1641, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal reconstructed a new dzong at the same spot and named it, Tashichoedzong, or ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Religion’. A devastating fire destroyed most of this dzong in 1772 which prompted Zhidar, the Desi (Governor) to relocate it to the present site. In 1869, the dzong caught fire again but was promptly rebuilt the following year. After an earthquake in 1897, the dzong was repaired by Jigme Namgyal. When Jigme Dorjee Wangchuk, the third king, shifted his capital to Thimpu, more rooms and floors were added to the dzong to accommodate the civil administration there. It was finally consecrated in June, 1969.
A huge stone staircase leads you to the main entrance from where you turn right, after the mandatory security check and approach another flight of stone steps. The beautifully carved pillars lend a distinctive proportion to the entire structure while the fulsome decorations are a treat to the eyes. As you emerge, you are struck by the vastness of the courtyard. The various ministries and the Royal Chamber are all around this courtyard. The Lhakhang Sarp or ‘New Temple’, built in 1907 has a huge statue of Guru Rinpoche. The mandalas here are worth a closer look as they are of a very intricate nature. Photography is not permitted inside the temple.
As you emerge from the temple, you are once again struck by the vastness of the courtyard. Views from here of the valley below and of the distant hills are simply breath-taking.
First Written: Sep. 9, 2013