thimphu

Thimphu is the Kingdom of Bhutan’s only city and its capital.

This is the capital of Bhutan with a population of approximately 100,000 people. It is the largest town in Bhutan, about an hour from the airport in Paro. As you enter the valley, you drive on Bhutan’s first four-lane expressway, which takes you right into the heart of town, over two dramatic flyover bridges.

Introduction

Thimphu

Thimphu is the Kingdom of Bhutan's only city and its capital. Accordingly, it is the political center of the country—a country whose livestock and agricultural economy represents about 45 percent of its GNP. Tourism also contributes significantly to the economy but, amazingly, this relatively tiny nation is more concerned with defending and preserving its wonderful culture and social tapestry than it is with raking in the money from tourists.

Ironically, it is this sticktoitiveness to cultural and historical preservation that makes this country such an attractive stop-over for visitors from all over the world.

As one would expect, Thimphu hosts Bhutan's most politically important buildings, including the Dechencholing Palace (the King's official residence) and the recently-created parliamentary democracy's National Assembly building. The city is governed according to something called Thimphu's “Structure Plan,” a plan developed primarily to protect the valley's fragile and pristine ecology. This is a long-term development plan partly funded by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

By all means, Bhutan's rich, resplendent and easy-to-admire customs, literature, love for the arts, devotion to spiritual growth, commitment to the preservation of its many cultural and historical monuments/landmarks, etc., are what set these people apart. The 4-day festival of Tshechu, featuring elaborate masked dances at the Tashichho Dzong, for example, is a testament on many levels of the love and respect the Bhutanese people have for their culture and way of life.

ABOUT THE BHUTANESE

As of 2005, Timphu had a population of approximately 79,185 and about 7,850 persons living per square miles. The city boasts of being about 712 square miles. As of 2011, the population rose to about 91,000.

ACCESSIBILITY TO THE CITY

As for getting to Thimphu, it's mostly by using the airport at Paro surrounded by mountains, the airport is one of the most difficult in the world to land at but, apparently, the pilots that fly there know the route very well. If you intend to visit, don't look out the window if you have a weak stomach or are fearful of flying to begin with. In spite of the hairy-scary route, though, thousands of flights here have proven that it's relatively safe to come here by plane.

10 THINGS TO DO & PLACES TO VISIT AT OR NEAR THIMPHU

1. The Institute of Traditional Medicine - This world-famous medical facility is said to collect thousands of medicinal herbs, roots and plants from the remotest parts of this Garden of Eden-like area. These botanical specimens are then used to manufacture ointments, pills, tablets and other medicines which are then distributed to healthcare facilities throughout the country.
Since the interest in holistic medicine has been growing in the West, this is a good place to visit in order to learn about how many diseases have been prevented or treated in this part of the world for hundreds of years by using only natural-ingredients medicine.

2. The Tashchichho Dzong - The Thimphu Dzong is a famous Buddhist fortress and monastery on the northern part of the city. This is the official office of the civil government's head or the Dharma Raja, who shares some powers with the kingship; it is also the country's official summer capital. As one would expect, this is a magnificent place to behold and visit. The building offers elaborate towers and roof architecture that makes this seem more like a theatre prop than a real place—but, alas, it is!

3. The Cheri Goemba - This is Bhutan's first monastery and it's not too far from Thimphu. In fact, it's the oldest monastery in Bhutan, as far as we know. It's possible to reach the base of this magnificent structure by using a local cab; thereafter, though, you have a bit of climb that isn't for anyone not physically fit or afraid of heights. The Bhutanese absolutely revere this place, with good reason.

4. The National Institute for Zurig Chusum - This institution, better known as the “school of painting,” runs several educational programs in the 13 traditional arts Bhutan is famous for. The well-motivated students that come here can delve into elaborate forms of painting, embroidery, woodcarving, and statue sculpting, usually with the use of clay. The pieces made here are impressive—even the ones created by mere students. You will be impressed with the quality of what is displayed and put up for sale here.

5. Buddha Dordenma - The Buddha Dordenman is a huge statue of Buddha high up in the mountains of Bhutan. Interestingly, the statue itself is the home for over 100,000 smaller statues of Buddha, made from bronze and gold. You will be in awe at the size of the statue, as well as the artistry that it took to create it.

6. The National Memorial Chorten - This Tibetan-motif religious structure is the focus of worship for many Bhutanese. Built in 1974, it is a memorial to the 3rd King of the country. People visit here either for religious reason or to pay tribute; it is also a great site to visit for tourists. This site features magnificent Asian architecture, elaborately painted annexes, marvelous mandalas, and a shrine to the King.

7. Changlimithang Stadium (and sports grounds) - Built on a famous battlefield, this is where many fine cricket, football, and archery competitions take place. Not surprisingly, the residents of Thimphu are very talented and athletically-oriented people; this is evident from the quality of athletic performances (especially in archery) seen here.

8. Changangkha Temple - This is one of the most ancient temples of Thimphu valley. This is the home of gigantic prayer wheels, super-sized sacred scriptures and, most importantly, a sculpted figure of Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara, a lord/master that looks over the troubles/sadness of life, according to the Buddhist faith.

9. Bhutan Textile Museum - This great edifice can be found near the National Library of Bhutan. Operated by the National Commission for Cultural Affairs since 2001, this museum has become world-famous by featuring a rich tapestry of a wide array of very exquisite works of art. You can spend a whole day here alone and quite possibly not see everything on display, especially if you want to look at things closely.

The main purpose of the museum was to promote Bhutan's well-established interest in hand-created textiles and to endorse the many weavers that have kept their art going strong for so many years. More importantly, the museum celebrates the rich traditions of Bhutan.

10. National Library of Bhutan - Established in 1967, the library seeks to promote the rich religious and cultural traditions of Bhutan by displaying artifacts, works of art and pieces of literature, some of which date back to early times in the country's history. This place is an ideal stop-over for anyone doing serious research on the country's heritage and history; it also houses many priceless and sacred religious manuscripts.

GEOGRAPHICAL FACTS

Thimphu geographical facts

Thimphu is located on the central western part of Bhutan. Actually, the original capital was Punakha but it became Thimphu official in 1961. Spread out rather well in the valley (and Dochula pass) that houses it, Thimphu is the 3rd highest capital of the world. As such, expect the air here to be thinner, as you would, for example, if you visited Mexico City or Denver, Colorado, both of which are also comparatively high in altitude.

Thimphu is nestled in a range of mountains—as such, it is very picturesque but difficult to get to when compared to many other cities in the world. The climate here, though, is consistently mild, the coldest being about 27.3 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to about 77 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. There are several rivers surrounding or crossing the city of Thimphu, which is probably why the land here is so well-given to agriculture.

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