Four places to see in Thimpu
Here we offer you four places to see in Thimpu if you have just one day to spend. A fairly small for a capital, Thimpu is beautiful and neat. Residents are very polite, traffic disciplined and the drivers relaxed. However, its a wealthy town, most people own an SUV and prefer to drive around than walk.
We put up at Yoseul hotel 2 on Norzin Lam 1. ‘Lam’ means ‘Street’ in Bhutanese. We had only one day in Thimpu and wanted to make the best of it. In the morning Rajesh had to rush to the bus stand to get hold of the driver to retrieve Ruchi’s purse which had dropped out of her backpack. After searching everywhere, we had concluded the previous evening that the only place it could have been misplaced is in the public transport bus that we had come in from Phuentsholing. And as luck would have it, the purse lay well settled in the front seat, only that, the bus was locked and the driver no where to be found. After asking around, we located him in the canteen, and he returned the purse with a smile. We were hungry ourselves by then and settled down in the canteen within the bus stand premises, and surprisingly it served good food. We ate omelettes, Puri-aloo, and noodles.
Four places to see in Thimpu
1. Exploring the Memorial Chorten
Memorial Chorten (chorten means Stupa) is a Buddhist shrine built in 1974 by the Queen, in memory of her Royal son, the Third Druk Gyalpo, (regarded as the father or modern Bhutan) and is a short pleasant walk from our hotel (rather from anywhere in Thimpu). And a beautiful place to pray and get peace. The lovey hills in the background only add to the beauty.
We walked up a small pavement adjacent to some army buildings and emerged on Chorten Lam. Traffic is yet to build up and only a few enthusiastic tourists are to be seen. There is a small parking lot in case you are driving your own vehicle. And a decorated wooden gate greets you at the entrance of the shrine. There were already some tourists and elderly locals doing their prayers, peacefully walking around the central shrine with their prayer wheels in hand.
2. The Kings Palace and Tashichhoedzong
Tashichhoedzong is the seat of the Bhutanese government and houses official buildings. Next to it is the Royal Palace, where the King & Queen of Bhutan, and their family stay. The Palace is situated in a large campus at the northern end of the city (follow the main street along the Taj Tashi hotel) and visitors are allowed to walk up to the final entrance of the Palace but not beyond that. The guard at the entrance shoo-ed us away, telling us not to come any more closer. Tashichhoedzong is open to public, but we skipped it. For us, this was more of a pleasant walk, soaking in the experience of a unique place.
3. Trek up to Sangay gaon (Sangay Village)
Sangay gaon is not even mentioned anywhere. But that’s what we are for. To help identify off-beat locations to visit. And as trekkers, we always try to seek places that are hard to access but offer great views. Its difficult to give a route for Sangay gaon, you’ll have to ask for directions. Sangay gaon is a five km hike over a well surfaced road and atleast 2000 ft higher than Thimpu. This gives it great vantage, a complete view of the valley of Thimpu. As the three of us started walking, what first seemed like an insurmountable climb was suddenly so accessible as we started the ascent. And after two hours of aching feet and hurting soles, we are treated to breathtaking views of the city of Thimpu. The hill is full of prayer flags which fluttered vehemently in the extremely windy environment. We had a mini lunch of bread and cheese that we had picked up on our way.
4. Buddha Dordenma or Buddha Statue
This is a massive statue of Lord Buddha, that greets you on entering Thimpu. While I desperately wanted to go see it, after the Sangay gaon climb, I was now against it as we were getting late and I was also tired. This statue is at the other end of the town, and can be seen in the above left picture from Sangay gaon. Rajesh & Ruchi would however have none of this. They kept pushing me as we walked and walked and kept asking for directions. And soon realised it was too far to walk and still get back to our hotel on time to leave for our next destination Paro. However we were very impressed with the sight of the huge statute that we had seen the previous evening when we entered Thimpu, that we were determined to see it up close. We immediately hailed a taxi.
The work of constructing this statute is still under progress, it started in 2009 with aid from the Japanese government, and would probably get completed by end of 2017. A whole hill has been flattened and concretised, on top of which are two more plinths and then a massive statue of Lord Buddha going up several hundred feet into the air. Both the levels of plinth and the statute are simmering in gold. At the second level is the temple, with intricate wooden artwork, also painted in gold. Once completed, this would probably be one of the major attractions in Bhutan.
Earlier in the day, I was out on the streets of Thimpu to do some photography. The streets were still empty, except for a few students on their way to school, and some residents taking a stroll.