Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, and also the name of the surrounding valley and ...
Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan, and also the name of the surrounding valley and dzongkhag, the Thimphu District. With a population of 98,676 (2005 PHCB), it is the largest population centre in the country.
Thimpu became a town in 1961 and grew as the capital of Bhutan. Before 1960, Thimpu was a small settlement but was developed by the King Jigme Dorje Wangchuk to replace the ancient capital of Punakha.
Today the city sprawls across the western slopes of the Wang Chhu river valley, with several government offices located around Tashichoe dzong.
Rapid expansion following the pattern of rural exodus has resulted in considerable rebuilding in the city centre and mushrooming suburban development elsewhere. Norzin Lam, the recently upgraded main thoroughfare, is lined with shops, restaurants, retail arcades and public buildings.
Elsewhere, there is a mix of apartment blocks, small family homes and family-owned stores. By regulation, all buildings are required to be designed in traditional style with Buddhist paintings and motifs. A lively weekend market near the river supplies meat, vegetables and tourist items. Most of the city's limited light industry is located south of the main bridge. Thimphu has a growing number of commercial services and offices which provide for ever-growing local needs. With on going preparations for the 2008 celebrations of 100 years of Monarchy and Bhutan's transition to Parliamentary Democracy, numerous construction projects are visible throughout the city.
Dechen Phrodrang Monastery, Tango Monastery, Cheri Monastery and Dechencholing Palace, the official residence of the King, are located to the north of the city.
Not much is known about the history of Bhutan because of its long seclusion from rest of the world. New explorations have suggested about the presence of men around this region in 2000 BC, but written history dates back to 2nd century AD only. Buddhism as the supreme religion and a way of life was introduced in Bhutan in 8th century when Indian Buddhist monk Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) came to Bhutan and established many monasteries. The Drukpa sub - sect of Kagyud school of Mahayan Buddhism was established as orthodoxy by scholar Padmalingpa in the 15th/16th century. The rise of Drukpa sect also led to establishment of the theocracy of Druk - yul by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1616. Shabdrung is considered as the person who unified the country and constructed most of the remarkable temple - fortresses known as dzongs. He also started the dual system of spiritual and temporal leaders that was ended by Sir Ugyen Wangchuk in the late 19th century.
Sir Ugyen Wangchuk became the first hereditary king of the country and its first reference to modernity. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, father of the present king, is considered as the "father of modern Bhutan"since most of the developments that led the country towards modernity started during his reign. The present king Jigme Singye Wangchuck became the fourth monarch in 1974 and his coronation ceremony saw the entry of foreign media for the first time in the country. The first foreign tourist group entered the country very next year and started the process of restricted entry of tourists to save the culture and environment.
Important Festivals and Exhibitions
Most of the festivals (tsechus) in Bhutan have some or other connection with Buddhism. These festivals are celebrated in the Dzongs with dances, music, and religious allegorical plays. Some of the important festivals include Bhutanese New Year in January/February, Buddha Parinirvana and birthday of Guru Padmasambhava in May/June, first sermon of Buddha and Yar Nyidlok in June/July, Blessed Rainy Day, Thimphu Domchey, and Tsechhu, and Nine Evils' Day.
Bhutan experiences four distinct seasons: Spring (between March and May), Summer (June to August), Autumn (September to mid - December), and Winter (late December to Mid - February). Most of the rainfall takes place in the summer. Winters are severely cold while spring and autumn are mild. Regional variations are immense and probably you will not be able to see that much of variance in a small region anywhere on earth. On the whole, October and November are the best months to visit Bhutan as the sky remains clear and mountains are visible, weather is mild, and most of the festivals take place during this period only.
Memorial Chorten, Tashichho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), Simtokha Dzong, National Museum, Thimphu Golf Course, National Library
Memorial Chorten: The Memorial Chorten dominates the skyline of Thimphu. This Chorten is dedicated to the Third Druk Gyalpo (King), Jigme Dorji Wangchuck after his sudden death while travelling abroad. A great amount of renovation is taking place for the 2008 celebrations to mark the Century of the Monarchy in Bhutan. While you are here in Thimphu, the Capital City of Bhutan, don't forget to take a stroll to the Memorial Chorten which was built in 1974 in memory of the third king His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck which died in 1972. The Chorten looks tall and beautiful as you make round the chorten. The Chorten serves the right place for older people and religious people to come worship the god and pay homepage to the deities.
Tashichho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion): First built in 1661, the Dzong dominates the town of Thimphu. Except the central keep, the entire structure was rebuilt in 1961-62 and now houses the main government departments, the National Assembly, the throne room of the king, and summer headquarters of the Central Monastic Body.
Simtokha Dzong: Built in 1627, this Dzong is oldest in Thimphu and gateway to the Thimphu Valley. The Dzong houses Rigney School for Dzongkha and monastic studies. There are beautiful frescos and slate carvings in Simtokha.
National Museum: The museum's collection includes ancient Bhutanese arts and artifacts, weapons stamps, birds and animals, and an incredible collection of silver tea ware. This is typical of the eclectic beauty of Bhutan - its prized objects bear little relation to each other but as a whole stand together as a history of one of the world's most pristine people.
Thimphu Golf Course: Thimphu Golf Course is the world most remote golf course which lies just next to Tashichodzong, the seat of His Majesty the King of Bhutan and other ministries, The Monastery body reside during summer season. Royal Thimphu golf course is the only course which is open to the public and interested players, How Golf was Introduced to Bhutan : Well talking about the golf in Bhutan, Golf in Bhutan is brought by An Indian Army officer in the early 1970s by convincing Bhutan's king to let him build a course on the fallow rice paddies adjacent to the Thimphu dzong which now has par 34, 2,800 yards.
National Library: The National Library of Bhutan (NLB) was established in 1967 with the primary objective of collecting and preserving mainly ancient Bhutanese written and printed resources. Our multi-functional library can now pride itself on being a modern library with a number of service and research facilities. It accommodates a large and steadily growing collection of manuscripts, books, scriptures and written documents as well as a large number of handcarved wooden blocks for printing traditional religious books.
In particular the NLB holds one of the largest treasuries of Mahayana Buddhist literature in the world.
Air Travel Resources
Unfortunately, Druk Air (national air carrier) is the only air service operating out of Bhutan. Paro International Airport is the only airport in Bhutan connecting it with Kathmandu, Calcutta, Bangkok, Dacca, and New Delhi. Most convenient connection is from Kathmandu and this journey also gives some breathtaking views of the Himalayas. Take a minibus to Thimphu from Paro spending around two hours in this road journey.
From Bagdogra in India, it is possible to drive the 175 km land route to Phuentsholing, the entry point in Bhutan. From Phuentsholing there is a tiring 179 km journey to Thimphu although the journey gives you a great chance to appreciate the natural beauty of the country. It is also possible to travel to Phuentsholing from Siliguri and Calcutta by bus. In most of the cases your trip to Thimphu is going to be arranged by a tour operator who is supposed to take care of all your travel requirements including transport. If you are travelling on your own than make sure that you have a tourist taxi on your disposal.
Not many hotels are there in Thimphu as in other capital cities of the world, but accommodation certainly is not a problem. With the smaller number of tourists being allowed to visit, there is not much of an accommodation crisis, except in the high season. Most of the hotels are good and operate with all the modern facilities. Constructed in the traditional Bhutanese style these hotels provide you the experience of living in an ethnic village.