Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government, home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, business herb center and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects. One third of the country's population resides in the capital city that does not have a single traffic light.
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Institute of Traditional Medicine
Bhutan has long and rich tradition of medicine based on natural remedies derived mainly from plants and earth, and some animals. This institute has facility for out patients, training, research and production of traditional medicine. The courses to become traditional doctors entail six to eight years of strenuous study after high school. The institute has an exhibition room that imparts excellent look into the tradition.
School of Traditional Arts and Crafts
Popularly known as the Painting School, the school offers a six-year course in the techniques of traditional art in religious and secular paintings, woodcarving, clay sculpture and traditional mask making. One can see students working through progressive levels practicing precise rules of Bhutanese art. The school also has a showroom from where student works are sold at a very reasonable price compared to town for the same quality of work.
National Memorial Chorten
Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity, originally envisaged the building of this landmark. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”) and a monument to peace. Within the monument there are finely executed wall paintings and delicately fashioned statues which provide deep insight into Buddhist philosophy. People from all walks of life visit the stupa to circumambulate and worship their religion.
Buddha Dordenma Statue
This massive statue of Shakyamuni stands at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The statue is made of bronze and gilded in gold. The throne that the Buddha Dordenma sits upon is a large meditation hall.
The Buddha Dordenma is located at the top of a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley. The statue fulfills an ancient prophecy that dates back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world. From the site you will have excellent bird’s eye view of Thimphu city.
While visiting Thimphu, you may be able to catch a game of archery in progress at the Changlimithang Stadium, just below the town. Archery is the national game of Bhutan and is played using traditional bamboo bows and arrows as well as with modern compound bows and arrows.
The “fortress of the glorious religion” was initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in the 1960s. While other governments around the world ensconced themselves in fortresses of stone and steel, the seat of Bhutan’s Royal Government is in a building that mirrors the country’s culture and its people.
The building we see today is largely a modern affair, built in 1962 when His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk moved the government to Thimphu after a fire at its original location.
Currently, only the complex’s central tower is part of the original structure. Tashichho Dzong presently houses the main secretariat building as well as the throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan. During the warmer summer months the monk body headed by His Holiness the Je Khenpo, makes its home in the Dzong.
Located 3050m above sea level and on the road between Thimphu and Punakha, you can get a spectacular view of the Himalayas to the north of Dochula Pass when the sky is clear. The pass is marked by 108 chortens (stupa) which are Buddhist reliquaries, memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes, actual relics of the Buddha or revered monks are inserted into the dome of the stupa. Whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings.
Motithang Takin Preserve
Originally established as a mini-zoo, The King decided that such a facility was not in keeping with Bhutan’s environmental and religious convictions, and it was disbanded some time ago. The animals were released into the wild but the takins, Bhutan’s national animal, were so tame that they wandered around the streets of Thimphu looking for food, and the only solution was to put them back into captivity. It’s worthwhile taking the time to see these oddball mammals. The best time to see them is early morning when they gather near the fence to feed. It’s a five-minute walk from the road to a viewing area where you can take advantage of a few holes in the fence to take photographs.
Simtokha Dzong was built in 1627 and is the oldest Dzong in Bhutan that still maintains its original form. Formerly a Bhuddist monastery, it now houses a monastic school.
Most of the Thimphu population and many valley dwellers converge on the bustling weekend market, held down by the riverside. A wide range of foodstuffs and local arts and crafts are sold at the market, which runs from Friday to Sunday. A visit to the market provides great photo opportunities, as well as the chance to mingle with local people and perhaps buy some souvenirs.
In Bhutan, textiles are considered the highest form of art and spiritual expression. Our hand looms have evolved over centuries and reflect the country’s distinctive identity. Most of the designs and patterns of weave are unique to the country. Bhutanese weavers have been very innovative in their designs while maintaining the traditional character of the art. By utilizing primarily the simple back strap loom, the Thunder Dragon People have crafted one of the most advanced and sophisticated weaving cultures in the history of civilization.
Weaving Centre produces hand-woven textiles on site and has a selection of cloth and ready-made garments for sale. This is one of the few places where you can watch weavers at work.
Visit the government-run Handicrafts Emporium and privately owned crafts shops, which offer a wide range of handcrafted products, including the splendid Thangkha paintings and exquisitely woven textiles for which Bhutan is famous.