Thimphu

Thimphu is Bhutans capital city. The population of Thimphu is estimated to be about 30,000. It is located in the west of Bhutan.

Thimphu is modern in age only: new buildings are still based on traditional designs with elaborately painted trefoil-shaped windows and nailless wooden frames. Among its sights are the Memorial Chorten (dedicated to the kings late father Jigme Dorji Wangchuck) and the Tashicho Dzong a 350-year-old structure built by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and refurbished in 1961 to house government departments and ministries.

The kings throne room is in this Dzong. As the nations largest monastery it is the summer quarters of 2 000 monks and the Je Khenpo, the spiritual leader and head of the monk body. Next to the Dzong is Thimphu’s only golf course.

Also in town are the Changgankha Monastery and the early-17th-century Simtokha Dzong (fortress-turned-university of the Buddhist studies).

Shop for local crafts at the multilevel Government Handicraft Emporium (where you can also cash travelers checks) or at one of several privately run emporiums (Choeki Handicrafts is a good choice for its wide selection and reasonable prices). Budding painters and sculptors can be seen at work at the National Art School and tours to the National Library Jungshi Paper Factory and Royal Academy of Performing Arts are rewarding cultural experiences.

Stop at the Swiss Bakery, a frequent hangout for tourists and expatriates for pastries and coffee.

Thimphus weekend market is the biggest in Bhutan and well worth a stop. Although many of the crafts items are manufactured imports from India and Nepal the extensive area of fresh grains and vegetables is worth at least an hours walk-through.

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