Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan. Like any other capital city, it is also one of the biggest and busiest cities in the country. The main part of Thimpu is located around two major streets running in parallel, Chaniam and Nordzim. Thimpu has many shades: On one side, it’s surrounded by religious monuments and temples and on the other side it’s young at heart. Most of the people out on the streets are very young and ready to party. Buddhism doesn’t restrict anyone from eating meat or drinking alcohol, and that is the reason almost every restaurant in Bhutan serves alcohol without restriction. In this post, I will list some of the things you should definitely experience in Thimpu.
How to get to Thimpu?
If you are travelling by air, you will land at the Paro International Airport. Thimpu has located about 50 km from the Paro airport. In off season, it’s hard to get a shared cab from the airport to Thimpu, so you may have to book a cab from the airport. It costs about 1,200 to 1,500 Nu/INR depending on your negotiation skills.
If you are travelling by road from the Phuntsholing border, you can take the Bhutan national bus directly to Thimpu. It costs about 300 Nu/INR, and it takes about 5 hours.
Where to stay in Thimpu?
Due to some policy reasons, almost 80 percent of small and budget hotels are not allowed by the tourism board of Bhutan to accept the online booking. So, the cheapest accommodation you can see on websites is $30 to $40. I booked for one night in the Khamsun Inn at $30 plus taxes, but as soon as I got there I found out that 80% of the hotels that are right there on the main street in the centre cost lot less. Later, I stayed in the Hotel Zay Zeng (10$) and Hotel New Grand (13$) for a couple of days. The owners at Zey Zang were so nice that I almost had a feeling of a homestay and not a hotel. The owners also helped me obtain permits and helped me sort out my travel itinerary. Hotel New Grand is more famous with Indian Tourists as they have a vegetarian restaurant with almost all Indian cuisines.
What to do in Thimpu?
There are multiple things to do in Thimpu that should keep you busy. You can choose to hire a taxi for the whole day to take you to all these places one by one; it will cost you about 1200 to 1500 INR. Alternatively, you can choose to walk to a few places yourself and take a taxi to the places that are far.
Visit Buddha Dordenma (Buddha Point):
About four years ago Bhutan revealed one of the largest statue, Buddha Dordenma, in the world overlooking the Thimpu town. The 50-meter high bronze statue of Buddha is one of the wonders in Bhutan and certainly the rest of the world. Other than this, there are 125,000 statues of Buddha that surround the Buddha Dordenma statue. The surrounding platform of the statue is still under construction, but the main temple is open to tourists and it’s free of cost. The majestic statue overlooking the town looks spectacular from the town as well. It’s something you must see in Thimpu.
Thimphu Chorten (Memorial Chorten):
Memorial Chorten is at a walking distance from the main street. It’s considered as one of the most religious places for Bhutanese people where they pray every day. It’s like a city temple where the locals perform all their daily religious rituals. I was lucky to be in Bhutan in the week of the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. Guru Padmasambhava is worshipped as the second Buddha by Buddhists all around the world. His birth anniversary week was being celebrated across Bhutan while I was there.
We also had the opportunity to see the traditional Zheng Shi Pamo dance during one of the prayers. The temple was very kind to tourists and I was invited inside the temple to have a cup of tea with some biscuits.
The 12th-century Changangkha Lhakhang temple is the oldest temple in Thimpu. The temple houses the central statue of Chenrezig, a manifestation of Avolokitesawara with eleven heads and a thousand arms. The temple is located on the top of the mountain, giving you a stunning view of the Thimpu town. The traditional architecture of the building along with the surrounding prayer wheels with colourful prayer flags makes the trek to all the way up worth it.
‘Dzong’ in the zonka language means ‘Fortress’. Simtokha Dzong has an interesting story behind it. It was built to subdue an evil spirit that was harassing the tourists in the region. Its central tower has 12 sides, and it contains the bedchambers of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and Jigme Namgyel, who are two of the most important figures of Bhutan history.
The Dzong is full of countless original paintings of religious figures, Buddha and many others. Like other temples, this one is also surrounded by the prayer wheels with traditional architecture.
The beautiful 13th-century building is located on the banks of the river Wang Chu. The building serves as the official seat of the Bhutan government along with the Kingship. The King has his own office in the same building. The Parliament and the king’s palace are located close to the Dzong and can be easily seen from a distance.
I went to several Dzongs over my trip and all of them had one thing in common: They all had a major city temple build in them. The combination of administrative office and place of worship in the same building is a unique concept. Clearly, it is one of the reasons why the country is corruption free and so happy with their government. How can you be corrupt sitting in the god’s house? It was truly magical.
Hot Stone Bath:
After a week-long trip filled with sightseeing, multiple treks and more, I finally decided to take the most awaited and deserving activity of my trip: the hot stone bath. It is an ancient therapy practised by Bhutanese where riverside rocks are heated till red hot and gradually submerged into a wooden tub filled with water and scattered with Artemisia leaves. The burning rocks heat the water gradually and thus release minerals into the water. Traditionally, this is done on the riverbanks in order to have plenty of stone supplies, but these days this service is provided by almost all the major hotels in the country for the tourists. There are many standalone hot stone baths and spas too. The two main place to have the hot stone batch in Thimpu is Zung Shina And Babisha. I went to Babisha it was 500/- for a single person for two hours and 700 for doubt tub for 2 hours.
Thimpu Night Life:
This part should not be missed for multiple reasons. The beauty and religiousness you will see all day will blow your mind, but as soon as the Sun goes down, the town changes its colours. Suddenly, roads and streets are flooded with the young people. The lights come up and all the pubs and discos come to life. Traditional clothes are replaced by fashionable attires and hip-hop replaces traditional music. Thimpu is full of karaoke bars and they can be seen almost everywhere. The local people love karaoke. Some of the most active discos and pubs are The Zone (a café), Space 34 (Disco), Mojo Park (Live Music), Viva City (Disco) and Om Bar. Amma’s Restaurant and Karaoke is by far the most fun one I have been to.