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Published: January 30th 2015
Norzim lam is one of the most important roads in Thimphu where you find most of the hotels and important official buildings. There are many shops and shopping malls in this area. While most part of Thimphu becomes silent after evening, this place remains very active even in the late evening.
The above picture shows the entrance to Norzim lam from bus stand side. You can find the clock tower on this road. This road goes straight towards Tashicho dzong. The immigration office is also on this road.
There are many shops, shopping malls in the city, mostly around Norzim lam. Plenty of garments, handicrafts, traditional and modern things to buy. (I felt price is higher than India). I was particularly impressed with decorative items related to Buddha and Buddhism.
The Clock Tower
The clock tower square on Norzim Lam is a popular land mark in Thimphu. It is like a open space like an amphitheatre used for various public gatherings. The clock tower is very classic and prominent as you can see in the picture. It is centrally located at the heart of Thimphu city. You can see many hotels around it.
(Umakant standing near Clock tower)
There is a beautiful Lhakhang near the clock tower on Norzim lam. You can rotate the small prayer wheels around the lhakhang. It look very colorful and attractive.
(Mark the prayer wheels around the Lhakhang)
Tashi Cho Dzong
Tashi Cho Dzong is the most respectful dzong and one of the most important tourist attractions in Thimphu. It is 350 years old structure. Currently it is used for some high level offices of ministers and the King of Bhutan. The visitors are allowed to visit this dzong only between 4.30 to 5.30 PM after the office hours.
There was strict security checking before entering into Tashi cho dzong. They checked our ID cards, Permits before allowing us into the dzong. When they first took cameras and bags, I thought probably they would not allow photography inside the dzong. But to my surprise later they returned the cameras and allowed us to take pictures in the dzong. I was so happy and so thankful to them.
(The Lhakhang inside Tashi cho Dzong)
There is a beautiful Lhakhang inside the dzong. The Lhakhang is very large with a huge golden statue of buddha inside. Besides the main statue there are thousands of small buddha statue inside the Lhakhang. Lhakhang is a religious place and photo not allowed inside the Lhakhang.
Please view more photos of Tashi Cho Dzong in my Google+ album.
National Memorial Chorten
National Memorial Chorten is one of the most popular attractions of Thimphu. This chorten was built in 1974 in memory of bhutan's third king Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. This is located near (about 1 km) Thimphu bus stand. Lot of people, both locals and outsiders, visit this place on everyday and move around the stupa for long time.
(National Memorial Chorten in Thimphu)
The chorten is built in Tibetan style. The architecture is very beautiful and attractive. While getting into the chortedn, you can see 10 large prayer wheels in two rows to the left side. A large number of people rotate the prayer wheels as a religious practise.
(Wooden boards for bowing down)
On one side of the chorten there are some wooden boards where people bow down their heads. This practice is not only reduces your ego and stress but also causes blood circulation and keep you healthy.
On the front side of the chorten, there is a beautiful buddha statue. This place is easily accessible as it is centrally located at about 1 km from the bus stand.
Coronation park is a huge park of (about 6 acres) on Chhogyal Lam on the bank of river Thimphu chu. You may say 6 acres is not that big, but this is the largest park in Thimphu. This is located by the side of Chhogyal lam near Changlimithang stadium.
There is a huge Buddha statue in the center of the park. The statue is quite big (please see pic in my album) though not so big as Kuensel phodrang. It is a govt. park and the entry is free. The main attractions of the park are (i) the river, (ii) garden, (iii) Buddha statue. Besides there are some good lawns to sit. Some fast foods are also available there inside. This is an ideal place for weekend picnic.
Please visit my Google+ album on coronation park below.
Changlimithang Stadium is the only stadium in Thimphu. It is located near the Bus stand and Coronation Park (also close to Cham lam and Norzim Lam). There are entries from both Cham lam and Chogyel lam. It is very centrally located in the city.
When we were there a footbal match was going on in Changlimithang stadium. Tickets were easily available on counter @300 nu per head (1 nu= 1 rs).
Weekly Market/ Centenary Farmers Market
Centenary farmers market is located on Chhogyel lam about half a km from Coronation park. The market sits weekly once in Saturday and Sunday. Hundreds of farmers around the place come here to sell their product directly. This includes vegetables, grocery and other items. I had never seen such a large and beautiful vegetable market anywhere. I bought carrot at 60 nu per kg (Bangalore 40 rs) and tomato at 40 nu per kg (in Bangalore 20 rs). The value of 1 nu = 1 rs. In general the price is slightly (20-40%!)(MISSING) higher than the Indian market price.
I was very impressed to see the vegetable market. The vegetables were so clean and fresh. Besides the market was so large and organized. Although Vegetable shops in Bangalore are very organized, Centenary farmers market is much better, bigger and really impressive.
While on one side of the river is the Centenary farmers market, the other side of the river is a market of dress materials, handlooms and handicraft items. You have to cross this beautifully decorated bridge to go to the other side of the Wang chu river.
(The bridge near Centenary Market)
These Weekly markets are gathered on Saturday and Sunday in Thimphu. Hundreds of sellers come from different places to sell their items. The items includes clothes, handicrafts, household items, food items etc.
Dechencholing Palace is far on the north side of the city about 6 kms from Thimphu bus stand. However, there is no entry to this palace and it is guarded by tight security. We visited a school (Dechencholing Middle Secondary school) on the way near Dechencholing palace. The school buildings were beautiful and the children were very happy to see us (foreigners).
Dechen Phodrang Lakhang
Dechen phodrang Lhakhang is a beautiful monastry located at the end of Gaden Lam. This is at a height on the mountain approachable through motorable road. However went there by walk. We took a walk in the morning (about 4 kms) from Norzim lam to reach there.
(The chorten in front of Dechen Phodrang Lhakhang)
As the Lhakhang is located at a height of about 200 mtrs from the Thimphu city, from here you can clearly see the whole Thimphu city from here. You can see Tashi cho dzong, Thimphu chu and other interesting places. You can also see Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha point) from distance. (However, you can see better views from BBS tower, which is much higher).
There are many attractions in dechen phodrang, 1. there is a stupa in the front. This is very prominent and visible from distance, 2. There are three large prayer wheels near the stupa in front of the Lhakhang, 3. The main Lhakhang (monastery or temple) is ocnsidered to be very sacred from religious point of view. A large number of lamas live there in the campus and many students are tought here on buddist religion and culture.
Please view more photos of Dechen Phodrang Lhakhang in my album below.
Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery
Thangtong Dewachen Dupthop Nunnery is located in Zilukha area of Thimphu. As the name is very long, it is often called as Zilukha nunnery in short. There is a beautiful Lhakhang (monastery) inside the nunnery and beautiful Buddha statue is worshiped inside the Lhakhang.
At one side of the nunnery there is a room for butter candles. The nuns usually remain busy with prayers and religious activities. We saw some nuns were organizing butter lamps and preparing clay idols for Buddha Purnima celebration.
Pictures of Zilukha nunnery in my Google+ albumhttps://plus.google.com/photos//albums/6103063706340493041
Bhutan Takin Preserve
Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. It looks something in between a cow and a goat. Although Takin is the national animal, their population is very less. We didn't see any Takin moving outside. The Bhutan national zoo (or Takin Preserve) is built on the mountains in Motithang area to save this endangered animal. Even in the zoo their number is very less.
Apart from Takins we found some deers in the zoo. We met Tenzin and Tenzin, two young students of Institue of Natural medicine, who accompanied us to visit Takins preserve and some other places.
More pictures of “Bhutan Takin Preserve” are in my album below.
From Takins preserve we took a walk to Changankha Lhakhang. Our Bhutan friend Tenzin showed us a shortcut route to reach the Lhakhang fast. The lhakhang is constructed on a ridge, hence you have to climb about more than 100 steps to reach the Lhakhang. While climbing the steps we first saw a chorten (stupa) in the middle of the way. As the place is located on a height we could see the beautiful views of the Thimphu valey from this place.
Changankha Lhakhang is a very old (15th century) monastry and considered to be very important from religious point of view. Bhutanese people must wear their traditional dress in order to enter the Lhakhang. However Indians (and other foreigners) are allowed to enter with decent dress (like pants and shirts).
Please view my album on Changankha Lhakhang below.
We were allowed to go inside the Lhakhang and saw the beautiful buddha inside the Lhakhang. We were lucky to see the prayer of the monks too. The atmosphere inside was extremely spiritual and cannot be expressed in words. People from all round Thimphu come here to get the blessings of the Lama. Photography is not allowed inside the prayer hall.
Kuensel Phodrang (or Buddha dordenma or Buddha Point) is the recent most attraction of Thimphu. It is located on a hill about 8 kms from Thimphu. There is one single road leading to Kuensel phodrang. The road is recently built and in excellent condition.
There is a 52 meters tall bronze statue of Lord Buddha. The statue is so big that it is visible from almost everywhere in the city. There are 125000 small buddha statues are placed inside buddha dordenma. The throne on which Buddha sits is a large meditation hall.
(Mountain view from Buddha Point)
Because of the hight of the place we could see the beautiful views of Thimphu city and magnificient views of Himalayan mountains around the place.
Please Visit my album on Kuensel Phodrang
Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park
Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park is located about 100 mtrs away from the Buddha statue on the same hill. There is nothing much manmade in the nature park, but the natural ups and downs, trees and forests are quite interesting. You can see the Buddha statue from here from a different angle and from a hight.
Though this is not an independed tourist destination, this can be attached while visiting Buddha point. You should keep sufficient time to visit this point while you are going to visit the Buddha statue at Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha point).
My google+ album on the Kuensel phodrang nature park.
Thimphu bus stand
This building (below) in the picture is the main bus stand of Thimphu. You can find busses here to go different parts of Bhutan. However, the number of busses is very less. For example, there are only two busses go from Thimphu to Paro in a day (which is pathetic). Hence most passengers have to depend on Taxi.
(Thimphu main bus stand)
Most buses go in the morning. Generally you find a lot of busses at 7 to 8 o'clock in the morning and thereafter the place looks vacant. There is hardly any bus going after 2 o'clock in the afternoon. This is to avoid journey in the evening as it becomes dark after 4.30 or 5. The buses are all small like 20 seaters. There is no bigger bus running anywhere in Bhutan.
The management of the ticket counters is very poor. Ticket counters will open just before the bus time. Other times the counter will be vacant, even during the working hours. Even if there is provision for advance booking, you cannot book the ticket, as there will be nobody in the counter.
I was really very surprised to see the ticket counters in Thimphu bus stand. The counters are just selling spaces. The ticket seller comes, sells the tickets and leaves the counter, like street side vegetable venders in India. But later realized that why should a person sit for the whole day if there is only one bus or two (i.e., to sell 20 or 40 tickets).
Food in Thimphu
There are many good restaurants in Thimphu. Food is generally costlier compared to India. Cheapest veg momo = 50 nu, cheapest veg chawmin= 80 nu etc. which you need 2-4 plates to fill your stomach Thimphu being the capital city, there are many rich people and outsiders who can afford to pay high price. Low income local people don't eat in restaurants, rather open their own restaurants. Hundreds of women sit with their Thupka buckets by the side of Norzim lam and make their daily income by selling at 20 nu per (small) glass.
Summary and Conclusion
By and large our experience in Thimphu was wonderful. The most interesting was to see the beautiful buildings which are all made in the same design. Whether it is a govt office or a hotel or a private house, they all look very similar. The other attraction was the views of Himalayan mountains everywhere in the city. The place is easy and safe. The people are friendly and helpful.
One difficult thing in Thimphu is that there is no cheaper transport in the city, no shared taxis even. So you have to pay around 2000-3000 nu per day for researved taxis or be prepared to walk a lot to go anywhere. Some town buses run between Dechenchong and Semtoka but very difficult to locate and recognize them.
Out of the tourist attractions I would rank Tashi Cho Dzong, National Memorial Chorten and Buddha Point as top three. These three are the most important attractions and must visit for anybody who goes Thimphu. However, from religious perspective I was very impressed with the spiritual atmosphere of Dechen Phodrang Lhakhang and Changankha Lhakhang. Last but not the least, Thimphu is a beautiful place and you should visit (alongwith Paro) atleast once if possible.
I have a set of detail videos all the important tourist places of Thimphu and Paro. Please visit my Bhutan Videos on the playlist on youtube below.
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