Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcome to Thimphu- the World’s Coziest Capital

Thimpu is the capital and the changing face of modern Bhutan. She stands the trend setter. What happens in Thimphu today happens to every other town in the country tomorrow. Never has the mix and fusion of modernization and globalization been more stark, naked, bemusing and harmonious as it does in the capital on a daily roll. Remnants of the old way of life is embodied in the older generation who still throng the capital’s monasteries in Changangkha Lhakhang (monastery), the Memorial Chhorten (stupa) and other monasteries and temples that lie scattered around the valleys of Thimphu.

Tashichho Dzong, the officials working citadels of the King and the Je Khenpo

The Dzong's Interiors

a Residential Part of Thimphu at Dusk

Thimphu Nighlights

The 169 Foot Buddha Dordenma Blessing the Capital

The Frontal Visage

Tashichho Dzong Flanked by the Wang Chhu River

A Pleasant Summer's Day 

The Memorial Chhorten Built in Honor of the Third Druk Gyalpo

a Bird's Eye View of the Capital From a Popular Walking Spot Called Sangaygang

The Clock Tower Square in the Heart of Thimphu. A Venue Used for Concerts and Fairs

Not too long ago, Thimphu was but a stopover for couriers and travelers alike from strategic valleys and fortresses, chief among them Trongsa, located in the heart of the kingdom and Paro on the western flank with Tibet.  Even as recently as the sixties, Punakha held sway as the country’s capital. But after modernization set in just about the same time, Thimphu’s favor kept increasing with Punakha effectively rendered the winter capital on account of its warmer climes and the traditional practice that saw the Central Monastic Body, headed by the Je Khenpo (the Spiritual Leader in the manner of the Temporal and Spiritual Rulers as established by the Great Shabdrung) reside the winters in Punakha and come summer, back to Thimphu. Today the practice continues but for matters of faith.
The Wedding of HM to His Majesty King Khesar to Jetsun Pema Wangchuck was the Highlighting Love Story of 2011.
The People's King Wed the People's Queen

School Boys and the Beautiful Game

Cafes are Becoming Popular as More Thimphups Discover Coffee

a Woman Sells Traditional Doma (Betel Leaf, Nut and Lime) in the Centennial Farmers' Market

Song and Dance in a Drayang

Elders Go Around a Temple; a Common Practice for the Elderly Bhutanese

HM the King Cycles Thimphu's Main Street on the First Day of Tuesday, Officially Made Pedestrian's Day

Traditionally, a Family Always Sent One Boy to Become a Monk

Norzin Lam, the Capital's Main Street

a Policeman Directs Traffic. Thimphu has No Traffic Lights. An Attempt in the 90s Failed Miserably

The Bhutanese Love for Chilies is Legendary

The Taj Tashi Thimphu- an Architectural Delight

The First Official Portrait of HM with the Future Dragon Queen. People Warmed Up to the Endearing Beautiful Bride Almost Instantaneously

Thimphu Golf Course; Probably One of the Most Picturesque. A Common Complaint Concerns Errant Balls Breaking in the Public Offices at Near the Dzong

The Centennial Farmer's Market Provides Seasonal Fruits and Delights to the Culinary Tongue

Little Monks in a Shedra (Buddhist School) Take a Siesta

Weaving is a Traditional Practice and an Artistic Heritage

The Takin Reserve in Thimphu. A Curious Looking Animal with a Colorful Legend

Red Rice, Chilies with Cheese (Ema Datsi) and Paa (Pork or Beef) is a Beloved Dish with Salted Butter Tea to Wash it Down

The Ubiquitous Phallus is Drawn on Houses to Ward Off Bad Spirits

Thimphu is a lovely valley. Where the town now hustles and bustles was once rice fields. Folks were mostly farmers. But in a span of five decades or so Thimphu has become the capital. The old sways of Lhuentse, Bumthang, Trongsa, Punakha and Paro had to give way to Thimphu. Today it’s a bustling town of 98,676.
Real estate threatens to climb the mountains now that hills have been flattened and conquered as space tightens and occupants grow. But its best claim to fame will probably be the fact that at one time in the eighties; traffic lights were set up, confusing traffic policemen, drivers and pedestrian alike. It was rid off. A policeman directs what is a growing monster of motorists in the city’s main junction. Deft and efficient, the officers conduct traffic rather admirably. Although dusk is a natural time for the last policeman to guide traffic that is when traffic has begun to swell and grow. Not they shoot speed guns at a five kilometer stretch called The Expressway. And weekends are a busy time. The speed at which Drayangs (a Bhutanese equivalent of an entertainment house) and discotheques have mushroomed, things are getting harder still for the once-happy traffic-man with the times.

Norzin Lam is Crowded on 13.0.'11- Their Majesty's Wedding Day

Small Pockets of Rice Fields Still Surround the Capital

Attired in Their Finest, Thimphu's Tsechu is also a Fashion Parade

Tashichho Dzong is Also the Summer Residence of the Monastic Body

Schools Follow the Traditional Dress Code

The Battle of Changlimithang Continues Today in the Form of Archery Tournaments

The capital has its quaint charms though… winters are sunny with clear blue skies and snow peaked mountaintops. The spring brings in riotous colors, as does a very wet monsoon and a summer of sunflowers. In autumn, the capital turns into crisp golden leaves.

Their Majesties the Kings reside here, albeit very humbly, known only too well and for that and more, remain so beloved by their people they refused the democratic transition the Fourth Dragon King bestowed as a gift along with a Constitution that is as just as justice possibly can be when begotten from such a figure. His son, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck now rules; nay, rather serves his subjects. The King lives in a quaint little spread near the river called the Lingkana Palace, though it does mock the palaces where monarchs normally reside rarely in touch or feel with his own subjects. His Majesty walks the most forsaken corners of his realm, mediates like the wise-old kings of old, and is never too busy to do what he has always resonated: to be a good human being and as king, to serve to better the lives of his subjects. It’s this compassionate yet firm quality in his approach and example that many a forlorn Bhutanese take refuge in.
His father lives in the woods, where he always did once the wooden cottages were laid ready. That is his palace. And being in Thimphu it is quite likely you might spot on of the kings either cycling, or in the ground known as Changlimithang where he was enthroned with the Raven Crown and the Golden throne back in 2008.

Then he speaks to his subjects, and then mingles with and amongst them. Many a face he knows by name, together with their families and problems.

Fairway on the Gold Course with a Peeping Tashichho Dzong

Every Town in Bhutan Has a Bus Station Equaling a Landmark
Real Estate Keeps Skyrocketing as the Population Keeps Growing

This is what makes Thimphu so special. As honored guests, whenever His Majesty spots a foreigner, he talks and inquires about your health, your journey, and the country you come from. Such is the fortunate karma of the citizens of the capital. And in visiting our country and our capital, yours too. It does balm the soul and heals the eyes to always be able to see the 169 feet tall statue of the Buddha Dordenma in the Kuenselphodrang Nature Park. It’s a lovely way to go on for a walk and a view to a city like no other in the world.  Thimphu is a cozy capital, perhaps the coziest because it has no skyscrapers. There are no MacDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and the brands of the multinationals that is threatening to turn the world into a uniformed monotheistic panorama of choreographed boredom.

What is still abundantly visible are the sights of frail old hands spinning prayer wheels and counting prayer beads, as elders circumambulate the temples and monasteries together with the new gadget generation. It is not to say the trends are negative but rather one of harmonium as the old discover ways of slotting in the nooks and corners of the bold new generation and the bold new generation, despite appearances, is as Bhutanese as those of yesteryear. And one trait that every Bhutanese takes pride in, from the east to the west, from the south to the remote north, is the extreme care and sense of hospitality that is bestowed upon and welcomed with open hearts and minds when it comes to visitors, honorable guests, as we like to call them.

This is again manifested in the way we run and treat our clients when they come and spend whatever time they have with us. The motto we carry is also the motto we execute: For the Spirited Traveler with every Moment a Milestone.

Thus Thimphu officially became the Bhutanese capital in 1961. The population is nearing a 100,000 off the record, as farmlands may way for housing in pleasant valleys on the outskirts and fringes of a mushrooming town as traditional as it is modern. Thimphu is spread out in a north-south direction with the Wang Chhu (river) running through it. The altitude ranges between 2,248m (7,375 ft) to 2,648m (8,688 ft). The airport at Paro is about a casual 45 minute-ride.

The Thoroughfare Gets Busier and Busier for the Lone Policeman Directing Traffic

Since Bhutan Went to the Historic Polls in 2008, Democracy is Slowly  Becoming a Way of Life and Governance But Monarchy Still Remains the Most Revered and Beloved of Institutions for the Bhutanese people
Their Majesties Mingled with the People on their Wedding Day Stretching Over Seven Days

Landmarks include the SAARC Building, which houses the National Assembly of the newly formed parliamentary democracy, the Tashichho Dzong, the official working chambers of His Majesty the King, and right below the Dzong palace of the King, Lingkana. Dechenchholing Palace, the official residence of the King lies about a 10-minute ride in a lovely valley that is effectively the grounds of the Royal Body Guards, an elite force in service of the King. The culture of Bhutan is fully reflected in Thimphu in respect to literature, religion, customs, and the national dress code. Its a center for the monastic practices, music, dance, literature the burgeoning media . The Tsechus and Dromches  (festivals), celebrated in honor of Guru Padmasambhava, are colorful festivals observed during the fall.

And folks still talk to their neighbors and shopkeepers. Its another aspect that adds up to making Thimphu perhaps the coziest capital there ever was.

*For The Spirited Traveler

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