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Bhutan is surely a small kingdom but the list of experience is quite a big one. Thimphu –The capital of one of the world’s most intriguing destinations. Thimphu combines a natural small-town feel with a new commercial exuberance. It is the one among the two capital cities in Asia without traffic lights; the main traffic is controlled by a smartly dressed traffic police-man wearing white gloves.
This was our first and fascinating planned destination in Bhutan. We took a flight from Mumbai to Bagdogra. We reached there in the evening so stayed there for the night. We needed to reach Phuensholing(it is a small town in Bhutan adjacent to the Indian border) before 10AM to get a permit so we left early in the morning by cab. It took almost 4hrs to reach there.
At the border only we got to know that how sweet and helpful Bhutanese are! After completing the formalities at immigration office, urgently we required to mail scan copies of documents but there wasn’t any internet café nearby. In hope of help, we went to the adjacent private office and asked for help. Even though they weren’t allowed to do so but still they helped on a condition that I would send their love and wishes to bollywood and their favorite actor, Salman Khan 😛
After completing the formalities, we preferred to reach Thimphu by public transport because the cab charges were very high. We took a bus from Phuensholing bus stand. The bus driver was Nepali and was continuously playing Nepali song as we couldn’t understand anything and were getting bored but soon a couple entered the bus. The man was really humorous and cracking jokes in Bhutanese. We couldn’t understand anything but were enjoying his expressions and body language. The man was really funny and In sometime, atmosphere inside the bus had changed. The conductor said to the man that we were also enjoying his jokes. He came to us and tried to convey something in a Bhutanese-English mix. All we could understand was he loved when Indians come to visit their country and we should come often. The bus driver was really helpful and was helping everyone in the way who traveled for short distances without asking for money. Due to this it took us 7hrs to reach Thimphu.
Host received us from the bus stop. We reached the Tshetrim’s home-stay and he escorted us to our room. The room was really beautiful, spacious and it had many facilities in the room itself and we were free to use their kitchen. It was really cold, by the time we freshen up; the owner of the home-stay Tshetrim brought Tea & biscuits for us. We are very tired so after having dinner we slept early.
Next morning we took some ideas from Tshetrim’s younger brother Sangay about attractions and places to visit in Thimphu. As per his suggestion we reached Thimhu cab stand and hired a cab for the day. This was the actual lucky time when we met the driver Passang I mentioned in my last blog. The driver also explained us about the festival going on that day in many monasteries. He accompanied us everywhere and explained us about every famous place. Attractions and places we witnessed in Thimphu:
i) National Memorial Chorten:
At first our cab driver Passang took us to the National Memorial Chorten. a large Tibetan-style Chorten. It is one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu, and for many Bhutanese it is the focus of their daily worship. It was built in 1974 as a memorial to the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–72). Mass gathering was there, many cars parked outside the Chorten, seems some festival was going on. Passang told us one of the biggest festivals in the country Tshechu is going on. This festival is held in the capital city for three days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of whom travel from neighboring districts to attend the festivities. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods. When we reached near the main gate, there were entry fee 300 bucks per person for foreigners which was quite high .
Festival was really grand, I was so lucky to witness biggest festivals in the country. All the devotees and visitors were being served hot milk and sugar coated biscuits.
ii) Buddha Point:
Next we reached one of the most happening points in Thimphu. It is locally named Buddha Point but the actual name is Kuensel Phodrang. It is called the Buddha point because the largest statue of Buddha in the country sits there.This massive statue of Shakyamuni measures in at a height of 51.5 meters, making it one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The Buddha Dordenma is located atop a hill in Kuenselphodrang Nature Park and overlooks the Southern entrance to Thimphu Valley and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
We became mesmerized to see the beautiful view all around at this point. The same festival was being celebrated here at much larger scale. Devotees were being offered lunch as prasad also.
iii) Dechen Phodrang Monastery:
Dechen Phrodrang meaning “Palace of Great Bliss” is a Buddhist monastery in Thimphu, Bhutan. It is located to the north of the city. The monastery contains a number of important historical Bhutanese artifacts including 12th century paintings.
Memorable incident at Dechen Phrodrang, Thimphu
Dechen Phrodrang, Thimphu
Dechen Phrodrang, Thimphu
Memorable incident at Dechen Phrodrang, ThimphuWhen we were outside the place, this old man was rotating the prayer wheel. As i went to him, he clutched my hand. Suddenly it felt like my grandfather clutched my hand in his last days.
Dechen Phrodrang, Thimphu
Dechen Phrodrang, ThimphuIn 1971 it became a monastic school and currently it has 450 student monks enrolled in eight-year courses with a staff of 15.
iv) Takin Preserve Zoo
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. We saw Bhutan’s national animal Takin there. The preserve houses the Takin, a unique, endangered species found only in Bhutan, Nepal, China and Burma. Bhutan has chosen it as the national animal due to its significance in the country’s religious and cultural history.
v) Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazaar
Also known as the handicraft market ofThimphu is a perfect place to get a glimpse inside the art and craft of Bhutan. As you will enter the place, the ever smiling Bhutanese people will welcome you, who are mostly the youngsters. The shops are made using the eco-friendly bamboo, and you will definitely get mesmerised with the vibrant colours on display. While strolling through the market one can simply not ignore the display of pictures, images, royal clothes or batches of king and queen of Bhutan in almost every shop, which clearly denotes the respect that people have for their king.
vi) Centenary farmers’ market
It is a good place to visit to see the wide range of Bhutanese goods and vegetable market in a two storage wooden building. We bought home made cheese, fresh fruits, eggs etc.
After coming back from the visit, our host (Tshetrim and Sangay) offered us food they made for themselves but we made egg cheese bhurji and bread for all of us. We heard lot about local wine, so Tshetrim brought for us. After dinner, We had a good talk. During conversation we came to know that Tshetrim could speak Hindi really nicely because he had completed his engineering from Ajmer, Rajasthan and he is a really good guitar player. On our request, Tshetrim sung a Bollywood song with playing guitar, which was really nice. Sangay was very gentle boy, fitness freak and done engineering from Sri lanka. He sung a folk song for us. Sangay also told us about his interest in Indian mythology including the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Although he could not read or speak Hindi. He had traveled once to Bodhgaya for worshipping Budhha. His favorite god was Lord Kartikeya, elder brother of Lord Ganesha.
We had a very nice time in Thimphu. It was very good decision to go for home-stay, especially Tshetrim’s home-stay.