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Thimphu

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97

THIMPHU

Thimphu
You approach Thimphu along a winding, single-lane access road, little wider than the trucks
that suddenly emerge around each curve. Each blind bend promises a glimpse of your destination; however, for most of the journey all that is revealed is another curve followed by
another. The steep hillsides are dotted with houses, some abandoned, their massive earthen
walls slowly crumbling, and the occasional white-washed temple. Suddenly the road drops to
a modern expressway on the valley floor, whisking you through paddy fields to the capital
of one of the world’s most intriguing countries.
Established as the capital in 1961, Thimphu has a youthful exuberance that constantly
challenges the country’s conservatism and proud tradition. The ever-present juxtaposition
of old and new is just one of its appealing qualities. Crimson-robed monks, Indian labourers,
gho- and kira-clad professionals and camera-wielding tourists all ply the pot-holed pavements, skirt packs of sleeping dogs, and spin the prayer wheels of Clocktower Square, and
nobody, it seems, is in a hurry. Thimphu is the world’s only capital without traffic lights. A
set was installed, but the residents complained that it was impersonal, and so gesticulating,
white-gloved police continue to direct the ever-increasing traffic. As well as being a classic
Bhutanese anachronism, it may well be the city’s most photographed spectacle.
Thimphu offers the best opportunity to do your own thing. It’s relaxed, friendly and pretty
informal, and is most rewarding if you can be the same.

HIGHLIGHTS
„ Savour the serenity of the powerful yet

Cheri Goemba

Tango Goemba

peaceful architecture of Trashi Chhoe
Dzong (p101)
„ Immerse yourself in the pungent, colourful,

bustling weekend market (p103) – a gastronomic wonderland and gaudy artefact bazaar
„ Stretch your legs and climb through whisper-

ing pines to the peaceful solitude of either
Tango Goemba or Cheri Goemba (p115)
„ Bend your elbow at one of Thimphu’s

friendly bars, such as Om Bar (p112), and
meet the locals over momos and beer
„ Marvel at the skill and artistry of Bhutanese

National
Institute for
Zorig Chusum
Motithang

Trashi Chhoe Dzong

Weekend Market
Om Bar

youth at the National Institute for Zorig
Chusum (p104)
„ Spot an incongruous takin at the Motithang

Takin Preserve (p106)
„ ELEVATION: 2320M

„ POPULATION: 98,676

„ TELEPHONE CODE: 02

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THIMPHU
lonelyplanet.com
You approach Thimphu along a winding, single-lane access road, little wider than the trucks
that suddenly emerge around each curve. Each blind bend promises a glimpse of your des-
tination; however, for most of the journey all that is revealed is another curve followed by
another. The steep hillsides are dotted with houses, some abandoned, their massive earthen
walls slowly crumbling, and the occasional white-washed temple. Suddenly the road drops to
a modern expressway on the valley floor, whisking you through paddy fields to the capital
of one of the world’s most intriguing countries.
Established as the capital in 1961, Thimphu has a youthful exuberance that constantly
challenges the country’s conservatism and proud tradition. The ever-present juxtaposition
of old and new is just one of its appealing qualities. Crimson-robed monks, Indian labourers,
gho- and kira-clad professionals and camera-wielding tourists all ply the pot-holed pave-
ments, skirt packs of sleeping dogs, and spin the prayer wheels of Clocktower Square, and
nobody, it seems, is in a hurry. Thimphu is the world’s only capital without traffic lights. A
set was installed, but the residents complained that it was impersonal, and so gesticulating,
white-gloved police continue to direct the ever-increasing traffic. As well as being a classic
Bhutanese anachronism, it may well be the city’s most photographed spectacle.
Thimphu offers the best opportunity to do your own thing. It’s relaxed, friendly and pretty
informal, and is most rewarding if you can be the same.
T h i m p h u
HIGHLIGHTS
Savour the serenity of the powerful yet
peaceful architecture of Trashi Chhoe
Dzong ( p101 )
Immerse yourself in the pungent, colourful,
bustling weekend market ( p103 ) a gastro-
nomic wonderland and gaudy artefact bazaar
Stretch your legs and climb through whisper-
ing pines to the peaceful solitude of either
Tango Goemba or Cheri Goemba ( p115 )
Bend your elbow at one of Thimphu’s
friendly bars, such as Om Bar ( p112 ), and
meet the locals over momos and beer
Marvel at the skill and artistry of Bhutanese
youth at the National Institute for Zorig
Chusum ( p104 )
Spot an incongruous takin at the Motithang
Takin Preserve ( p106 )
Zorig Chusum
Institute for
National
Motithang
Om Bar
Weekend Market
Cheri Goemba
Tango Goemba
Trashi Chhoe Dzong
ELEVATION: 2320M POPULATION: 98,676 TELEPHONE CODE: 02
© Lonely Planet Publications
96 97
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