In the center of the land-locked Kingdom of Bhutan is Thimphu, a city that holds a high regard for Bhutanese literature, religion and traditions. The monastic practices are still observed in the semi-modern Thimphu society and it is one of the reasons for tourists to flock the Bhutan capital. Tourists are required to secure a visa for Bhutan and their holiday must be booked through a registered tour operator.
The Thimphu Valley is only accessible by bus. Visitors have to land at the country’s international airport at Paro, which is on hour of bus ride to the capital. Backpackers get to Phuentsholing — the bordering town after India – by either bus or train. From Phuentsholing, one can take a 6-hour bus ride that’s usually packed, with the hassles of vomit showers. Travellers have an option of getting to Thimphu in a private van that can seat 22 people.
In Thimphu, the only city in the world that has no traffic lights, walking is a good way to get around the small city. It is indeed a place of relaxation but don’t trust the cars to stop when you’re crossing the street. Also, there are open potholes on the street, as well as a lot of roaming dogs. Buses and taxis can also take you around the city. Note that buses stop operating at 7:30PM at the Chang Lam station. Some taxi drivers will squeeze every penny out of tourists, too. There are tour guides who will provide you with a car but one will find that it’s not necessary.
Make sure that you’ve got enough Bhutanese notes since most establishments will not accept credit cards. Do not rely on the ATMs to supply you with cash as banks can suddenly just go offline or just close as early as 1:00PM. Restaurants, even those in hotels, also close around 9:00PM, so it might be a good idea to stock up for the night. Meals can go from the traditional Bhutanese cuisine, Chinese, pizza and even Mexican food. There’s a handful hotels that offer cozy lodging that range from the budget accommodation to the exorbitant ones. Among the tourist attractions are the monasteries. The Changangkha Lhakang has been part of the city’s religious customs since the 15th century. To get a full view of the Thumphu Valley, visit the bronze statue of Sakyamuni Buddha that sits atop the Kensel Phodrang hill. It’s also exciting to visit the weekend market of Thimphu where farmers from all over the city come to trade their crops.
Photo Credit: abhinavs_srinivas @flickr