31st March - 2nd April 2013
From Paro airport we head towards Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The distance from Paro is about 50km which normally takes an hour and a half to cover. The first part of the journey is along the river Paro chhu until Chhuzom where the river is joined by Wang Chu River from Thimphu. The rest of the journey is along Thimphu River. The journey was exciting because of the calmness and serenity of the area.
Thimphu is the only capital city that does not have a traffic light. A traffic light was installed once but was removed when people were not happy with it. Population is less than a lakh but consider the total population of Bhutan itself is about seven lakhs.
Our stay at Thimphu was at Hotel Phuntso Phelri. According to our plan, it was supposed to be a rest day. But it cannot happen considering we still had half a day to spare!! We decided to visit Tashichhoedzong. It is opened for tourists only from 5-6PM on weekdays while on Sunday it is open from morning till evening. That would give us lot of time to spend there.
Dzong is a fortress with administrative and religious sections. The Thimphu Dzong is one of the biggest one in Bhutan. Only religious section is allowed for public.
We can also see Parliament building from the Dzong. Kings Palace is also very near to the fortress but people are not allowed to photograph it.
From Thimphu Dzong, we headed to weekend market. We had no plans of buying any stuff but just wanted to experience it. Good to see a clean and well maintained market.
Handicrafts market was next to weekend market. The prices were exorbitant but later we find that Bhutan is an expensive country. The local currency Ngultrum is pegged to Indian Rupee for equal value. Indian currency is widely accepted. In fact we find that people are more eager to accept INR than local currency!! But denominations of 500 and 1000 are not accepted in Bhutan.
We strolled on the streets of Thimphu. While it was a pleasant walk, my daughter became cranky. Lack of sleep for past two days was showing its effect. After spending some time at clock tower (supposed to be the most happening place in Thimphu), we headed back to hotel.
Next day started with visit to National memorial chorten. It was erected in memory of the third king of Bhutan in 1974.
Prayer bells at Stupa complex.
Since the weather was good, we decided to visit big Buddha statue on top of a hill. It provides nice view of Thimpu and its valley.
The Buddha complex itself is under construction.
It would have snowed during previous night!!
Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. Since the chance of meeting them in wild was remote, we decided to have a look at them in the zoo.
The view of Tashichhoedzong while coming back from takin zoo.
We went to National Institute for ZorigChusum more popularly known as “painting school”. It provides courses in 13 traditional arts of Bhutan. From close quarters, we can see people learning various skills in painting, stone carving, sewing etc.
I was bit hesitant to take students photo but my guide I was told that they would not mind it!!
Next stop was the nearby folk heritage museum. Here one can have a look at a typical farming house in remote Bhutan. It was interesting to see how water flow is used to run prayer bells (a typical scene in Bhutan), various utensils and the house itself.
My daughter did not find it interesting to spend time inside the house. She headed outside to play in the gardens outside. Things seemed normal until we heard her crying. She had fallen and had slight injury on her knee. Nothing serious but it scared her a lot.
Institute of traditional medicine was nearby. For Indians, it does not look that attractive as we know (or at least heard) most of those stuff.
Post lunch, we headed to textile museum which had good collection of traditional dresses and also the tools used for their manufacture. There was a documentary about the dress culture of Bhutan. Very informative one, I must say.
Archery is the national game of Bhutan. It is common to see people play archery in many villages of Bhutan. In Thimphu, people practice at Archery ground. While in Olympics, the distance to target is 70 meters but here they practice keeping the target at 130 meters. It was quite fun to see this game. Each time when the target is hit, players sing a traditional song.
The last place we visited in Thimphu was National library. “What is so great in that?” you might ask. It houses the largest published book in the world. The name of the book is “Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey across the Last Himalayan Kingdom“. It weighs about 60 kgs!!