Thimpu, the capital and largest city of Bhutan, located at a towering 2400 meters, has grown from a collection of hamlets in the mid-20th century to being Bhutan’s economic and political centre. In a valley along the banks of the Wang Chuu River, Thimpu is surrounded by mountains that dominate the landscape. They rise up to 12,000 ft and the climate ranges from temperate in the valley to freezing at the highest point. The Lungten Zampa Bridge at the southern end of the city connects the two halves of the city bisected by the river. The city is undergoing a development programme to turn it into an impressive capital with tree-lined streets, newly demarcated spacious public areas and several new leisure facilities. With demand for land and other environment pressures mounting, careful attention is being paid to the preservation of its natural environment.
City attractions include old and more recent temples and other religious edifices. The 51.5-meter bronze statue of Sakyamuni atop Kuensel Phodrang hill overlooking the city is a very visible landmark. Contemporary art galleries, a textile museum, the National Folk Heritage Museum, the 18th century Trashichhoedzong that houses the country’s main government departments, Memorial Chorten, the 17th century Simtokha Dzong are some of the places to see and visit as are Coronation Park, the Botanical Gardens and the Takin preserve. The Takin, a cross between a gnu and a bison is the national animal. Thimpu farmers market is where the town’s population and farmers in the valley come together to sell and haggle over fresh produce, dried fish, strips of fatty pork, balls of homemade cheese, leg of yak, fresh incense ingredients and cubes of saffron. For those who cannot kick the shopping habit, the best shopping is to be had in the Centenary Farmers Market, a craft fair held every Tuesday and Wednesday and in the handicraft shops where paintings by local artists, wood carvings, woven goods, handmade paper products, books on Buddhism, traditional clothing and hand-woven carpets are on offer.
That Thimpu caters to a wide range of tastes buds is evident by the fare served by its restaurants. Traditional Bhutanese and Indian food is the most popular. Chinese, Japanese, Mexican food, pizzas, cakes and pastries and Thai food are also served in a few restaurants. Coffee shops, some with an eclectic selection of music, good food and excellent views, are also gaining in popularity here. The city’s nightclubs and bars are popular haunts after dark with live bands and DJs pumping out electronic beats and the latest international dance music.
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Angela Fernando is an impassioned travel writer who composes pieces under the pen name Sumaira Narayan. She loves writing about new and exciting places around the world and hopes to visit them all someday.