Thimpu (Day 2)
Thimpu is the capital and the most developed city of Bhutan.
Thimpu is fairly small city, well, it not even a town in terms of size as compared to “towns” in other countries, which is kind of nice since it is has pretty much all of the amenties without all the population.
From Phuntsoling to Thimpu
We reached Thimpu at about 6 : 30 p.m (Day 1) and landed directly at the Taxi stand. There is no dearth of hotels in thimpu but it is recommended that rooms are booked before hand in the peak tourist season. We were recommended Hotel New Grand , located in Norzim Lam 2 and with a pure Indian Veg restaurant. We paid the taxi driver 80/- INR to take us there. Note that it is only 0.5 Kms from taxi stand (we did not know that). So you can just walk if you have less luggage. The per night room rent was 1500/- INR for a double bed room (at the time of the blog). We inspected the rooms. They were super clean and we found them to worth it given that 1500/- INR is including taxes. (Bhutan adds 20% tax). We unloaded the luggage and decided to have dinner. The prices are reasonable at this hotel and is sure shot recommend , especially for Indians since it is pure vegetarian and quite tasty !.
After dinner we just decided to roam the streets of thimpu to get a feel of things and get ready for next day.
In and Around Thimpu
We started off the day by having a nice breakfast to prepare for the day ahead. Do try the Cheese Toast, Masala Omlette and Tea combination at the in house restaurant at the New Grand Hotel. The day’s Itinerary was
1. Get the Entry Permit access to restricted areas that we had pre decided on (Haa Valley, Punakha, Dochula)
2. Visit all the sight seeing spots in Thimpu.
The Immigration office is located at the end of Norzin Lam 2 street.(Its about 15 mins (~1km) from the clock tower courtyard) Fill up the “Route Permit for restricted areas” and submit it with a copy of entry permit(So ensure to get a photo copy before hand). Note that if you want to stay in bhutan for more than 7 days, you need to mention that as well (and probably fill up another separate form). It will take about 30 mins to get the extended permit pass. (Depends on the rush).
Now that extended permit was received, it was time to cover Thimpu.
1. National Library
The closest according to Maps was National Library which is located about 650m from the Immigration office.
It is (as the name suggests) a huge collection of Books , photos and historical texts depicting the history of Bhutan. The ground floor is a library with seats for reading. The upper floors contain many Buddhist texts from multiple Buddhist schools.
2. Memorial Chorten
The memorial chorten, is located about 1.2 Kms from the national library but in the opposite direction, i,e it is located within the main city. (Again quite walkable). It is a huge stupa built in honour of the third Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and is popularly known as the most visible religious landmark in Bhutan. It does not enshrine any human remains.
There is a small park within the boundary fences of the memorial chorten and we found a lot of folks just relaxing and eating their lunch on the grass. We went around the stupa once ; others were doing the same. There is a bell within the premises which can be spun. It is said that one spin is equal to a 1000 prayers.
It was already lunch time but we intended to cover thimpu as much as possible. We managed to halt a taxi and convince him to take us around Thimpu for 2000/- INR for half a day. (The full day charge is 4000/- INR). The reason we had to take a taxi is because rest of the sightseeing spots were many kms away and there was no way to reach them on foot (in time). Next in the list and closest to our location was Buddha’s point.
3. Buddha’s point
To reach Buddha’s point, the taxi needs to chug its way up a hill for about 15 mins from the city center.the The ‘point’ is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue constructed in the mountains in honour of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The statue is one of the largest buddha statues in the world is approximately 50 meters tall. The statue is made of bronze and gilded in gold. It is truly mesmerizing.
In front of the statue, there is huge courtyard. Hopefully if the crowd is less, you can get a decent shot of the statue. Walk towards the edge and the whole of the thimpu valley is visible.
It was quite sunny and bright on that day and the far side of the valley was shrouded in mist. Around Buddha statue, there are statues of various deities.
Under the huge statue, there is a huge meditation hall.No cameras allowed. Inside the hall also, there are gold gilded statues of Buddha. You can pay your respects here.This was covered in approximately 45 minutes. The closest sightseeing point from here is the Takin preserve.
4. Takin’s preserve
The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan ; it is a goat-antelope found in the eastern Himalayas. We reached the preserve in about 20 mins from Buddha’s point.
It isn’t exactly the prettiest animal for sure.
The preserve has many Takins (both male and female) although we just saw a few of them and left. The entry fee is 30 INR for Indian nationals.
5. Bhutan Broadcasting Tower (BBT)
The Bhutan Broadcasting Tower is the best place to get a full view of Thimpu(Which is why it was on the list). Well to be precise, it is somewhere on the road to BBT that you get a full view of Thimpu.
Along the way, you can get a view of home of the queen of Bhutan , situated amongst the hills; as shown to us by our taxi driver.
6. Tashichho Dzong
Tashichho Dzong, located in main city of Thimpu is the head of Bhutan’s civil government, an office which has been combined with the kingship since the creation of the monarchy in 1907, and summer capital of the country. From what we were told , tourists are not directly allowed inside. It is reserved for the government officials and high ranking authorities. So we could get only shots of the Dzong from far away.
7. Dechenphu Lhakhang
Next in the list , as suggested to us by the taxi driver was Dechenpu Lahakhang, a temple located on the northern side of Thimpu and about 20 mins drive from the center of the city. There are no direct buses to this place and the route passes through a small forest. The drive itself is quite scenic.
Situated on a hillock, a 5 mins climb up from the taxi parking spot will get you to the place. There was sweet lady the the entrance of the climb seilling hot momos at 50/- INR There were a lot of dogs within the temple who were on the verge of attacking us, thankfully a kind monk saved us. 🙂 . We were not allowed inside the temple itself though.
Spend about 20 mins here.
So this was the end of our Day 3 and sightseeing the Thimpu. We took the cab to the bus stop, paid the taxi driver and then booked our 9 a.m bus to Paro for the next day at the bus stop. Only 55 Nu/INR from Thimpu to Paro. Withdrew some cash at the ATM as well. The ATM accepts Indian debit cards but pays the cash out in Bhutanese currency “Nu” which is equivalent to the Indian Currency.
It was late evening and time to get some snacks. Reading some review on the internet, zoned in on “karma’s coffee” located 15 mins walk from Norzim Lam. Caramel Milk Shake, Latte, Cheese S.W and Veg S.W. While the caramel milk shake was the best I had ever tasted, the sandwiches were surely the not worth the price charged. So really , visit the place only and only for the Caramel milk shake or the coffee.
The ambiance of the restaurant is decent though, as a youthful feel to it. English savories and pastries are also available. So overall rating of the restaurant would be 2.5/5 (primarily due to the pricing).
In order to get over the disappointment of the poor evening snacks, we decided to liven up our late evening by purchasing handicrafts ; something that Bhutan is famous for.While the original intention was not to purchase too much , we did up buying a reasonable number of things. The highlight of our purchases was surely this T Shirt with awesome print of the Tiger’s Nest.
We searched almost 10 outlets to get the right size for us @ 40.
After all the shopping, rats were running marathons in the stomach again. So it was time to try the next restaurant in the list. This time we decided to try the “Zombala Restaurant” ; it was rated quite highly for its authentic Bhutanese cuisine. It is tucked away in a small gully off Norzim Lam 2. So hot Veg momos it was.
It was worth it; only 60/- INR and the momos tasted very amazing; spicy stuffing with even spicier sauce. Worth a try for sure.
The end of the night must always be sweet; the famous “Swiss bakery” caught out sight as we were returning. We weren’t sure whether we would be entertained since shops in Thimpu close by 9:30 p.m. But lady luck was on our side and the bakery was open.
The cream rolls, the Swiss roll, the chocolate cake, Eclairs and the butter biscuits. All of them tasted fantastic ; this place another one which worth a visit for sure. A fitting end to a great day !
Places to stay in Thimpu
The only hotel we stayed in Thimpu (Overall 3 nights) was the “The New Grand” and in my opinion is very suitable in terms of
1. Pricing : 1500/- INR for a squeaky clean double room at the time of the blog
2. Food : Pure & tasty vegetarian food which is affordable (FYI they serve alcohol as well)
3. Location : On Norzim Lam 2, and close to many sightseeing spots (~1 to 2 kms)