Cradled in a valley, embraced by formidable mountains at the east, refreshed by Wang Chhu river at the west, Thimphu confidently stands on top of the Himalayan ranges; fully aware of its history and acutely determined to shape its destiny.
Humble in size, but grandiose in significance, Thimphu knows how to create its own narrative. Home of majestic temples decked with wonderful and colourful prayer flags immerse the visitor to the deep and abiding spirituality of the Bhutanese. Ushered into the ascetic life of humble monks invites the observers to look into their own hearts and evaluate their dreams.
Ascending steep hills and scrutinising impregnable fortresses, a feeling of respect and awe towards their builders’ patience, dedication, and foresight is an inevitable take away.
Intermingling with locals clad in their multi-coloured national dress is a delightful sight. The constant smiles on friendly faces and gentle eyes warm the hearts of a weary foreigner. Thimphu is a place that indulges its visitors to spiritual discovery. Paro Taktsang, Rinpung Dzong, Tashichho Dzong, and Drukgyal Dzong are just some of the religious sites to see.
Traveling by plane, one touches down at Paro, the only international airport in the country. A 45-minute to 1-hour taxi drive brings him to Thimphu. By bus, the travel takes around six to seven hours to the Indian border via Phuentsholling or longer depending on road conditions. Toyota Coasters that can seat 22 persons are available for those who would opt for a more comfortable way to travel.
The official currency accepted in Thimphu is the Bhutanese Ngultrum (BTN). Note that there is a fixed daily rate to be paid each day by tourists — USD 250 during high season and USD 200 during the offpeak season. This rate includes transportation, accommodation, tour guide, and admission fees. Additional fees may be charged for certain activities.
ATMs can be found all over Thimphu. Major establishments like hotel and restaurants accept credit cards. Bhutan offers foreign exchange services through Foreign Exchange Bureaus.
In the winter months from December to February, watching multiple squadrons of multi-coloured avian manoeuvre and frolic in the river under a clear blue sky are both spectacular and exhilarating. Spring brings a time of renewal and a rebirth. One must not miss witnessing the colourful festival of Paro Tsechu that’s held sometime from March to May. Visiting fortresses, monasteries, and temples are perfect during clear days. On the other hand, summer in Bhutan can be ironic, as it brings heavy showers and keeping an umbrella on hand can be very useful. Adventurous activities such as trekking are suitable during the fall season from September to November when temperatures range from 4 to 20 degrees Celsius.
With an area of 26 square kilometres, Thimphu is a compact place suitable for sightseeing. Fear of losing one’s way is minimal. Taxis are available in the city. For those on a tour package, a vehicle will always be able to ferry tourists around the city.
For those who are new in Thimphu and was not initiated in the food of Japan, Korea, and Thailand better brace themselves for what’s coming. They will be in for a hot encounter. The common denominator of Ema Datshi (chilies and cheese), Jasha Maroo (spicy chicken), and Phaksha Paa (pork with red chilies) is chilli. Simple as they seem to appear, the expertise and the dedication put in the preparation makes them so palatable and inviting. Red and white Rice are indispensable partners at the side, with tea, beer, or wine as perfect beverage options.
Devoid of the high-tech amenities of megacities, Thimphu is not wanting in beauty. The lack of excess is not a burden but a definition of the true essence of life: simplicity and necessity.