Thimpu is the capital of Bhutan. It is also the seat of government, spirituality, religion and commerce. It happens to be one of the most lively and vibrant places you have ever visited. It is a unique combination of the old and the new in which tradition and progress have come together to welcome you. The city is home to government officials, the intelligencia and monks. The city has managed to preserve a strong national character in terms of its architectural style. Visit the monasteries, markets and temples in Thimphu once you arrive and you will be immediately reminded of history picturebooks from your school days, this time in three dimensions.
National Memorial Chorten
The National Memorial was built by Bhutan's third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck who is also known as the "father of modern Bhutan." He wanted to erect a monument carrying the message of world peace and prosperity. However, he was unable to give shape to his idea in his lifetime due to pressures of state and other regal responsibilities. After his untimely demise in 1972, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfill his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to eternal peace, harmony and tranquility. The National Memorial Chorten was gifted to the nation on 28 July, 1974. The exquisite wall paintings and the delicately carved statues reflect deep insights into Buddhist spirituality and a rich tradition of prayer and learning.
Tashichhodzong is also called the "fortress of glorious religion." It was erected in 1641 and was subsequently rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. Tashichhodzong is home to several ministries of the Bhutanese government, His Majesty's secretariat, and the Central Monk Body which is the apex organization of the country's main spiritual order. The monument welcomes visitors during the Thimphu Tsechu festival which is held in autumn each year.
Simtokha Dzong was built in 1627 AD by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The dzong stands on a low ridge 8 kilometers down the valley from Thimphu. It is home to the Institute for Language and Culture Studies. The most striking feature of the monument as well as fully functional institution is the range of more than 300 finely crafted carvings right behind the prayer wheels in the courtyard.
Bhutan's National Library was established in the 1960s. Its mission is to preserve the literary treasures of the nation which constitute a significant element of Bhutan's rich and vibrant cultural heritage. It houses an extensive collection and archive of Buddhist literary works mostly in ancient block-printed format, with some manuscripts several hundred years old. This collection, which is also known as the "Choekey Collection," mainly comprises Buddhist literature written in Choekey, the religious script of Northern Buddhism. It also includes works written both in Tibetan and in Dzongkha, Bhutan's national language. There is also a foreign literature collection which comprises works written in English with subject interest on Buddhist studies, Bhutan, the Himalayan region and neighboring countries like India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka where the Buddhist religion is also practiced.
Institute for Zorig Chusum
Acclaimed internationally as the Painting School, the Institute offers a six-year course on the thirteen traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. AT the institute, you can view the students learning and practicing the various arts such as fine arts, sculpture and water colors taught at this major center of learning.
National Institute of Traditional Medicine
Both allopathic and traditional forms of medicine have been granted importance in Bhutan by its government. The rich herbal medicines made from medicinal plants that are abundant in the kingdom are prepared and dispensed here to patients. The Institute is also a training school for practitioners of traditional medicine.
Folk Heritage and National Textile Museums
The two museums were open to the general public in 2001 upon completion. These treasure troves of culture and rich Bhutanese heritage provide rich insights into the Bhutanese ethos. You should take the time to visit not one but both the museums once you arrive in Bhutan. Your trip to both museums will take only a few hours. Try to schedule your visit during the morning hours since the museums are less crowded at that time and there is plenty of sunlight to go around.
A wide assortment of colorful, hand-woven textiles and other craft products are available for purchase at the government-run Handicraft Emporium and several smaller craft shops around the town.
The local residents as well as numerous visitors visit the bustling weekend market held just about every weekend by the riverside. The weekend market features a wide range of food products, art and craft products. The market runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening during the day. Your visit to the market will provide you with exquisite photo opportunities, as well as a chance to mingle freely with the local community which will greet you warmly and is rather welcoming. Like all of Bhutan, the local market by the riverside is very safe so you have no cause for concern.