Thimphu (Tibetan script: ཐིམ་ཕུག།) is the capital of Bhutan, and also the name of the surrounding valley and dzongkhag, the Thimphu District. With a population of approx 98,676 (2005 PHCB), it is the largest population centre in the country. Thimphu is located at an altitude of 2320m/7656ft.
Thimphu with the 17th century fortress-monastery called Tashichho Dzong on the northern edge of the city, has been the seat of Bhutan’s government since 1952.
The city sprawls across the western slopes of the Wang Chhu river valley. Rapid expansion following the pattern of rural exodus has resulted in considerable rebuilding in the city centre and mushrooming suburban development elsewhere. Norzin Lam, the recently upgraded main thoroughfare, is lined with shops, restaurants, retail arcades and public buildings. Elsewhere, there is a mix of apartment blocks, small family homes and family-owned stores. By regulation, all buildings are required to be designed in traditional style with Buddhist paintings and motifs. A lively weekend market near the river supplies meat, vegetables and tourist items. Most of the city’s limited light industry is located south of the main bridge. Thimphu has a growing number of commercial services and offices, which provide for ever-growing local needs. The city is surrounded by forests, which make the city look even greener. With on going construction for the 2008 celebrations of 100 years of Monarchy and Bhutan’s transition to Parliamentary Democracy, more and more construction is seen throughout Thimphu.
Dechenphu, Tango and Cheri monasteries, and Dechenchoeling Palace, are located to the north of the city.
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °C 12,3 14,4 16,4 20 22,5 24,4 18,9 25 23,1 21,9 17,9 14,5
Average low °C -2,6 0,6 3,9 7,1 13,1 15,2 13,4 15,8 15 10,4 5 -1,1
Thimphu is served by a ‘City Bus’ service, which operates throughout the day. Plans have also been made to construct a light tram along the banks of the Wang Chhu that is both environment-friendly and efficient.
Tashichho dzong hosts a colourful masked-dance festival (tsechhu) at the end of summer, which is popular with tourists. A new Tsechhu ground, which can take in the capacity of both tourists and the locals, is under construction and is expected to be completed by August 2008.
Thimphu is the only national capital in Asia that does not have traffic lights. When local authorities installed a set of lights, people complained that they were too impersonal. The authorities gave in, and took them down. Instead of traffic lights, the city takes pride in its traffic police that directs the oncoming traffic with their dance-like movement of their arms and hands.
The Memorial Chorten dominates the skyline of Thimphu. This Chorten is dedicated to the Third Druk Gyalpo(King), Jigme Dorji Wangchuck after his sudden death while traveling abroad. A great amount of renovation is taking place for the 2008 celebrations to mark the Century of the Monarchy in Bhutan.
The National Library (1967) built in the style of a traditional temple contains a large collection of religious books and manuscripts in Dzongkha and Classical Tibetan and a collection of English-language books. It also contains a copy of the largest published book in the world.
The Buddha Dordenma statue, the largest Buddha statue in the world, is under construction on a mountain top called Kuensel Phodrang, overlooking the city. The statue is expected to be finished in 2008.
The National Post Office, along Chang lam, is an institute itself where famous Bhutanese export is seen and sold: the various stamps. Stamp collectors all over the world know that Bhutan is the first country to diversify and export quality stamps. Old and expensive stamps are exhibited at the National Museum in Paro.
The Clock Tower Square is a recently renovated square surrounded by shops and restaurants. Fountains and traditional Bhutanese Mani Lhalhor (prayer wheels) make the place more comfortable. On one side, the Druk Hotel is situated. Various programmes and activities are held here.
Along the end of the Norzin Lam(Lam – road/street), Thimphu’s own Textile Museum that displays various Bhutanese textiles that are extensive and rich in traditional culture. It also exhibits colourful and rare kiras and ghos (traditional Bhutanese dress, kira for women and gho for men).
The National Folk Heritage Museum displays traditional Bhutanese ways of life in a traditional Bhutanese house. It is an interesting view in to Bhutanese culture and domestic lives of the Bhutanese. There are also Bhutanese dances and exhibits held in the Museum Compound.
VAST (Voluntary Artist’s Studio, Thimphu) located along Chang Lam is a busy place with after-school and weekend drawing and painting classes for youngsters conducted by volunteer artists. A gallery on the top floor exhibits a mixture of both traditional and contemporary works. There is also a small library and coffee shop where budding artists are encouraged to meet.
Tango Cheri Monastery: With about 12 kilometers of drive you arrive at the starting point of Tango hike. It takes about an hour to arrive at the temple and is about 900 feet climb. Tango Monastery is a Buddhist college, and it’s the residence of the Desi Tenzin Rabgye, a young boy who is the reincarnation of the 16th-century monk who built Tango. Built in 12th century by Gyalwa Lhanampa, it serves as the monastic school for study of Buddhist Philosophy, metaphysics, mathematics, poets and many other Buddhist studies. On the same day you can hike to Cheri monastery, return back to the road, your car will drive you to the traditional bridge over the Thimphu River. From here you hike for about an hour and half. Crossing the lovely traditional bridge you climb steeply to the monastery. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal founded the temple in 1620.
The National Institute of traditional Medicine has also a small museum on its premises.
Every monastery and temple in Thimphu is alive and well. These are some institutions where one can see how Buddhists pray and their daily routines.
Thimphu is the center for various educational institutions:
The city is the home for the office of the [[Royal University of Bhutan] (Commonly known as the RUB). Some of the member colleges of RUB which are also located in Thimphu are:
* The Institute for Language and Culture Studies (ILCS) provide training to undergraduate students in national language, culture and traditions of Bhutan.
* The National Institute of Traditional Medicine (Estb. 1988) contains an impressive, large laboratory and production facilities that ensures quality of the products, the components of which includes plants, minerals, animal parts, precious metals and gems. The Institution produces traditional Bhutanese medicine towards the needs of the public. There is a day-care facility and clinic where doctors diagnose patients and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments. The institute also researches the use of herbs and plants and has a plot(trial) on the premises. A small museum and a gift shop(where the famous herbal tea -Tsheringma- is produced) is also present in its compounds.
* Royal Institute of Health Sciences (RIHS) provides training to nurses and technician.
* Royal Institute of Management (RIM) provides training in administrative and financial management to mid-level manager.
The National Institute for Zorig Chusum is a training institute that trains students in the thirteen traditional arts known as the Zorig Chusum. Many visitors take time to look at the works and arts and even watch how a piece is made.
The Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA) is the home of the Royal Dance troupe. The history of the academy dates back to 1954 when it was started under the command of late His Majesty the King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck with the gracious intention to preserve and promote Bhutanese performing arts. The academy was institutionalized in 1967 with a mandate to preserve and promote performing arts traditions. Folk music and dancing- group was introduced in 1970.
Situated in the capital city, Thimphu, the academy is the only of its kind in the country, where all kinds of performing arts traditions are being preserved and documented for future posterity.
The Bhutanese culture including music is being threatened owing to accelerating infiltration of other cultures. To combat this trend, the Royal Government has been making every effort to reorganize the existing activities at the academy to enable its efforts to preserve and promote the performing arts traditions. This process has called for an expansion in the programs, including curriculum development.