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Thimphu is the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and with a population of around 80,000 is the nation's largest city.
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Points of Interest in Thimphu
Although lacking the charm and culture associated with ancient capitals, Thimphu is well endowed with attractions.
Monasteries are referred to by their Dzongkha title of lhakhang or gompa.
- Changangkha Lhakhang. Constructed in the 15th century, this is one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu Valley, and is dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist emanation of compassion. The temple affords wonderful views over the entire valley.
- The National Memorial Chorten, located off Jangchhub Lam. A good place to visit in the evening when the locals are doing their evening prayers. The stupa was built in 1974 in memory of the third king.
- Zangthoperi Lhakhang, lower Thimphu (follow the path down from below the GPO). The present structure was built in 1960s and although lacking the charm of many of the older temples, Zangdopelri still possesses some impressive murals and art treasures and is worthy of a visit. The site of the temple was a former battle ground, and the temple was constructed there in order to pacify energies.
- Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang hill is a 51.5mt bronze statue of the founder of Buddhism. The site also offers unobstructed views over the Thimphu Valley - especially stunning at sunset.
- The National Folk Heritage Museum, located behind the National Library. A traditional house that showcases rural life. Exhibits and cultural shows are held in the museum compound. Open: Mon-Fri 10:30AM to 4:30PM, Sa 10:30Am to 1PM and Su 11:30AM to 3:30PM. Entrance: 150nu.
- The Textile Museum, Norzin Lam, has a display of exquisite Bhutanese textiles from the 1600s to the present day.
- Trashi Chhoe Dzong. The present dzong was built in the 18th century by Shabdrung Rinpoche to house government officials. Later it was enlarged to accommodate both the monastic and civil bodies. Three times suffering severe damage from fire and once from an earthquake in 1897, much of the historic building dates from the rebuilding in 1902. To accommodate the national government and the central monastic body, the dzong was totally refurbished and enlarged in 1962, a year after Thimphu was designated the nation's capital.
- Simtokha Dzong. Built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Simtokha was the first dzong to be built in a unified Bhutan. Currently, it houses the country's main Dzongkha language learning institute. Simtokha is about 5km south of Thimphu.
Parks and preserves
- Takin Preserve, Motithang. The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan, and looks like a cross between a cow and a goat. Legend has it that the animal was created by the great Buddhist yogi, Drupa Kunley, and it can be found only in Bhutan and nearby areas. Taxonomists place the animal in a category of its own as it is not similar enough to any other animal to fit established categories.
- Botanical Gardens, Serbithang. Located on lush hillside about 10km from the city, the gardens offer a peaceful and relaxing environment to spend a few hours. Botanists will find the wide selection of indigenous trees and plants of interest.
- Coronation Park. Located on the banks of the river (near the city stadium), this 5.6 acres of parkland offer a pleasant and relaxing environment to stroll or to sit and watch the river flow by.
- Zorig Chusum School of Traditional Arts, near National Library. Zorig Chusum was established in 1971 to preserve the thirteen traditional arts of Bhutan, and visitors are able to observe students honing their skills. There is also a small gift shop selling work created at the school. The thirteen arts are paintings, carpentry,wood carving, sculpture, casting, metal work, bamboo carving, gold & silver work, weaving, embroidery, masonry, leather work and paper making.
The winter season in Thimphu is very cold but dry, while the summers are wet and humid. The best times to visit are from mid September to the end of October and from March to May.
- The National Institute of Traditional Medicine, ☎ +975 2 324-647. Serzhong Lam. - an excellent place to have any chronic ailments diagnosed and treated using herbal compounds. Ensure to keep the prescription. If the medicine is effective, you might want to order more in the future. Open 9AM-3PM Mon to Sat and 9AM-1PM on Sat.
- The National Library, ☎ +975 2 322-885. Pedzoe Lam. - houses a rare collection of Buddhist texts on the second floor, and there is a small selection of English books on Buddhism (mostly donated from Taiwan) and on Bhutan on the first floor. Open 9:30AM - 1PM & 2PM - 5PM Mon to Fri.
- Jigme Dorji Wangchuk Public Library, Top end Norzin Lam (left side). This small library has a good selection of English books, but appreciates donations of popular titles, especially those on Buddhism and Bhutan.
- When in Thimphu, make sure you go to the local post office. The local post office has a large collection of stamps which are kept for sale. The special feature of the post office is that you can get a postage stamp made with your own photo inscribed on it and these stamps can be used for postage purposes as well. The cost is very nominal which include the value of stamp as well.
- Thimphu Drupchen (religious ceremony) 1-5 Oct 2011
- Thimphu Tshechu (religious festival) 6-8 Oct 2011
- Mountain Echoes literary festival. (20-23 May 2011)
It is important to note that most restaurants (including those in hotels) in Thimphu stop serving food between 9PM and 9:30PM.
- Hotel Ghasel, Norzin Lam (opposite the clock tower). Tel:+975 2 323-341. Mobile: 17117100. For those pining that backstreet Indian vibe, this vegetarian restaurant is the place to come. Under the sound of Hindi songs blasting from a TV, Ghasel produces delicious dosa and thali and a range of other Indian and Bhutanese specialties. Clean, fast service and cheap.
- MK Restaurant, Centrepoint Shopping Centre (next to the main cinema hall). Popular with Japanese and serves Japanese, Bhutanese, and Indian dishes. After you order your food you'll have quite a long wait, but, for the price, this is the best restaurant in town. Go for the Japanese food, but everything is tasty.
- Hotel Tandin, Norzin Lam, just past the first traffic circle(restaurant on the first floor). Delicious Indian and Bhutanese dishes at very reasonable prices.
- Cypress Restaurant, Norzin Lam (second floor - opposite Taj Hotel). A simple restaurant serving Bhutanese and Indian dishes - huge helpings at reasonable prices.
- Shelse Restaurant, ☎ +975 77207771. Norzin Lam (diagonally opp the the Handicraft Emporium). A amall place serving authentic Bhutanese cuisine. Try their homemade brew "Chankey" - a naturally fermented malt drink made from buckwheat and rice.
- Zet N Bee's, Restaurant, On the main traffic circle (on your right past the traffic circle, on the first floor), ☎ +975-02-335656. Clean/spacious and Good food (Bhutanese,Indian/Continental/Chinese), prompt service, Caring staff. Lounge sitting arrangement for the after dinner drink!
- Salsa Fiesta, Bhutan's first family-run Mexican restaurant, is located right off of Chorten Lam in the Chogzin Lam car park. It is tucked away on the ground floor in the back of the building to the right of the 8-Eleven. Look for the sign board outside. In addition to the restaurant, they offer catering and delivery services [Tel. 1769 8592]. For more information, check their website: 
- Druk Pizza, behind Bhutan Observer Building (also known as KMT Building) at the top end of Norzin Lam. Tel:+975 2 334-543 or 17636589. Good quality pizzas on Italian style base with Bhutanese toppings plus a small selection of milk shakes and hot beverages. Free coke and a free pizza after your 10th is a bonus. Closed on Mondays.
- Jichu Drakey Bakery, Doebum Lam (a two minute walk from the swimming pool in the direction of the Memorial Chorten). An excellent selection of cakes and pastries. Take-out only.
- Swiss Bakery, Chorten Lam (above the main traffic roundabout). Sells tasty sandwiches, pies, omlets, jelly doughnuts, and excellent potato chips, among other baked goods and lunch treats. If you want a swiss cake roll, the ones here are the best in town.
- The Seasons Restaurant Pizzeria, ☎ +975 2 327-413. Namsay Shopping Complex, Phenday Lam. One of the few places in town that serves authentic pizza and Italian salads. Pizzeria also offers a good selection of filter coffees and has an outdoor patio. Closed Tuesdays.
- Tsok Dak Bakery, ☎ +975 2 337-961. GF. Peling Building (directly behind Hotel Pedling). A bakery serving a range of cakes and breads. Filter coffee available. Seating includes small terrace.
- Big Bakery a little bakery in Kawajangsa in front of the Ministry of Health. This is technically a Japanese bakery run by physically or intellectually challenged Bhutanese. Prices are high (Nu.45 for a sandwich, Nu.100 for a loaf of bread) but the quality is the best in town as of March '10.
- Cafe Klein, directly behind Druk Punjab National Bank (PNB). A small, but charasmatic restaurant serving pizza, bagels and other dough based goodies.
- Chopstick, ☎ +975 2 333-601. 2nd floor, Centre Mall, Norzin Lam. A small restaurant specializing in Chinese dishes.
- Baan Thai Restaurant, ☎ +975 17112456. Top floor, Karma Place (complex with Bowling Alley). Authentic Thai food in the heart of Thimphu. Fast and pleasant service, the cook is from Chiang Mai. Closed Tuesdays.
- Delicia, Just up the hill from JAICA (half-way between the memorial chorten and Shopper's Store). Little cafe with a beach theme that serves pastries, a few thai dishes, soft serve ice cream, and the best french fries in Thimphu. Open until 7pm, closed Wednesdays.
- Jikss Trokhang, ☎ +975 2 333-099. 5F., S.D. Plaza, Norzin Lam. A cool place to chill out. Main dining hall offers a relaxing and cozy environment, while the bar-cum-cafe (across the hall) offers live music (mostly Bhutanese and Indian rock). Serves Indian and Bhutanese dishes.
- Yee-Gha Restaurant and bar, Phendy lam,pedling complex (club Remix building,first floor), ☎ 17416166. Clean and comfortable, it offers a relaxing environment in the middle of the city, food is tasty offering Bhutanese and continental,western dishes
- Bhutan Kitchen, Located above the Benez restaurant. A restaurant that tries to give you a real authentic and traditional Bhutanese food experience, with traditional music and uncompromisingly Bhutanese food. A little expensive but worth it.
- Rabten Restaurant, ☎ +975 2 323-587. Above the Chubachu roundabout towards Motithang. The best traditional Bhutanese food you can buy in Thimphu. Cooks only on advance reservation, ideally at least 1 day in advance. Not expensive and utterly worth it.
- Cargyal Restaurant, ☎ +975 17742488. Changlam Square. Excellent food and fast service. Also, pleasant atmosphere, with the 1st floor arrangement of low seating and cushions giving the place a touch of the maharajah era.
Bhutan is not a place for coffee lovers as most cafes only sell the instant variety. Below is a list of places that sell the real stuff. However, only Ambient and Karma's have professional coffee machines. The others either sell only filter coffee or use an automatic coffee machine.
- Ambient Cafe, ☎ +975 2 325-578. 1F R. Penjor Lodge, Norzin Lam (between the Traffic Circle and Clock Tower - opp PNB Bank). An elegant and relaxing cafe offering a wide range of freshly brewed coffees, large selection of teas, fresh juice and innovative snacks and meals (try the delicious hummus plate). Ambient also provides an excellent selection of music and offers panoramic views over the city streets and mountains beyond. Free wi-fi.
- Karma's Coffee, 1F, Tashi Rabten Building (above Zangthopelri Complex), Phendey Lam. Tel:234 and 17181920. A chic cafe with music videos on flat screen TV and wi-fi. Karma's is one of the most professional coffee shops in Thimphu, offering a wide range of blends. Snacks and light meals available.
- The Art Cafe, ☎ +975 2 327-933. A block over from the main traffic circle, just below the Swiss Bakery. A bright, airy and elegant cafe with courtyard. Serves simple and wholesome meals, though the delicious cakes, pies, and excellent filter coffee are the main draw. Closed Mondays.
- Khamsa Coffee, top floor, Cham Lam Plaza, Lower Thimphu. A smart cafe offering views over the surrounding mountains. Serves a variety of filter based coffees.
Thimphu has few scintillating night clubs. Once inside any of these night clubs, it's a complete glamorous affair. The cost of the entry is quite low too (approx INR 250 each). Some clubs allow stag entry as well. The drinks inside the clubs are on a economical side too. The people inside the bar would primarily be friendly (as is the case in whole of Bhutan)
However, the local youths can create problems on small or no issues and might enter into a scuffle with outsiders. If you are an Indian, you could possibly attract a lot of undesirable attention.
Bhutan's small population means demand for new and innovative goods is small. Basically, Thimphu has three kinds of stores: clothing, handicraft and hardware. Between these, there is a small assortment of stationery-come-bookstores and supermarkets. Almost all stores stock the same goods, so if you cannot find the required items in the first couple of stores it is generally useless to persist. However, what the city lacks in variety, it adequately substitutes with friendliness. As the store keeper informs you that the goods you want are not available and cannot be ordered, you will inevitably be facing a warm and friendly smile.
Haggling at tourist-oriented shops is expected, but the margin for discount is small (unless you make a bulk purchase). However, store owners are extremely honest and there is little possibility to be cheated or offered an inflated price.
Be aware that most handicrafts sold in Thimphu are made in Nepal or other Himalayan areas. Exceptions are cloth items, some thankas and goods made of lemon grass oil. These are generally made in Bhutan.
- Yarkay Central. This shopping center located across from Hotel Norling on Norzin Lam has four good quality craft stores: Kelzang Handicrafts (Tel: 322-469) is the most commercial and sells a range of goods, including t-shirts; Druk Handicraft (Tel: 322-258) and Kurtue Handicrafts (Tel: 325-883) specialize in woven goods and Karchung (Tel: mobile 17607724) sells a small, but good quality range of art work and wood carvings.
- Blue Poppy Bhutanese (PO Box 1296. Tel:+975 2 326-752) is a handicraft store specializing in woven fabrics and paintings located in the Kawajangsa area of the city, near the indigenous medicine hospital. There are also other handicraft stores in that area - so if you are looking for souvenirs, it is a good place to visit.
- The weekend market in Chubachhu (across the river from the main town) has over 100 stalls selling hand woven cloth and other handicrafts.
- Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre, Changzamtog. A weaving center employing around 20 professional weavers. Showroom on top floor.
- Handicrafts Emporium, top end of Norzin Lam (right side). A government run craft shop with a wide range of goods. Set prices. Specialized selection of books on Buddhism and local subjects on second floor.
- Lungta, opposite the post office. One of the largest handicraft stores in the down town area. Good selection of hand made goods from all over the Himalayan region.
- Traditional Carpets, ☎ +975 2 336-247. Yangkhil Home Decor, KMT Building, Norzin Lam (diagonally across from Taj Hotel). Probably the best selection of hand woven carpets in town.
- Taranyana Foundation. Top end of Norzin Lam (next to the town library). Tarayana trains and supports the vulnerable and disadvantaged to make traditional handicrafts. This shop is their Thimphu sales out-let. Like a lot of charity stores, the displays are drab and and unappealing and the selection of goods is limited. However, the quality of the handicrafts is excellent and they offer a more rustic and genuine feel that those on sale at the commercial handicraft stores.
- Tara Handicrafts. Located downtown, Tara offers a wide range of Bhutanese handicraft. DHL home delivery service offered.
- Junction, just below the Norzin Lam Traffic Circle. One of the few bookstores in Thimphu that has a real bookstore atmosphere. Junction has an excellent selection of quality novels and books on Buddhism.
- Kuenjung Enterprises, Khamsa Complex (just below the Traffic Circle). The largest book store in town, offering a good selection of books on Buddhism and Bhutan.
- Book World, ☎ +975 2 328-539. Is located behind Druk Punjab National Bank. A good selection of English books, especially on Bhutan and Buddhism. E-mail:email@example.com
- DSB Books Enterprises in Jojo Building near Druk Hotel has a wide selection of books in English - novels and children's books are a specialty. PO Box 435, Thimphu. Tel:+975 2 326-275, 326-276. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pekhang Books, next to cinema hall. A small bookstore with a wide selection of magazines.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Thimphu on Wikivoyage.