Life in Thimphu has a unique charm. It is a peaceful place with very low crime rate, discipline, cleanliness and nice coexistence of modernism and urban culture with Bhutanese tradition and a laid back lifestyle. And most importantly, people here are nice and gentle towards you as long as you are also nice to them.
The roads in Thimphu are so inviting that you would enjoy drive anytime. Wide roads, less traffic, and idyllic weather – what more do you need? I haven’t seen any traffic police or traffic signaling on the roads, yet no one breaks rules. Disciplined driving was evident everywhere.
The sight of traditional architecture and religious edifices are quite common in Thimphu. You’ll see several traditional style gateways on the roads to usher you to different parts of the country from the capital city. Needless to mention, these structures adorn the cityscape very well.
The Shopping Districts
Thimphu is a perfect blend of modernity and tradition – an interesting combination of simplicity and urbanity. It is reflected in the marketplaces. The city has sophisticated shopping plazas and departmental stores.
On the other hand, the handicrafts market in Thimphu is the place you can discover the richness of Bhutanese traditional art and textiles.
The streets come alive in the afternoon with young boys playing carrom at the shopping arcades, girls having chitchat at the open-air cafeterias and women go shopping with their little kids accompanying them.
The Vegetable Markets
Vegetable markets in Thimphu, mostly makeshift ones, are vibrant, colorful places where you’ll find a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables. Most importantly the sellers and buyers in these roadside vegetable markets are mostly women, in colorful western or traditional clothing.
Bhutanese women are beautiful and most importantly, they have excellent dressing sense. Be it their traditional costume Kira or western clothing, women in Thimphu dress up and accessorize quite fashionably. Women here are very active. They work hard both at home and outside. But what is most worthy of mentioning is that they are quite comfortable taking their kids to their workplace. Look at this woman at a vegetable market in Thimphu.
Women usually carry their babies on their back like this, on the roads, at the shops, in the markets… everywhere. Hats off to motherhood!
You’ll see men in Thimphu mostly in their traditional robes, called Gho. Our driver Sangay, a cheerful little young fellow, told me that it is a legal mandate in Bhutan for taxi drivers to drive in their national costume during duty hours. This is also applicable for men and women working in government offices.
Thimphu is a booming city. I saw a lot of multi-story houses all around in the neighborhood we stayed and a lot many were under construction. Residential buildings in Thimphu have similar structure and symmetry with the traditionally decorated exterior. What I loved the most are the happy colors they use to paint their houses. Well… quite natural for a city in the “happiest country in the world” – right?
Dogs seem to be an important part of every household in Thimphu. The people here love dogs. During the day, you’ll see them quietly slugging around in the sun. It is in the night when they are most active, barking all the night to ensure you enjoy “good night sleep”. 😀
Hotel Nirmal, where we stayed in Thimphu, is a family run hotel. The family has a cute little pet dog, Kotah, who was afraid of this distant brother of German Shepherd although I found him very gentle but watchful always. 🙂
We stayed in a peaceful but lively neighborhood approx 15-minute walk from the main road and the buzzing shopping district of Thimphu. A walk along the winding roads in the morning and afternoon will let you look deeper into the city life.
P.S: This is Part IV of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay Series. You can also check out the first three parts of this series for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.
Click here to find more on Bhutan.