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ThimpuThimphu is a small, charming capital city sandwiched in the heart of the Himalayas. It sits in its own valley fanning out from the river. The skyline hardly changes as new buildings are all constructed under zoning regulations. Thimphu's development is strictly monitored and buildings cannot exceed a certain height, nor can they be designed in anything but the traditional Bhutanese style.

Only a sprinkling of cars is ever found along the main street and the capital's population is not immediately visible. But, if you look, inside the bank or the shop, you will find Thimphu's people and Bhutan's heart. Dressed in kho and kira, Thimphu people go about their work methodically, quietly bringing their nation through the growing pains of development and into its own definition of the modem world. Sirntokha Dzong, six kms from the city limits is the kingdom's oldest dzong which is now used as the Dzongka language school of Bhutan. Bhutan's most stately and arguably most impressive building is Tashicchodzong, on the banks of the Wangchu (Thimphu River).

The home of the National Assembly and the summer residence of the capital's venerated monastic community, Tashichodzong is a palatial building overlooking the river on the South side and the city of Thimphu from the North. While foreign visitors are only allowed to enter Tashicchodzong during the annual festival, Its presence and its exterior and grounds provide a delightful spectacle. The dzong is the impressive result of a redesign of the original rnedieval structure sanctioned by the Third King, HM Jigme Dorje Wangchuck, when he moved Bhutan's permanent capital to Thimphu.

The most enjoyable way of passing time in Thimphu is just to wander along its main street. Many of the items on sale are made In India but textiles and the wooden crafts are Bhutanese as are all of the religious products. Thimphu's weekend market is another chance to watch the way life goes in the kingdom. Here, every weekend, Thimphu's residents break from whatever it Is that they are doing to come to the market to pick up their weekly stock of vegetables, a copy of Kuensel (the weekly newspaper) and to exchange the week's gossip. It is a custom as old as the market and one both buyer and seller enjoy. For visitors who can't share In the gossip, a wander through the stalls reveals mountains of bright red chillies, eggplants and okra, asparagus In season and rice of every size. Traditional Bhutanese masks are sold, as are the carpets more reasonably found in Trongsa. On sale every weekend at no cost Is life in Bhutan, a product to be cherished.

Another of Bhutan's loveliest exports is its wide and multifarious collection of stamps. These are best seen in commemorative books inside Thimphu's central post office. Other places of Interest in Thimphu include the traditional painting school where the age-old styles of Bhutanese painting, including thangka painting, are taught and the Memorial Chorten built in memory of His Majesty, the Third King of Bhutan. The National Library houses a vast collection of books and research documents of Buddhist studies.

Places of interest in Thimphu:

Tashichhodzong -
Also known as the "Fortress of the Glorious Religion". It was built in 1641. The Dzong was latter rebuilt by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk in 1965.

The National Textile Museum - This museum displays a range of beautiful Bhutanese textiles. It was started in 2001, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk.

The Folk Heritage Museum - It is also known as Phelchey Toenkhim, It provides a fascinating insight into the traditional Bhutanese farm house and rural past through exhibits and documentation of rural life.

The National Institute for Zorig Chusum - Is also known as the School of Arts and Crafts. It is an institute where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.

The Institute of Traditional Medicine Services - Here Bhutan's famous traditional medicine are compounded and dispensed.

Takin Preserve - Here you will find the rare national animal of Bhutan. The best time to see them is early morning. The Takin is listed by international conservation agencies as a animal found only in Bhutan, Nepal, Burma and China.

The National Library - This library holds a vast collection of Bhuddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion.

The National Memorial Choeten - It is a sacred shrine built in 1974 in the memory of the "Father of Modern Bhutan", third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.

Dechenphodrang - This is a monastic school with more than 450 monks currently undergoing their studies.

Changangkha Lhakhang - This is an old fortress-like temple perched on a ridge above Thimphu. The temple was built in 12th century by Lama Phajo Drugom Shigpo's son Nyima.

Zangto Pelri Lhakhang - This is a private temple built in 1990s by Late Dasho Aku Tongmi, a musician who composed Bhutan's national anthem.

Semtokha Dzong - It stands on a lofty ridge five miles from Thimphu town was built in 1627 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Phajoding Goenpa - It is a three hours walk from upper Thimphu. The monastery was built in the 15th century by Shagcha Rinchen who introduced the Drukpa Kagyu School in Bhutan in the 13th century.

Tango Goenpa - It is a half hour drive from Thimphu town and an hour walk to the monastery.

Cheri Goenpa - It is a half hour drive from Thimphu town and an hour walk to the monastery. The trail starts from a quaint bridge that spans the Thimphu Chhu.

How this trip makes a difference!
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