Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, is by far the largest city at about 100,000 people. It is home to the Royal family, the parliament, international aid organizations, the Bhutan Eleven (national soccer team), a growing business community, and Bhutan’s film industry. We happened to meet Tshewang Dendup on the street in Thimphu. He was the star of Travellers & Magicians, an excellent 2003 film we watched in preparation for our trip. It has definitely been a trip of ‘happy coincidences’ in this happy country.
A view of Thimphu from a surrounding mountain.

A view of Thimphu from a surrounding mountain.

Public housing in Thimphu.

Public housing in Thimphu.

The only golf course in Bhutan - 9 holes.

The only golf course in Bhutan – 9 holes.

Military barracks for the Royal Bhutan Army - a force of about 6,000 service men and women.

Military barracks for the Royal Bhutan Army – a force of about 6,000 service men and women.

Governmental administrative offices.

The Lower House of Parliament is on the upper left, the Upper House is on the upper right, Governmental administrative office are in the foreground (with the tin roofs) and the King’s house is in the middle of the trees (with the wooden roof).

 
We stayed at the Thimphu Taj - very nice.

We stayed at the Thimphu Taj Tashi – Indian/Bhutanese partnerships abound in Bhutan.

The Thimphu Taj lobby.

The Thimphu Taj lobby… fancy!

The Thimphu Taj dining room.

The Thimphu Taj dining room.

Bamboo scaffolding.

A few blocks away…bamboo scaffolding is used extensively.

Bamboo supporting concrete molds.

Bamboo supporting concrete molds.

New buildings combine modern with traditional.

The City Mall..new buildings combine modern with traditional.

Another example of new/traditional architecture.

Another example of new/traditional architecture.

Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue under construction in a overlooking Thimphu. The statue will house over one hundred thousand (one hundred thousand) smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Buddha Dordenma itself, will be made of bronze and gilded in gold.  Total cost of the project is expected to exceed $100 million.

Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue under construction and overlooking Thimphu. The statue will house over 100,000 smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Buddha Dordenma itself, will be made of bronze and gilded in gold. Total cost of the project is expected to exceed $100 million.

The Memorial Chorten in Thimphu.  It is one of the most visible landmarks in Thimphu.

The Memorial Chorten in Thimphu. It is one of the most visible landmarks in Thimphu.

Many Bhutanese living in Thimphu will make 3 passes  (always clockwise) around this memorial chorten on their way to work and repeat the same ritual on their way home after work. It's believed that by doing this, they will be blessed.

Many Bhutanese living in Thimphu will make 3 passes (always clockwise) around this memorial chorten on their way to work and repeat the same ritual on their way home after work. It’s believed that by doing this, they will be blessed.

The Druk School, a private school in Thimphu.  Annual tuition is around $1,000.

The Druk School, a private school in Thimphu. Annual tuition is around $1,000.

Kids at play at the Druk School, a private school in Thimphu.

Kids at play at the Druk School, a private school in Thimphu. The director of the activities spoke only English, and perfect English, over a loud speaker.

Musial chairs....to Bhutanese rap music.

Musical chairs….to Bhutanese rap music. Mark was enthralled… we had to stay until the end to see who won.

Backpacks are similar to US kids.

Backpacks are similar to US kids.

But lunch baskets are different.

But lunch baskets are different.

A new student!!!

A new student!!! Books in both Dzongkha and English.

 
Mini-field soccer game.

Mini-field soccer game.

 
Women working at the loom at the Bhutan School of Traditional Arts.

Women working at the loom at the Bhutan School of Traditional Arts.

 
Weaving intricate designs looks to be very difficult.

Weaving intricate designs looks to be very difficult. Single pieces can take months to complete.

 
One of the local venders.  Often their wares are created by relatives.  Her mother made this - it took about 6 months.

One of the local vendors, so sweet and soft-spoken. Their wares are created by themselves or their relatives. Her mother made this – it took about 6 months.

 
This young artist spent 7 months creating this commissioned piece.  He told us that all of the paint was from natural rock pigments.

This young artist  – who studied at the Bhutan Institute of Zorig Chusum (traditional arts) spent 7 months creating this commissioned piece for someone from Germany. Besides being painstakingly hand-painted, paint from natural rock pigments will last “for 1000 years”.

 
Opens an hour later thann 7-11.

7-11 operating on BST (Bhutan Stretchable Time).

 
Many of the gas stations were very decorative.

Love the decorative gas station.

 
Bhutanese body builders.

Bhutanese body builders.

 
This gym is owned by one of the former Bhutanese body builder champions.

This gym is owned by the first Bhutanese body builder champion.

   
The local market had numerous small vendors selling a myriad of rice, vegetables, incense, etc.

The local market had numerous small vendors selling a myriad of rice, vegetables, incense, etc.

 
Lots of different kinds of rice.

Lots of different kinds of rice.

 
Shauna tries on some new earings.

Shauna tries on some new earrings.

 
Bacon anyone?

Bacon or sausage anyone?

 
We didn't know that there are so many different types of incense.

We didn’t know that there are so many different types of incense.

 
Produce arriving from the country aboard the regional bus.

Produce arriving from the countryside aboard the regional bus.

 
Vendors bid on the various items of produce.

Vendors bid on the various items of produce. We thought we might see a fist fight.

 
I think there was a problem with the Betel nut chewers spitting red juice on the walls.  I guess it is OK to spit on the floor.

I think there was a problem with the Betel nut chewers spitting red juice on the walls. I guess it is OK to spit on the floor.

Shauna turning prayer wheels at a restaurant before lunch - I imagine praying for a good meal.

Shauna turning prayer wheels at a restaurant before lunch – praying for Ema Datshi, her favorite Bhutanese dish to be on the menu?

 
Mark having a go at grinding rice.

Mark having a go at grinding rice.

 
OK Buddha, what's up with this.  Actually, Buddhist iconographers use sexual polarity to symbolize the twin concepts of insight and compassion. All goddesses are symbols of insight and the gods represent compassion. The union of compassion and insight symbolizes the mind of enlightenment, which is represented visually by showing two deities engaged in sexual union.   Hmmmm.

OK Buddha, what’s up with this. Actually, Buddhist iconographers use sexual polarity to symbolize the twin concepts of insight and compassion. All goddesses are symbols of insight and the gods represent compassion. The union of compassion and insight symbolizes the mind of enlightenment, which is represented visually by showing two deities engaged in sexual union. Hmmmm.

Trip planned by GeoEx. Local Bhutanese tour operator: Yangphel Tours and Travels.