24 October 2019
Today we get a crash course in Bhutanese culture on an exploratory tour of Thimphu, the capital city. We first drive up to Buddha point where there is a 51m statue of Buddha, made in solid bronze and gilded with gold. It is the tallest Buddha in the world. We are able to see inside – wonderful carvings and paintings, as well as lots of pictures of the Royal Family and the 70th Chief Abbott. We also get great views of Thimphu nestled in the valley from the grounds of the Buddha.
On the way we learn how to say some words in the Bhutanese language Dzongkha: hello – ‘kuzuzungpo la’ (kuzu kuzu to your friends) – and thank you – Kadrin chey’. We learn that Druk (seen on everything including our Druk Airlines) means dragon and Bhutan is known as the Dragon Kingdom or Land of the Thunder Dragon. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is the Druk Gyalpo or “Dragon King”.
Next stop is the Zilukha Nunnery that is home to between 40-65 nuns and also provides shelter for aging women and orphaned girls. We are allowed to go inside but not take photos.
On the way back into the centre of the city we stop at a lookout where we can see the vast white, red and gold Tashicho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), located on the right bank of Thimphu Chu (river). We can also see the seat of Government behind it and the Supreme Court further up the valley. We also watch people harvesting their crops on the terraces below us.
We also visit the National Library and see photos of the main Dzongs around Bhutan and hear about some of the history (and more about the royal family). There is also a huge book there that has been certified by the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest book in the world (we are not allowed to take photos).
In the city centre we visit a money changer/ATM so that we can get some local currency. Most of our trip in Bhutan is included but we need some local money for drinks or handcrafts etc we want to buy. It is harder than expected as the ATM doesn’t accept cards with chips in them and although I have some US dollars, the money changer won’t accept any that have any marks on them of any kind.
We stop for lunch at a very nice restaurant in the city that brings out a wide range of different dishes for us to try. Doreen is very surprised to discover that the long bean she ate was in fact a chilli.
After lunch we go to watch some men practicing for an archery tournament. Archery is the national sport in Bhutan and they are represented in it at the Olympics. We were very impressed with the high-tech nature of their bows. We watched the teams practice for quite a while.
Next stop is the Centenary Farmers Market where we see a huge range of vegetables being sold, along with dried fish, cereals, and a whole range of dried animal products including dried skin (for eating), dried cheese, dried sausages. We learnt last night that all pesticides are banned in Bhutan, they grow most of their own vegetables and whilst they do eat meat, they don’t kill any of their animals or even go fishing – everything is imported.
Then it is back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before we head out again to visit the Tashicho Dzong (or castle fortress) that we had seen from the hill earlier. The Dzong doesn’t open until 5.00pm on weekdays and there is a very short period to visit before darkness falls at 5.30 and the monks begin their evening prayers. Chenga adds a white silk sash to his traditional Gho as is expected when entering a more formal environment. On the way we pass the palace, which is extremely modest – apparently the king said he’d rather give the extra money to support the poor. We are really starting to like this King (he brought in Gross National Happiness in 2008)!
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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