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Bhutan-1 > Phuntsoling and Thimpu

We entered Bhutan from Phuntsoling and after obtaining Visas and Driving permits we drove to the capital and did all sights in and around Thimpu over next 2 days.

Highlight pictures from this Tour:

Bhutan West -  Phuntsoling & Thimpu

Phuntsoling Entrance Gateway

Building in Phuntsoling

Bus Terminal and the RSTA permit building in Phuntsoling


Looking back at the road we came up ... from the Dantak Canteen

 We had lunch here at the Dantak canteen about halfway to Thimpu

 A neat 4-lane highway leads into Thimpu City

Main Street, Thimpu

Hotel TT where we stayed


All of Thimpu building are beautifully decorated, in colorful designs ... and even the policeman's traffic roundabout was nice


 Another Commercial Building

The petrol station too is colorful!


The main entrance to the Stadium


Wall Painting at the GPO

A colorful facade


National Chorten Entrance

Prayer wheels at National Chorten


The colorful decoration over the doorway at Chorten

Locals at the mini-zoo of "Takins" - a unique animal, closely linked to Bhutan's history and mythology

"Takins" in Thimpu's Mini- Zoo


Aerial View of Bhutan coming down the western hills of the Takin Zoo


A nice Indian style restaurant "Chulha"  -  where we had lunch


Hariharan at the prayer wheel at Simtokha Dzong

 Monks at Simtokha Dzong

 Wall Paintings at the Simtokha Dzong Monastery

We went back to Trashichhoe Dzong after 5 pm .. thinking we could go in. But for that too, you need a permit!

Highlight Details of this Tour:

Clock-tower Square opposite our TT-Hotel,Thimpu, Bhutan

15th April 2009: Today, we have to first get our permits at Phuntsoling and then drive to Thimpu, Bhutan. Anybody can enter Phuntsoling, without a Visa or Permit (and even stay in a hotel) as it is, a sort of 'free border' town. But to go further into Bhutan there are check posts, that will ask for your permits.  HVK and I walked into P/soling at 6:30am today to make reconnaissance survey and understand the town layout and see the buildings and working hours, where have to apply for permits.

We need to first get people-permits for the five of us, Indians, at the Immigration office opens 8:30am IST and then since we plan to drive in Bhutan with our own vehicle we will also need a "vehicle" permit at the  RSTA office above the bus-stand in P/soling. So we were the first in the Q, at 8:30am IST (9:00am BST) when the Immigration office opened.

We got our permits in hand, by 10:00am and with those went to RSTA for the Scorpio permit that took another 1.5 hrs and we were 'all set' by 11:00am. The permit process was a bit time consuming, but otherwise hassle-free and easy; if you have all requisite documents in order. HVK was well prepared for all this! Keep in mind, though, this was just the permit to Thimpu & Paro we have to do all this, all over again in Thimpu, for going to central and east Bhutan.

Finally, we were headed to Thimpu at 11am. The roads were good and the traffic light and orderly. The route was scenic all the way and the weather was pretty cool at 18-20°C. We stopped at Dantak canteen for lunch at 1:30pm and reached Thimpu Market around 5:00pm.

The Welcome arch at entrance to Thimpu City

After checking out a few hotels, we settled on Hotel TT on the main street, opposite the clock-tower square. A basic DBL room here was Rs 500/- per night. It had a parking space free, in the back street. We stayed 3 nights.

The rest of today and the whole of next day (16th April) we went up and down Thimpu 's few streets, admiring all the buildings and street scenes. Also visited all the local tourist sites.  

Thimpu town was an eye-opener for me! A clean city, orderly traffic, no blaring horns, cars parked neatly, building all painted and decorated in typical traditional styles, signboards uniform. People dressed in traditional uniforms, talking softly. No noisy streets, no noisy people. Though every hotel and restaurant is also Bar, no drunks on the street. How come? we Indians have  a lot to learn from this small, neighbour, country! We don't have to go West, to learn the civic sense. Read in some tourist literature that Bhutan takes pride in a high Gross National Happiness (GNH) visa-vis high GDP. People everywhere (not only Thimpu) seemed happier and at peace with their lives and their environment!

 Buddhist Monk in Thimpu street - - - I tried to take a picture of him walking by, but he suddenly stopped and faced me! ... I was thinking he is unhappy with me for trying to snap his picture without permission? Instead, he stopped walking, turned to face me, smiled and posed for my camera! ... and after I had clicked walked away with a parting wave of his hand!! With the monk was his lady assistant, who too smiled, seeing him spare a minute for me. Behind the monk HVK is coming out of the Immigration Office, with our Permits for East Bhutan which he managed to get, with his usual efficiency.

PS (2012):  At the time I took this picture in 2009,  I had simply thought "what a kind old monk" he was! ... to stop, smile and pose for me! But since then I have visited this page several times and have looked at this picture many times! Each time I learnt some new lesson from his old act! Over the years, I realized it was much more than a kind human smile, that he was teaching me!

Bhutan Bank and GPO ....  share a building

The GPO has a Philatelic section on the G-floor; where all the exotic and colorful stamps and first-day-covers printed by Bhutan, over past 50 years are sold. We spent an interesting hour seeing those and ended-up buying over Rs 2000 worth of stamps between us.


The SAARC Convention Center & National Assembly

Panoramic view of Thimpu city views and the Wangchu river 

The National Memorial Chorten at Thimpu

 Trashichhoe Dzong - from the hillside, coming down from the Zoo

In the afternoon, we visited the Simtokha Dzong, 5 kms outside Thimpu,  when the monks there were holding their "Q&A sessions" that is done in such traditional style; with a loud clap of hands and huge stomping down of the right foot -  as in pictures here:

Monks at Simtokha Dzong 

Simtokha Dzong



Tomorrow, 17th April, we make a day-trip to Paro and the Drukgyel Dzong in Paro valley. Details of that trip is in the subpages.