The happy place

Visit Tashichho Dzong and in­dulge in ema dat­she dur­ing a long week­end get­away to Thim­phu

Bhutan Times - - EDITORIAL -

From the mo­ment you land in Bhutan’s Paro air­port, a small, tra­di­tion­ally de­signed build­ing awash with crisp, chilly moun­tain air, you know that you’ve left Delhi be­hind. There’s a dis­tinct im­pres­sion of ease, which in­sists that you slow down and take in the view.

And it’s a view worth tak­ing in. The en­tire city lies en­cir­cled by moun­tains cov­ered by lush, thick forests. Au­gust spells rain for Bhutan, and when I land, it is driz­zling in a per­sis­tent but gen­tle way. The flight from Delhi to Paro has been just un­der three hours long, but ev­ery air­plane jour­ney leads to a lit­tle travel weari­ness, which usu­ally lingers till your hol­i­day re­ally starts (ho­tel rooms with hot showers and a spot of sight­see­ing on the first day). In Bhutan, your hol­i­day be­gins from the mo­ment you land and Bhutan’s beauty greet­ing you im­me­di­ately.

From Paro, the drive to Bhutan’s cap­i­tal city of Thim­phu is 90 min­utes long, and the drive is spec­tac­u­larly scenic. Long, wind­ing moun­tain roads with rivers cut­ting across; lit­tle shops selling chillies and peaches and ap­ples, colour­ful prayers flags mov­ing in time with the breeze— it’s im­pos­si­ble to look away. There are hardly any houses, and the ones that there are ex­ist in sync with na­ture, all con­structed in the tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­tural style, with in­tri­cate carv­ings and colour­ful edges.

Sur­pris­ingly, when we reach Thim­phu, I no­tice that the land­scape doesn’t change dras­ti­cally. Of course, there are more shops, banks, post of­fices and cars on the road, but not so many that they over­whelm the nat­u­ral beauty of the place.

Even though my sched­ule is al­most full, but I have de­cided to squeeze in a lit­tle time to ex­pe­ri­ence the city, and visit the must­see places on my list.

For­tu­nately, I dis­cover that four days in Thim­phu al­low me to take in most of the city, and do it in an un­hur­ried and un­rushed man­ner. First comes the short, fif­teen minute drive up­hill, to the gi­gan­tic Buddha Dor­denma, a Shakya­muni Buddha Statue. On a rel­a­tively clear day, this golden Buddha is in fact vis­i­ble from many parts of the city it­self. From up at the Buddha Point, the en­tire city lies be­fore me, and makes it im­pos­si­ble not to gasp in awe.

I also make my way to the stamp shop at the Gen­eral Post Of­fice, which is a trea­sure trove of square, rec­tan­gu­lar, tri­an­gu­lar and even 3D stamps, rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent themes and events. The per­son­alised stamps which con­verts your own pho­to­graph into us­able stamps is a spe­cial at­trac­tion, as is the Crafts Bazaar close by. The bazaar is a long line of lit­tle hut-shops, which sell Bhutan’s hand­i­crafts; colour­ful bags, beau­ti­ful ki­ras and so much more. Even if you don’t pick up much, just the ex­pe­ri­ence of walk­ing down this bazaar in all its colour­ful glory is worth it. Of course, it won’t do to leave Thim­phu with­out indulging in a lit­tle lo­cal cui­sine. Al­most ev­ery eatery serves the clas­sic Bhutanese dish, ema dat­she, which is a con­coc­tion of chilli, cheese and ez­zay, a kind of Bhutanese salsa. Eaten with brown rice, ema dat­she is a lo­cal favourite.

There is a lot to see in Thim­phu it­self — the beau­ti­ful, sprawl­ing Tashichho Dzong, a fortress monastery, the Motithang Takin pre­serve where you can see Bhutan’s na­tional an­i­mal, the Takin, and the new textile mu­seum to learn more about the tra­di­tional Bhutanese dresses –– Kira for the women, Gho for the men.

That ev­ery­thing is a short dis­tance away en­sures that you don’t spend too long on the road. One of the other ways to take in Thim­phu is on foot. With lit­tle traf­fic on the road and wide streets, walk­ing is safe, and al­lows you to linger over tiny cafes and gift shops. If the up­hill climb does tire you, you can al­ways hail the read­ily avail­able cabs.

Each day, af­ter all the sight see­ing, com­ing back to the city cen­tre makes for a per­fect way to un­wind. The large court­yard flanked by beau­ti­ful, in­tri­cately carved prayer wheels and a gen­er­ous num­ber of park benches, dom­i­nated by the clock tower at its cen­tre, al­lows you to just sit and watch the city’s peo­ple walk by and the clouds drift over the moun­tains.

(The writer was in Thim­phu for the 6th edi­tion of the Moun­tain Echoes Literary Fes­ti­val, an In­dia-Bhutan Foun­da­tion ini­tia­tive, pow­ered by the Gov­ern­ment of Ra­jasthan)

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