Thimphu, Bhutan - Stein Travel
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Thimphu

The largest city in Bhutan with more than 100,000 residents, Thimphu first began to develop as an urban area when it was declared the capital of Bhutan in 1961. The city then began a period of rapid modernisation that is still ongoing, with cars, electric street lights, national sports stadiums, and wireless internet appearing.

Though Thimphu lacks the grandeur of ancient capitals, the city is an intriguing blend of tradition and modernity with intricately-carved and painted buildings clustered together like any urban centre. The city retains its charm through cultural idiosyncrasies like the sight of crimson-robed monks with laptops, white-gloved police directing traffic at each street corner, and phallic graffiti meant to drive away evil spirits.

Thimphu is home to many Buddhist monasteries and landmarks, as well as several good museums like the National Folk Heritage museum and the Textile Museum. Several parks and preserves in the city are a good place to enjoy the local flora and fauna, including the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin (which looks like a cross between a cow and a goat).

Shopping in Thimphu is rather limited, however beautiful handmade Bhutanese souvenirs like exquisite textiles, gold and silver jewellery, and other handicrafts are available from places like the Zorig Chusum School of Traditional Arts, the weekend market in Chubachhu, and the souvenir shops in Yarkay Central. There are also some good restaurants in Thimphu, and visitors will find plenty of Indian and Asian food along with local Bhutanese cuisine.

Information & Facts

Language

Dzongkha is the official language, and various Tibetan dialects are spoken. English has recently become the language of instruction in schools but is only spoken fluently by guides and tourist industry professionals.

Money

The local currency is the Ngultrumbut subdivided into 100 Chetrums. The currency is pegged to the Indian rupee on scale of 1:1. The Ngultrumbut was only introduced in 1974 before which the country had no currency, relying on a system of bartering to acquire goods. US Dollars and Travellers Cheques can be exchanged at banks and large hotels. Visa and Mastercard are not widely accepted.

Time

Local time is GMT +6 hours.

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