thimphu, the unusual capital city—a photo essay


[My below post was published in the November–December 2016 edition of Druk Air’s in-flight magazine Tashi Delek. All proceeds from my fees went to support the Ability Bhutan Society, a charity supported by Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen in aid of persons living with moderate to severe diverse abilities.]

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Imagine. Imagine a city, a functioning capital city, with all its chores of running a nation perched high up in the Himalayas, bereft of any street lights, and one which made its debut in international tourism and on the “world stage” as recently as 1974. Before that, you and I would not even have been able to cross its borders.

Imagine a city with multinationals and media houses, where architecture, culture and everyday life wear the mantle of Tantric Buddhism. By law, buildings are mandated to be modelled on traditional lines, replete with symbolic paintings. Bhutanese have to dress in local attire.

Imagine a city where there are national tournaments in archery at the national stadium coz, yes, archery is the national sport. Monks are not allowed to take part in archery. They play another sport in its place—daygo which involves throwing flat circular discs.

Till the 1960s schooling was limited to religious studies in monasteries. Bhutan lifted its ban on the Internet in 1999. It was the last country in the world to do so. Mobile telephones were introduced in 2003. The only way to reach Thimphu is by road [it does not have an airport].

For all the above reasons, and many more, Thimphu is worth that extra set of miles. It was, definitely, worth mine. Continue reading