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Thimpu – literally, the ‘Uplands of Thim’ – is the capital city of Bhutan, but don’t let that fool you. With a population of just 80,000, it is the smallest capital city in Asia and extraordinarily easy to navigate.
Known for its fine monasteries and entrancing natural surroundings, Thimpu is the place to experience authentic Bhutanese culture in an urban setting. The thronging Chanlingmethang Market boasts more than one hundred stalls selling hand-made Buddhist ritual pieces - scarves, prayer flags, bowls, and cloth – alongside daily sundries like fruit, vegetables, meat, rice, spices and grains. It is open from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. The Tashi Cho dzong is another important site. Currently the seat of the central Bhutanese government, it was refurbished in 1962 when the nation’s capital was relocated to Thimpu. The traditional Bhutanese architecture of ornate carved wooden ceilings and columns can be found throughout the building, and temples in all wings of the structure showcase vibrant murals of important Buddhist deities.
There are countless temples and monasteries throughout the city, but the most famous is the Memorial Chorten. Completed in 1974, this sumptuous memorial is dedicated to the third king of Bhutan. The building houses massive three-dimensional mandalas of significant deities and each of its three floors represents one of the three most crucial ‘treasure-cycles’ of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition to the Memorial, The Changangkha Lhakhang temple, the Dechen Choling Palace, and the Zangdok Pelri Temple are important centres of Buddhist worship in Thimpu.