The drive up to the capital city of Thimphu is pretty much like ascending a staircase. Phuntsholing sits in the plains at 985 feet, from where the road climbs quickly into the Bhutanese foothills of the Himalayas to Thimphu at 7375 feet.
Our driver tells us that before the road was built in 1962, Bhutan was cut off from the world, accessible only on mountain foot paths. Now, the journey time between the Indian border and Thimphu has been reduced from 6 days to 6 hours!
Thimphu is the largest city in the country and is spread out along the banks of the Raidak river locally known as the Wang Chuu or Thimphu Chuu.
Despite its modernization, the city retains its cultural identity which is seen in the architecture and the national dress code that the locals wear – Gho for the men and Kira for the women which is worn on all formal occasions and places like government offices, temples, dzongs and monasteries.
Interestingly, Thimphu is the only capital city in the world that doesn’t use traffic lights! Like all first timers to Thimphu we also paused to watch the arm-waving policeman at the city’s busiest intersection, directing traffic with exaggerated hand movements.
If you have to meet someone the obvious place to do that would be at the clock tower, a well known landmark of the city.
Our first morning in Thimphu begun with heavily overcast skies along with tiny snowflakes drifting down. But the next day, this was the view from our room as we sat down with our morning cup of tea.