Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet website has to say about the sights we visited in Thimphu:
National Memorial Chorten
This large Tibetan-style chorten (stone Buddhist monument, often containing relics) is one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu, and for many Bhutanese it is the focus of their daily worship. It was built in 1974 as a memorial to the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928–72).
The whitewashed chorten, with its sun-catching golden finial, is decorated with richly painted annexes facing the cardinal directions, and features elaborate mandalas, statues and a shrine dedicated to the popular king. Throughout the day people circumambulate the chorten, whirl the large red prayer wheels and pray at a small shrine inside the gate.
Particularly charming is the dedicated group of old timers hauling away at room-size giant prayer wheels beside the main entrance. Early morning is especially tranquil as elderly people shuffle in, and spruced-up kids on their way to school whiz in and out to pay homage.
Royal Textile Academy – Textile Museum
Thimphu's National Textile Museum is worth a visit to learn about Bhutan's living national art of weaving. The ground floor focuses on cham costumes, while the upper floor introduces the major weaving techniques, styles of local dress and type of textiles made by women and men.
There is usually a small group of weavers working their looms inside the shop, which features work from the renowned weaving centre of Lhuentse in northeastern Bhutan. Each item is labelled with the name of the weaver.
Folk Heritage Museum - Kawajangsa
A 19th century three-storey traditional rammed mud and timber house in Kawajangsa, Thimphu, has been recreated into a folk heritage museum to document traditional Bhutanese lifestyle and values amidst dramatic changes triggered by the forces of modernization.
The design and the form of the house resembles an average household in the Wang area during that era. Apart from some renovation to recreate the authenticity of a typical medieval house, the original design and architecture has been maintained. The aged structure also demonstrates the durability of local building materials.
A comprehensive collection of clothes, furniture, crafts, tools and farming implements centered around agriculture and animal husbandry depict the main sources of livelihood for rural households. Other items portray religious practices, sports and leisure activities.
The exhibits, according to a spokesperson for the museum project, are structured according to the way space was used in rural households. The first floor was used as a pen for livestock, with implements ranging from farming tools to equestrian equipment for riding, travel and transport. The second floor was the family granary with grains stored in containers of various types and sizes while the family lived on the top floor.
Complementing the 19th century house are typical paddy, wheat and millet fields, a traditional water mill (with mill stones that date back more than 150 years), traditional style kitchen gardens and a traditional hot stone bath. Native trees and plants, such as plants that were and are still used for making paper, threads to weave cloth, traditional medicines and dyes, are also represented.
Here’s what I found on the bhutantravelagents.com website:
Buddha Dordenma is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue under construction in the mountains of Thimphu, facing Thimphu Valley. It is a 6km drive from Thimphu Town. Approved by His Majesty the King and the government, the Buddha Dordenma project is being initiated to commemorate the hundred years of monarchy in 2007.
The statue is expected to be a major pilgrimage centre and a focal point for Buddhists all over the world to converge, practice, meditate and retreat. It is also meant to fulfill the prophecy of bestowing blessings, universal peace and happiness to the world. A Singaporean businessman, Rinchen Peter Teo, is the main sponsor of the project.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
After a great night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we left to pack in four important sights in Thimphu before we were due to set off into the mountains and travel to Punakha. We started by driving 6km out of the capital, to a vantage point high above the city where a massive Buddha statue is being constructed.
Next we visited the National Memorial Chorten and delighted in seeing the elderly worshippers circle the chorten (stone Buddhist monument, often containing relics), deep in prayer; followed by the arrival of dozens of young kindergarten-aged children wearing the national dress as their school uniform.
Our third stop was the Royal Textile Academy, which also houses a Textile Museum. Cathy and I both studied textiles at university so we enjoyed seeing the fine weavings and tradition costumes on display. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos inside the museum. Last, but not least, we toured the Folk Heritage Museum and saw a typical rammed mud and timber home filled with artifacts and farm implements.
We were done by noon, and then we set off to see the beautiful countryside of Bhutan. We would not see another city until we returned to Thimphu a full week later.