I’ve been in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, for a week now. It’s almost as I expected, with a couple of surprises. The town is diminuitive and hilly with one long main street that runs parallel to the Thimphu River. Ladies in silk kiras and gentlemen in checked ghos and knee socks negotiate the crevassed pavements, while stray dogs scuffle in the dust. When a royal car passes (the king’s license plate simply reads “BHUTAN”), drivers pull over and bow their heads in respect, and the city has a policeman with crisp hand signals instead of a traffic light at its busiest intersection.
This weekend, I’ve made a trip to Paro with some friends. We had just reached Taktsang (“Tiger’s Nest”) Monastery this morning when the earthquake shook Nepal and made itself felt everywhere from Assam to Pakistan. Some visitors felt it, others didn’t – I thought it was just heavy footfall on the floor above.
By the time we reached Paro a couple of hours later, the B-Mobile signal kept jamming as people checked in with loved ones and shared news of the earthquake – a grim reminder of the forces that continue to shape the Himalayan landscape.
I’m here writing for a new travel website, MyBhutan. I’ll be wheezing my way up to hilltop dzongs and goempas for the next couple of weeks, seeing as much of Bhutan as possible as I research content for the site. More stories to come – though I dearly hope this will be the last involving a natural disaster…
P.S. In case you’re interested, the aspects of Thimphu that my pre-trip reading didn’t prepare me for include the existence of a great pizza delivery service (and excellent food in general), the range and quality of the capital’s bookshops, and the amount of rubbish that litters the streets.
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