The best of Thimphu during Mountain Echoes Literary Festival
Attending Mountain Echoes, a literary festival held from August 24th to 27th in Thimphu is a good way to soak up the culture of the capital of the beautiful Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. For years, Mountain Echoes literary festival has set the pace for discussions on ancient cultures and contemporary issues.
With a stellar line-up of over 70 authors, the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival will also see literary titans from Bhutan, India and across the world come together to explore globally relevant issues such as environmental conservation, natural history, business and leadership and the global evolution of textiles and design traditions.
Whether it’s hearing authors like Devdutt Pattanaik, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, or Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, there is something for everyone here. Other big names making an appearance at the event include – Imtiaz Ali, Ruskin Bond, Amrita Tripathi, Jerry Pinto, Padma Lakshmi, Barkha Dutt, His Eminence Kyabje Khedrup Rinpoche, Ugyen Tenzin Thinley Lhendup and many more.
To know more about the festival register, log on to www.mountainechoes.org. But why stop at that? Explore Thimphu after the festival is over.
The capital of one of the world’s most intriguing destinations, Thimphu combines a natural small-town feel with a new commercial exuberance that constantly challenges Bhutan’s natural conservatism and Shangri La image. However, the juxtaposition of old and new remain part of Thimphu’s charm. Crimson-robed monks, government ministers clad in traditional dress and camera wielding tourists all share pavements lines with shops selling SIM cards and Buddhist accessories.
For visitors, Thimphu offers the best opportunity to briefly break away from the tour itinerary. In addition to its traditional Buddhist sights and attractions, it offers cafes, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Finding a balance between the esoteric and espresso – the old and the new – is the key to getting the most out of this charming city.
Here’s our list of things to do in Thimphu that are sure to make your stay more memorable.
Trashi Chhoe Dzong: Roam the peaceful courtyard of this grand and serene fortress. This splendid dzong gives Thimphu both regal splendor and monastic weight. The dzong hosts the biggest annual bash, the colourful tsechu festivities.
Weekend Market: Plunge into Thimphu’s pungent and bustling ‘weekend market’ for incense and artefacts, traditional produce and souvenir stalls.
Tango Goemba: Hike through whispering pines to the serene solitude of this Buddhist college, or combine a visit with a hike to nearby Drolay Goemba or Cheri Goemba.
Buddha Dordenma: Look up in awe at the mighty 50m statue that gazes over the city. Its massive three-storey base houses a large chapel.
National Institute for Zorig Chusum: Gain a respect for the skill and artistry of Bhutanese 13 traditional arts and crafts here also known as ‘the painting school’. The showroom sells good-value pieces made by students.
Motithang Takin Preserve: Inspect and photograph Bhutan’s national animal, the takins. The best time to visit is early morning, when they gather near the fence to feed.
Changangkha Lhakhang: Spin prayer wheels with fellow pilgrims and consult with an astrologer at Thimpu’s liveliest 12th century temple.
World’s Largest Published Book: That’s what you will find at the National Library. Aptly titled Bhutan, and weighing in at 68 kg and over 2m tall, this heavyweight time could crush your coffee table. Its huge illustrated pages are turned one page per month.
Arts & Crafts: Thimphu has a thriving arts and crafts industry. A visit to the workshops and traditional factories can bring you up and close to their vibrant arts. The Jungshi Handmade paper factory produces traditional Bhutanese paper from the bark of the daphne bush. Nado Poizokhang Incense factory is easily Thimphu’s sweetest-smelling excursion. Goldsmiths Workshop is a good place to see copper and silver chasing and the production of fine jewellery and toranas and finials for monasteries.
Philatelic Bureau: Thimphu’s post office is the unlikely location for one of Bhutan’s most unique gifts. Bring a favourite digital photo on a USB and the staff will print you a sheet of personalized stamps with your photo on them for a price.
Deer Park: For those whose pursuits tend towards the spiritual this small centre offers Tuesday evening meditation classes, short weekend retreats and Buddhist discussions for adults and children.