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Bhutan: Thimphu Dzong

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Thimphu Dzong | Bhutan | Asia

[Visited: October 2009]

After my first Bhutanese meal, and after some first explorations of the capital city of Thimphu, we headed to the main building of the city: Tashichoe dzong. Dzongs are fortresses, often built centuries ago, originally used for a military function, but nowadays housing the regional administration as well as the regional religious authority. Each region in the country has a dzong, but the one in Thimphu is special: apart from the regional and religious function, it also includes the national government as well as offices of the king. Each dzong in Bhutan has a unique shape, the one in Thimphu is square.

Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Tashiccho Dzong seen from the southeastern corner

Where all other dzongs I would see later on were perched high on the top of a hill, on a strategic location, Tashichoe dzong in Thimphu actually stands on the banks of the Wang Chhu river. It is has a square shape, with four massive towers at each corner. After parking the car at a distance, walking towards the entrance of the dzong have us a good impression of its enormous size. Once inside, it was like stepping back in history instantly. While outside some luxurious cars hinted at the presence of the king in the royal part of the dzong, inside it looked like it must have for centuries. Or, at least, since reconstruction after the several fires that the dzong has suffered since it was first constructed in the 17th century by the unifier of the Bhutanese nation: Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Animal depicted in wood carving at Thimphu Dzong

My guide explained how far I could walk, as the administrative section of Tashichoe dzong is off limits for foreign visitors. Inside this fortress, the southern part is reserved for administration, while the northern part has a religious function. In between the buildings, a spacious square gives ample opportunity to wander around and marvel at the typical Bhutanese architecture. Large groups of pigeons sail through the sky, sometimes diving to just above the surface of the square, immobilizing everyone happening to be in their path. The exterior of the buildings, the whitewashed walls and the colourful wooden elements inside, combined in one building without the use of a single nail, the decorations with animals, coloured wooden beams and window panes, and the rows of prayer wheels all impressed me, and made one thing clear to me: I had indeed arrived in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Pigeons everywhere at Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Golden roofs cover Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Gold-coloured prayer wheels at Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Religious buildings at Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Entrance to religious building of Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Garuda guarding a corner of a religious building
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Wall painting with the wheel of life
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): One of the buildings in Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Stairs and monk dress in Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Wooden stairs in one of the buildings of Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Wooden door with decorations in Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Deity with three eyes depicted on wall of Thimphu Dzong
Picture of Thimphu Dzong (Bhutan): Door in Thimphu Dzong: detailed view

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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