The capital of Bhutan, Thimphu is perhaps as singular as the country itself. Home to a sixth of the total population, Thimphu yields its charms quietly and slowly to a visitor. In this collection, we have snapshots from a single day, of several inhabitants as they go about their day, collectively painting a picture of this small town capital.
A day in Thimphu, 14th July 2015:
7:30 am, Changjiji: While the town is still stirring lazily, preparing for a new day, these two schoolboys are ready to practise football with their friends at the Changjiji Football ground.
8:30 am, Central Thimphu: Several haircuts are in progress at Lalan’s Barber Shop, which has stood at this spot in the heart of Thimphu town for over 20 years. The gentleman to the left is getting this early morning haircut after completing a night shift at the hotel where he works.
8:45 am, Traffic Circle: As office-goers rush to work, the main road is unclogged with directions from the famed and much photographed traffic officer at the main traffic circle.
9:00 am, Tashichhodzong: Dawa Dorji, (pictured in the centre, with his aunt and uncle) is at the dzong to apply for his citizenship ID Card, now that he is 18 years old.
9:00 am, Tashichhodzong: Gyem Tshering, a programme officer at the Gross National Happiness Commission, goes to work in his office at the Dzong. The Dzong houses His Majesty’s Secretariat, several government offices, and the central monk body. People working here, such as Gyem Tshering, are well advised to carry some lunch, as they spend the day working in the fortress.
9:30 am, Tashichhodzong: Zimpon Wogma Kunzang Dorji, who works at the Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon, returns to his office after helping a kidu appellant register her application with the Kidu Support Office. The Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon is located just outside the dzong, along with several government offices.
10:00 am, Bhutan Telecom: Metho Seldon, who has been working at Bhutan Telecom for over two years, helps people, while automated voices announce token numbers in the background.
10:45 am, Tashichhodzong Lam: Sonam Norbu (L) and Sonam Dorji (R) help build a wall along the road that leads to Tashichhodzong. Sonam Norbu, 24, completed class 10 from Jigme Sherubling School, and Sonam Dorji from Zhemgang.
“Sometimes I feel a little embarrassed when I see my friends going to their office jobs as I work here, my hands covered in mud. But it pays well enough, and I plan to move on to other things. I’m doing this so that I have some money right now,” Sonam Dorji says.
11:15 am, Changangkha Lhakhang: Drugyel, a 25-year-old tourist guide working with a local tour agency, shows a guest around Changangkha Lhakhang. For a quick experience of Bhutan’s hike-temple combination, the lhakhang is located on a hill that takes less than 5 minutes to climb, and besides an important monastery, rewards the climber with an excellent view of Thimphu.
11:20 am, Changangkha Lhakhang: During weekdays, one will also meet elderly citizens circumambulating the lhakhang, slowly turning the prayer wheels. Ap Ngawang, who lives in Motithang with his daughter’s family, spends every day at the lhakhang while the rest of his family are at work or school.
12:15 pm, JDWNRH: Sonam Wangdi, an orthopaedic technician, steps out of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, which is full of patients, caregivers, medical personnel, and the distinctive bitter hospital smell.
12:20 pm, JDWNRH: A young couple wait outside the hospital, here for a pregnancy check-up.
12:50 pm, Bank of Bhutan: Sangay Tshechu, a lecturer at Sherubtse College, is exchanging money for an upcoming official trip to Japan.
1:20 pm, My Mart: Kinely Choki, a teacher at Dechencholing School, shops at My Mart. (July 14th was in the middle of the summer break)
1:45 pm, Kalden Restaurant: Kinley Dem takes a brief break to pose for a picture in her busy restaurant on Chang Lam. The little restaurant, which serves Bhutanese food, is so popular with office-goers that it is impossible to find a spot here during the lunch hour.
5:00 pm, Tashichhodzong: The National Flag has been lowered, rolled, and is ceremoniously taken to the Dzong, marking the end of a working day.
5:00 pm, Tashichhodzong: The enormous National Flag that flies at the Tashichhodzong is raised every morning at 5 am, and lowered at 5 pm.
5:25 pm, VAST Gallery: Dechen Pelden, 20, paints at the Voluntary Artist’s Studio in Thimphu. VAST is an important part of Thimphu, and several of their installations and trees adorn the town. Dechen’s painting will feature in an all-women art exhibition in the gallery, titled “Her Expression.”
5:30 pm, Outside VAST Gallery: A car needs a little shove from friends to start.
5:35 pm, Changlimithang Stadium: A football match between Drukpol and Rigsum IT has several spectators on the stands.
5:40 pm, Changlimithang Stadium: The Under-18 National Team of Bhutan prepares to begin their practice session on the ground adjacent to the main ground at the stadium.
5:40 pm, Changlimithang Stadium: A Bhutan Elite Security Services Officer is responsible for the security of the ground.
5:45 pm, outside Changlimithang Ground.
5:50 pm, Centenary Children’s Park: Toddlers play in plastic slides.
5:50 pm, Centenary Children’s Park: A toddler finds the camera lens mesmerising.
6:00 pm, Clock Tower Square
6:05 pm, Clock Tower Square: Karma Wangchuk, 17, collects parking fees. He has to make Nu. 3,000 for his agency each day- and gets paid Nu. 6,000 a month.
6:15 pm, Clock Tower Square: Bal Maya (R) and her sister sell tea and snacks. The Clock Tower Square, where most of the outdoor concerts that ever take place in Thimphu are held, is always an interesting place. Surrounded by shops and hotels, with the iconic clock tower at the centre, it is not uncommon to see students tossing a football, people walking dogs, or just sitting in the sun.
6:15 pm, Clock Tower Square: Bal Maya’s spicy ingredients for her puffed rice mix- onion and chillies, chickpeas and peas, and a dash of mustard oil and vinegar.
6:15 pm, Clock Tower Square: (L-R) Sonam Choden, Dechen Yangzom, and Regeta Gurung, are class 11 students on summer vacation, enjoying some of the spicy puffed rice mix, as they hang out at the square.
6:30 pm, Tshering Choden Restaurant: Pema Norbu (L) and Karma Tenzin (R) are meeting to discuss setting up a new football team- “Kota United”, over momos and tea.