Suitcase and World: First experience in Thimpu. The central market.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First experience in Thimpu. The central market.

Go figure :-) The first sight I get to see in Thimphu is the city's central market. But just so you know, I did not deliberately plan to do this.

We arrived into Thimphu at around 4pm today.  Though Thimphu is located only 170km from Phuentsholing, it pretty much took us all day to get here as the mountain roads are very narrow and winding.

Nestled in a valley and situated alongside the Wang Chhu river, Thimphu is a very picturesque little city.  By the way, the rivers in Bhutan are translucent green in color and the water is crystal clear....pristine as can be!

As we pulled into town, I marvelled at how neat and tidy the city is and beautiful hand paintings and carvings that adorn every building....from the gas station to the sports stadium. 

The traffic is sparse and very orderly and it's true....there is not a single stop light or stop sign in the entire city!  Just the occasional traffic cop to direct traffic.

Today is Sunday and people are out and about, many dressed in their national costumes, enjoying a beautiful day.

The tranquility and serenity that is a hallmark of this tiny Buddhist nation is almost palpable. Such a dramatic difference from India!

I've only been here barely an hour and I'm already loving this place!

The driver deposited us in the center of town and Tenzing gave us 20 minutes to explore the town as he needed to complete some paperwork for us.  We had two choices of places to go.  On one side of the street - a souvenir market and on the other side - the central market.  I figured there would be plenty of opportunities to shop for souvenirs later on so I opted for the market.  Not surprisingly, I was the only one the group headed in that direction.

Off  I went.  Tenzing told me the market is two stories so I headed to the lower level first.  I should have expected, given how orderly the rest of the city is, to see that the market is separated into specific areas and each area is clearly marked.  

Walking into the market, The first thing that struck me is how clean the market was. and I don't just mean individual stalls but the entire market. There is no litter, no produce trash, no unidentifiable pools of water.  Apparently, there is law that requires sellers to keep their space neat, tidy and clean or else they're fined. Everyone sweeps up and wipes up after themselves. There are trash cans scattered throughout the complex so there is no excuse for anyone to litter.

Within each section, there are individual stall for the sellers.  Each stall is the same size and the produce is laid out on tile lined cement "shelves".  With little exception, no food was laid out on the ground for sale.  Very clean.

Usually, within a central market, there are shops selling non-perishable items but there none here.  Non-perishables as well as meat are sold in shops that surround the market.  

As far as meat goes, the Bhutanese do eat meat but they are devout Buddhists which means that they don't kill animals so all meat as well as fish is imported from neighboring India. I know, sounds a bit hypocritical to be so against killing an animal yet be able to enjoy its flesh.

Though Bhutanese do eat meat, vegetables make up the larger proportion of the diet so pretty much the entire lower level was dedicated to the vegetable and fruit sellers.  There's a fair bit of variety to their vegetables though not surprisingly, chillies are sold in enormous lots and I mean enormous!

Fruits don't seem to figure heavily into the Bhutanese diet.  Apples seem to be main crop and not surprising given the climate. 

There was a small section of the market for grains and there seemed to be quite a variety.  The main starch here is red rice and there was quite a bit of that for sale along with oats.

I only had 20 minutes to wander the entire market which is too little time for me to take photos so I shot video instead.  Join me on my walk through the central market in Thimphu.