It’s not a fait accompli that a country’s capital will properly reflect the glory of the whole. To wit: Canada is lovely but Ottawa is apparently UGERLY. Even closer to home, Brussels is by far and away the least attractive part of Bel… oh no actually that doesn’t work.
Normally, however, the capital at least inspires a sense of awe and wonderment at the sheer civic cojones of the mandarins in charge: big-ass buildings that stand around for seemingly no better reason than that they say ‘My Budget BULGES’, monuments so vainglorious they have long since lost any connection to the reason they were built, road layouts that are just a nightmare for street-sweepers.
But Thimpu properly owns the category of ‘Crap Capitals’ – ‘Crapitals’, if you will, at least relative to the beauty of Paro and it’s surroundings which was our first stop on this Bhutanese tour. It’s dull, quite hectic and very smelly. By far and away the most exciting thing we saw on our first afternoon (after a switchback, nauseating, hair-raising ride from Paro) was something that wasn’t actually there. It’s this guy: the ‘Lack-of-a-Traffic-Light’ Man:
The excitement of watching a guy in a box continually waving his hands around to stop cars crashing into each other wore pretty thin after about 15 seconds (FAR more interesting if he’d been taken suddenly ill and then cars had started crashing into each other). Then we noticed some potentially interesting souvenir shops:
Aaaah, maybe Thimpu can be saved. I made a resolution to use penis-based retail therapy to get through the first few hours and alcohol-based stupefaction to get through the following 36.
The hotel restaurant was literally echoing with disappointment even as we sat down to eat, being completely devoid of clientele. It’s that multinational luckshureh hertel (post passim.) abyss that means your ability to afford such a spot guarantees you’ve priced out anyone and anything interesting from entering your sphere of vision. But I haven’t been on this Earth for 42 years for nothing and am well aware that a few dozen shandies makes a party of pretty much anything. But… GAH! Turns out Tuesday is DRY DAY throughout Bhutan! What the! There was a moment where I nearly threw an actual tantrum, then I realised that made me a) sad b) culturally insensitive and c) a confirmed alcoholic rather than an alcoholic in denial. This picture shows a water glass very much half empty, despite the fact it’s nearly full.
But I digress. You’ll be relieved to hear I found a nightcap in the minibar (LUCKSHUREH) along with a ‘Cadbury’s’ ‘Chocolate’ bar of Indian origin (that as anyone who’s fallen for the ‘Cadbury’s in India’ trap will know tastes like it was made around about the time of Partition) and all was well. Happy Ending. This happy! –
So far the Good Luck Willy has worked! Stay tuned for tomorrow when we find out that Thimpu actually isn’t all that bad and I’ve now basically ensured I’ll never get a tourist permit ever again.