Thimphu High Street

Thank you for taking part in the last Big Picture. Your answers were varied – Changangkha, Phobjikha, Gangtey, Wangdue, Paro, Bumthang, Dagana, Lhuntse and Thimphu town – and rightfully so. The old photo, after all, could have been taken anywhere in Bhutan.

The picture, as you can now easily see, was taken outside the Tashichhodzong. It shows the beginnings of modern Thimphu complete with offices, shops and, in the background, the dzong undergoing major renovation and expansion.

Dorji, “Pothery” and “River” all identified the place correctly. But the first correct answer came from Ugen, who wrote, “Settlement outside Tashichhodzong in Thimphu in early 50′s.” This picture was actually taken in the early 1960’s, but it couldn’t have been that much different in the 50’s, so I’m awarding the prize to Ugen. (Ugen: please email me to claim your prize.)

The photo is from a book “Hearts and Life and the Kingdom of Bhutan” by Dr Aubrey Leatham, a leading pioneer in cardiology and the development of pacemakers. This book is mainly about developments in the field of cardiology since 1945. But the author has included a chapter about his experiences in Bhutan, and that’s what gives the books excitement for us, and a sense of magic and mystery for other readers. He has also included almost 100 photographs, most of which show what Thimphu, and Bhutan, looked like in the 1960’s. Lovely. As we would expect, Thimphu has grown and changed beyond recognition, but the rest of Bhutan, luckily, has not changed very much.

So what is the connection between cardiology, Dr Leatham and Bhutan? The doctor was invited to Bhutan in 1963 and again in 1964  on a very important mission: as a physician to His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo. He nursed the Father of Modern Bhutan, and claims to have extended our King’s life by more than a few years. The significance of his service is not lost on the author who writes:

My patient, the King, with premature coronary artery disease (before the days of coronary artery surgery, dilatations and stents), survived for eight years, giving time for his son to take over; he died whilst on safari in Africa. I was presented with the Order of Bhutan by the Queen for restoring hi to health until his son was ‘of age’.

His Majesty the King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck passed away on 21 July, 1972. His son, the Crown Prince, ascended the Golden Throne to become the Fourth Druk Gyalpo at the tender age of 16.



Facebook Comments:


  1. The information certainly is useful…especially to see back how fast we came ahead… Our speed of development is just comparable with rest of the nations around the globe…

    But one thing that OL can do for the nation as OL is much beyond than this… This (cycling, blogging, twitting etc.) reflects a kind of time-passing-pattern for the very first democratically elected OL…It is indeed sad for the people…

  2. Tandy Dorji says

    Now that you know how painful it is, you also should stop using your jaw as brakes when cycling.LOL

  3. Traaala, You need to study political science, learn about the principles of democratic government.
    Opposition party /Opposition leader’s role is not to do anything(as in rule the country).
    That should be done by the party we elected (which is DPT).
    The democratically elected Opposition’s main role is to question the government of the day and hold them accountable to the public.

  4. ST, I agree with you. That’s the problem with few educated friends of ours nitpicking at the slightest excuse. There are many such information vital to our foundation as Bhutanese society by foreigners about us Bhutanese and none by our won folks. The little available are based on conjecture based on rally transmitted versions which without choice, we have to go along with.

    Here, I would like to take the opportunity to remind our intellectuals specializing on our history that we should dedicate and concentrate on building a solid documentation of historical event of the recent past. This exercise could start from the 1950s and allocate some funds for the project instead of wasting time and resources on subdividing the GNH pillars for export. The Center for Bhutan Studies has nothing much to show us what that institution has been up to. Many interesting subjects are available for study n research eg: Dobji Penlop, Toebey Penlop, Sha Dhagay, Bago Tso Drug their significance, origin and how they faded and why etc with their descendents and so on. The Oleps, adopted by QM Ashi Dorji Wangmo wangchuk under the auspices of Tarayana where only an 85 year old woman knows the dialect. We are fast losing bits of history by the day and I urge the CBS to do justice and get to work.

  5. Chambula says

    I just got a copy of book signed Dr. Leatham. Amazing photographs story and I was told he has lot of interesting photos and cinemagraph on Bhutan.

  6. When the OL becomes the PM in future he probably will do what the PM is doing right now which isnt to say everything is going well.

    Already the PM has started cycling and if he doesnt learn from the OL’s case he may end up breaking more than just his jaws!!!

  7. Deb-Nagpo says

    What would “High” in Thimphu High Street mean?

  8. I see a lot of DPT and JYT supporters on this page. I feel pity on you all as your party don’t give you much good things to brag about.

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