This is one of the most fascinating street scenes I think I’ve ever seen on Google Earth. This is the main street–I believe it is called Norzin Lam–of the city of Thimphu, in the capital of Bhutan. If you’re a geography geek you may have heard of Bhutan, but most people haven’t. It’s a very tiny country nestled in the Himalayas, bordered by China on the north and India on the rest of its perimeter, though only a narrow strip of Indian territory separates the country from Nepal. Thimphu, population 91,000, is one of the highest capitals in the world; only Bolivia’s and Ecuador’s capitals are at higher elevation.
I find this a surprising picture. For a national capital this town looks pretty sleepy. The beautiful old buildings and their woodwork convey a definitely Himalayan architectural flavor. Note the elegantly carved and detailed booth in the center of the street, off the right of the frame; I believe it’s a station for a traffic cop. But look at the traffic. There aren’t that many cars, and in the foreground several scooters are parked. Just exploring the streets around this area I saw a lot of pedestrians hanging out, visiting shops and such. Especially with the green hills in the background this street scene reminds me of nothing so much as Cloud Croft, New Mexico, except where Cloud Croft has a “Western” feel, Thimphu has a Himalayan/Asian/Tibetan flavor. If I was standing here I would expect to hear exotic languages and perhaps the tolling of soft bells.
Bhutan was the first country in Southern Asia to get Google Street View coverage. That happened in September 2014. Without a miracle of modern technology such as this, I would never have imagined what Thimphu, Bhutan might look like, but thanks to Street View I feel like I could set a novel, or at least a short story, here. What an amazing and fascinating locale! This kind of shot embodies exactly what I set out to accomplish with the “Earth” series of blog posts: showing us some of the fascinating, picturesque corners that exist on our planet.
Unfortunately WordPress’s “Add Location” feature is not working properly; I can only enter the general city. Otherwise I would embed exactly where this photo was taken (the coordinates are 27°28’18.33″ N, 89°38’19.10″ E). Type that into your Google Earth search bar, fly there, click the peg man for Street View and start exploring. It really is fascinating!