Shopping in Bhutan was high on our agenda – after all the colourful Masks, the exquisite hand-made Kiras and Waist Bands, Thankas, Woven Bags, Stoles, even the traditional Jewellery allure you enough. We checked out the shops in Thimpu for some good items and good deals. And found that Thimpu is a good place for shopping. It offers you lot more options, and at more or less reasonable rates (unless, you are touring Bumthang also. If you are, skip buying things in Thimpu and allot half a day for shopping in Bumthang). Paro, on the other hand, has fewer shops mostly concentrating on extremely ‘tourist’ memorabilia and are expensive. But note, a number of the items such as Brassware, China, Jewellery come from India. Hence, if you are an Indian, suggest you do not splurge on things that you can buy back home. Go for Bhutanese hand-made items such as the Kira, Yak-Bone jewellery, Waist Band etc..
- Shopping at the Norzim Lam Street in Thimpu:This is the main city square and is more or less concentrated on about a 2km stretch on the main city road, Norzim Lam. Flanked by shops on either side, this is the best place to buy those souvenirs you want to take back home. There are a handful of large local textile shops from where you can buy the Kira, the dress for Bhutanese women. You get both the hand-woven and the machine made. The handwoven Kiras are exquisite but are extremely expensive. I settled for a machine made Kira that cost only 850 BTN. The shops open around 10 in the morning and close only around 8.30-9 in the night.
- Shopping at Authentic Bhutanese Crafts in Thimpu:A line of handicrafts shops made with bamboo adjacent the Norzim Lam or the main road, Authentic Bhutanese Crafts is where you can buy all types of hand-made/woven Bhutanese souvenirs, stoles, Kiras, Ties, Bags, Masks etc. These are licensed shops for only hand-made items sourced from rural Bhutan. Authentic, but quite expensive, depending on what you want to buy. You can bargain somewhat though. The shops close by 7pm.
- Shopping at Institute for Zorig Chusum: This is the Arts & Crafts School in Thimpu where students are given free training on painting, sculpting, embroidery, weaving etc. About a 10 minute walk from the city square, the institute also houses a one-hall shop from where you can buy the traditional Bhutanese souvenirs such as jewellery, clothing, scarfs, masks etc. Prices are fixed here.
- Shopping at National Museum of Textiles: This museum houses the dresses worn by the Royals in Bhutan. Again, walking distance from the city square, there is a small store from where you can buy jewellery, stoles, jackets etc. Found them to be exorbitantly priced though!