ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do you run a hotel or restaurant in Bhutan? Take TripAdvisor seriously

"World's most trusted travel advice" is the most popular travel website in the world. Customers post reviews and opinions of hotels and restaurants for everyone to see. Crores of users (more than 65,000,000 a month) visit TripAdvisor and its sister websites, such as India's, to check hotel and restaurant reviews. Many tourists will ask their tour operator to book a hotel that was recommended on TripAdvisor, or to have dinner at a restaurant that was mentioned on the site. And many locals check TripAdvisor as well, especially before choosing a dining venue.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

eGov by SMS

Thus far, it seems that official announcements to the public have been mainly through the newspapers, BBS and radio. Not any more! Yesterday, I received an SMS from "T.Thromde" on my B-Mobile. The message reads (I quote exactly as it shows on my phone):
ThimphuThromde invites land owners of respective LAP to for public consultation meeting, Babesa 28Aug@RIMhall 10AM, Semthokha 4Sept@ Lungtenphu 11Sept@YHShall 10AM
Using SMS for reaching Thimphu residents is a great example of "eGov by mobile". Especially here, where not everyone has access to the Internet, and definitely not on the weekend, an SMS is likely to reach a large portion of the population.

SMS is of course just the tip of the "eGov by mobile" iceberg, but at this point it is the most effective given the majority of simple, "not-so-smartphone" in the country. In the future, when smartphones become more popular, there's scope for various eGov-services-by-mobile, similar to those in other countries.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sabzi bazaar surprise

Serendipity often strikes at the sabzi bazaar. This weekend we were thrilled to discover a vendor on the upper floor selling smooth, fresh, home-made tofu, directly out of a Nerolac bucket. Tofu has been available for purchase for quite some time in Thimphu (Sharyang's at Changlam Plaza is a reliable source), but this is the first time we spotted it at the vegetable market. The same vendor also sells the most delicious heirloom tomatoes and other hard-to-find items such as saag and fresh dill

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Always there for you" - is it?

Until recently, Bhutan Telecom's downtown One Stop Shop provided service in a location convenient to many businesses during convenient hours (noon to early evening daily except Tues). From our experience, it seemed to always be full of customers, taking advantage of the convenience rather than going to the main BT office in Chubachu.

Unfortunately, the convenience is over: the new One Stop Shop has not only relocated to a more remote location (in the parking lot of the 
Centennial Farmers Market), but has also limited opening hours to Thurs-Sun 9-5. To comfort us, a large sign reads: "Always There for You".

Why the change? We've heard different speculations. High rent? Inconvenient hours for BT employees? Insufficient parking? Please cast your vote in ThimphTech's new poll -- if there is strong support for the "old" shop, maybe BT will reconsider...

New survey coming up

A couple of months ago, we asked whether you're happy with DrukNet's broadband service. Here are the final results: Only 25% of the respondents are happy. 75% of the respondents said they are not happy with the broadband service. A total of 62 people responded. And now, kindly answer our new survey...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Goodbye, Exo

I recently noticed that Exo, a popular dish-washing soap from India, is being marketed as "Anti-bacterial". In the old days - say, 10 years ago - the purpose of soap was to remove greasy dirt, not to disinfect. That was left for hospital operating rooms. However, riding on a global wave of germophobia, more and more manufacturers are adding anti-bacterial chemicals to household products, from toothpastes to dish-washing liquids. Researchers found out that it doesn't increase the effectiveness of the soap. However, it helps to sell more! The most popular chemical used for that purpose in the U.S. is Triclosan, which is raising many health and environmental safety concerns, some of them quite serious.

Back to the Indian subcontinent: The Exo soap claims to use an additive called Cyclozan. Thanks to our good friend Google, I found out that Triclosan and Cyclozan are one and the same. Given the long list of health and other concerns associated with this chemical, I think it would be wise to look for a different dishwashing soap.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bhutan is the Most Peaceful Country in South Asia

Rank Country Score
34 Bhutan 1.693
126Sri Lanka2.407
133 Myanmar 2.538
135 India 2.570
146 Pakistan 2.905
150 Afghanistan 3.212
2011 GPI rankings, South Asia
Much like "happiness", the concept of "national peace" is difficult to measure. The Institute for Economics and Peace created an index for measuring just that: The Global Peace Index (GPI) uses a weighted average of 23 quantitative and qualitative indicators, measuring both "Internal peace" (for example, the level of violent crime) and "External Peace"  (for example, relations with neighbouring countries).

According to the recently published survey of 2011, the three island countries of Iceland, New Zealand and Japan top the list of the most peaceful countries in the world. The survey places Bhutan at the respectable 34th place, advancing 2 places compared to 2010. Bhutan's rank is way above that of other South Asian countries (see table). Note that the Maldives are not surveyed. The full report can be downloaded here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Will Amazon India ship to Bhutan?

Amazon Hyderabad
Amazon is the leader of online retail: About 1 in 5 Internet users has visited an Amazon website in June 2011. It currently runs its retail operations in seven countries: The U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Japan, the U.K. and China. Amazon also has presence in India, but it is currently limited to research and development (see photo).

But now Amazon is eyeing India as a retail market. A huge warehouse is being set up in Mumbai, and people are being hired in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Challenges are plenty, from unreliable post (Amazon will probably have to rely on courier services) to payment issues (cash-on-delivery will be available, as credit cards are not an option for many Indians).

Will Bhutanese be able to order directly from Prepaid Indian debit cards are already available with banks in Bhutan. However, we're such a tiny market, that I will be (pleasantly!) surprised if shipping to Bhutan is on Amazon's radar. For the time being, we'll just have to sit on our hands and wait.

(Note: ships media items, such as books, CDs and DVDs, to Bhutan. See here.)

Google Plus, and more (K2 #21)

Questions of the Week
What is Google Plus?
-- R. Chhetri

Dear R.,
We are all familiar with Facebook, the social network service, and arguably the most popular website in Bhutan. Facebook currently has more than 750 million users, with around 60,000 of them in Bhutan. Chatting on Facebook has become a popular pastime here. It's so popular, in fact, that many organizations block it during office hours! Google, which many of us use for searching the internet as well as for email (Gmail), has been trying to compete with Facebook.

Launched about two months ago, Google Plus (, also known as Google+, is a new social network run by Google. In many ways it is similar to Facebook: You can update your status, share photos with friends, see updates from your friends, recommend items, etc. But there are also differences. One of the most important features in Google+ is "Circles", which allows you to organize the people you know into different groups. For example, you can put your relatives in one circle, your colleagues in another, etc. When you share something, you can decide which circle to share it with. After all, there might be some photos which you'd like to share with your charos, but prefer your uncles not see (and vice versa!). Google+ also has a terrific mobile app for the iPhone and Android phones.

How to register to Google+? You can currently join Google+ only by invitation from a member. If you're interested, ask someone who's already on Google+, or drop me an email.

How can I convert a .MOV video file to a .WMV file?
-- Rinzin Phelgay

Dear Rinzin,
MOV and WMV are two different video file formats. MOV is the standard Apple format known as QuickTime, and WMV ("Windows Media Video") is a popular Microsoft Windows format. To play a MOV file, you need a QuickTime player, which is standard on Apple computers, but is also available for Windows. ( If you need to convert between the two, try Super C, a free program which you can download from Check out for more information on using Super C for video file conversion.

It takes more than 6 minutes for my Acer Aspire laptop to boot. How can I fix this problem?
-- Sonam Dorji

Dear Sonam,
Many things can cause a slow boot, including a hardware malfunction, a device driver issue, or even a virus. Sometimes the computer is just not fast enough to handle the many programs that are part of the start-up process. Diagnosing slow reboots is not a simple task, but you might give Soluto ( a try. Soluto is a free utility that is designed to diagnose and speed up sluggish Windows systems.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Broadband for education

The impact of the Internet on education is profound. One of the biggest promises is distance learning. Here's a recent example: Stanford University, consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world, will be offering an online course, "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence", for free, worldwide . The course will be conducted by two global experts on Artificial Intelligence. More than 70,000 people have already enrolled. Click here to read more about this unique online course and see how it will work. Most of the course content will be video based, and thus a high speed internet connection is recommended. Click here for more courses available for free from Stanford Engineering Everywhere.

This is just one incredible example of the learning opportunities created by the Web. For small, isolated countries with limited educational resources like Bhutan, distance learning holds an incredible promise. If not for any other reason, the government of Bhutan should make fast, cheap and reliable broadband, including 3G for remote areas, a top priority.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tweeting twitter (K2 #20)

Question of the Week
What is Twitter? How do I connect to it?
-- C.P., RCSC

Dear C.P.,

Twitter Terminology
Twitter users have created a language of their own. Here is a quick guide to the jargon:
  • Follower: A user who follows another user 
  • Follow Count: The number of users you follow and the number of users following you. Both are available on your profile page 
  • Mention: Mentioning a user in a tweet by preceding their username with the @ sign. For example, @ThimphuTech 
  • Hashtag: A keyword preceded by # which is used to tag the topic of the tweet. For example, #bhutan 
  • Retweet (RT): A forwarded tweet 
  • Retweeting: Forwarding a tweet 
Who to follow
More and more individuals and organizations in Bhutan are using Twitter. Most newspapers have an account. Here is a selection of other tweeters. Just enter the user name in the Twitter search bar.
  • @RoyalBhutan: Official updates from the Royal Office for Media 
  • @BBSBhutan: Breaking news, as well as updates on upcoming BBS programmes 
  • @Drukair: Follow the national carrier for schedule changes, delays and more 
  • @tsheringtobgay and @sangaykhandu are MPs with an active twitter presence 
  • @dorjiwangchuk and @SonamOngmo, arguably the two most prolific Bhutanese tweeters, updating (respectively) from the UK and US 
There are millions of other users to follow. Here are just two:
  • @DalaiLama: Nuggets of wisdom from the office of His Holiness, who has more than 2 million "followers" 
  • @ManUtdUK: Follow Drukpas' favourite football club is a very popular website where users can create a free profile page, and then post messages to that page for the world to see. While this sounds a lot like blogging or Facebook, there are some sutle differences. First, the messages - called "tweets" - must be short: each message can be no longer than 140 symbols (such as letters, digits, spaces). Thus, if you are of the chatty type, this is a good exercise in condensation!

Second, users can subscribe to, or "follow", the tweets of other users. The most recent tweets of people or organizations you follow appear on your main Twitter page. Depending on the users you follow, this allows you to get breaking news, find interesting links, hear opinions, or learn what your friend had for breakfast.

Lastly, if you are a B-Mobile subscriber, you can register your phone with Twitter ( Once verified, you can tweet by sending an SMS to 40404 (Nu 0.45 per SMS). In addition, you can receive an SMS whenever a user you follow tweets, completely free of charge (to turn on this option, follow a user and then look for a small mobile-phone-like icon on the user's profile page). Be careful - this can quickly become overwhelming! Note: TashiCell customers are currently out of luck, but if enough people nag them, perhaps they will provide a similar service.

The best way to learn about Twitter is to try it out. Many people open accounts just to follow news and other updates from various sources, even if they don't have anything to share with the world. To register, visit

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Chronicles of Love and Death": From to Bhutan

I recently got the following question for my K2 column. Since it is not really technical in nature, but still can be quite relevant to many people, I'm publishing it here.
Hi Boaz,  
I have been reading your blog for sometime and I find it very interesting every time I get to go through. I have a question to ask you here:
I want a copy of this book very much "Chronicles of Love & Death: My Years with the Lost Spiritual King of Bhutan". I searched whole of New Delhi and Kathmandu, but couldn't find one. Lastly when I checked Amazon I found it is available there. So I was telling a friend of mine who lives in Canada to send a copy for me. He wonders if his VISA card be used to purchase the book? More so I am still not clear about gift Card. He is telling me that he will give me a gift card of $30. Can I buy the book (cost $25) from Amazon using his gift card? And here is my query again, even if I could buy using the card from Amazon, how can the delivery happen to me in Bhutan? Is it to my mailing address?
Please let me know...
Thanks for following our blog T.G.! And now, to answer your question: will ship media (books, CDs, DVDs etc) internationally to Bhutan. Just put your mailing address, and the book will - with high probability - be delivered. Here are the shipping rates for Asia. As can be seen, the standard shipping costs for books are currently US$4.99 per shipment, plus US$4.99 per item. If you're shipping a single book, the shipping cost will thus be US$9.98. Together with the book (currently $21.50), the total would be $31.48. Now we come to the payment issue. Indeed, you friend can pay by a credit card and have the book shipped over here. Or s/he can send you a gift certificate (an electronic one would do) for the total amount.

But here's another option: get the e-book! I've noticed that a Kindle version of the book is available, and the cost is only US$9.99. Now here are three important pieces of information:
  • First, you don't need a Kindle device to read the book. You can download a Kindle application for your PC, Mac, iPhone, etc., and use it to read the Kindle book.
  • Second, you can download a sample of the book for free to your Kindle application. This is a good way to see if you find the book interesting before buying it. On the book page, look for this button .
  • Third, your friend in Canada can buy you the e-book as a gift. This is probably the simplest and quickest method to get hold of the book. Look for this button .
For more information, take a look at the Reading Lolita in Thimphu post. It has relevant information as well as some good comments.

One kg of ema and 2 recharge vouchers, please

According to a Kuensel ad, Bhutan Telecom's one-stop-shop, which was centrally located in Thimphu's Hong Kong market, is now closed.

The plan is to shift the one-stop-shop it to the sabzi bazaar area. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, it's back to the main Bhutan Telecom offices at Chubachu.