Chhimi Dema

The mood is festive.

The moment you enter, the sweet and sharp smell of fruits overpowers you. There are bright lights and colourful art installations around. And the aroma of grilled meat and fried chicken from the food stall run by De-ssups trained under the De-suung Skilling Programme.

These remain with you after the stroll at the Kaja Throm, a farmers’ market next to the Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) on Chhogyal Lam in Thimphu.

Rigsar songs play gently in the background as the vendors chatter away.

Children come in with their parents, excited to see a big face-on-hole popcorn photo booth, and sculptures of dinosaurs and wild animals.

Farm produce, animal products, cereals, incense powder and sticks, flowers and plants are neatly displayed in wooden crates.

Local bands play live in the evenings.

Food, entertainment, and fun meet at the riverside market that was established in July this year.

Dawa, 32, is a vendor. She said that she likes the new space.

“I have lost a few of my regular customers from CFM but I have been connecting to new ones. The business was struggling in the first week after we shifted here. Now it is getting better,” she said.

For her, the most exciting moment she said was His Majesty The King’s visit to the marketplace.

Dawa said: “We say among ourselves that even if the business isn’t going well, we are fortunate to receive His Majesty The King’s audience.  That is enough for us to keep us going in life.”

Kezang Choden, a vegetable vendor, said that she prefers the new space to CFM. “We don’t have to pay fees here. Even if the business isn’t profitable it is heartening to interact with people and meet old friends visiting the market.”

The throm’s broad footpaths, playful art installations by VAST Bhutan, and sumptuous food have parents bringing their children for weekend shopping.

Passang Dema, 31, a corporate employee, said that even the children have opportunities to experience something new and different.

The vendors at the throm shifted from the first floor of CFM while the Thimphu Greening Initiative is working on refurbishing it.

The move is only temporary.

While many vendors have made a home in the new space some vendors still long for the space at CFM.

“My business isn’t doing well here,” a vendor said. “I hope my business will pick up.”