This post takes you through the enchanting medieval indigenous cultures of Kathmandu that are spiritual and alive. There exists a camaraderie in faith that transcends religions.
Today was Dashain in Nepal, a public holiday. It you are living in Nepal, a public holiday would be a really great day; but if you are a traveler like me, a public holiday means trouble. Houston! We have a problem. It all began in the morning when we couldn’t find a hotel to have breakfast. Starving, we set out to Bhaktapur, an ancient town in Kathmandu Valley. Finally we had brunch in a small sweet shop. One problem solved, but then comes the next. No buses!! Only alternative – Taxi. For an average tourist, it’s not a big deal, but if you are on a tight budget, it indeed is. After half an hour of rigorous negotiations, we struck a deal for NR 1650 (12 km back n forth plus 2 hrs waiting). Its kinda expensive, but we had no other “cheaper” alternative.
Half an hour through the deserted 4 lane highway, we found ourselves looking behind time. You’d feel it too as Bhaktapur takes you to the past. The architecture, the roads, everything is peppered in an archaic flavour; A projection of the Nepal’s glorious past. The 1st destination was Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Yes, this is the 2nd Durbar Square, I’ve seen in Nepal. This one is much bigger than the earlier Patan Durbar square. But the basic architectural style is identical. We visited one of the main temple there, and as with all other temples in Nepal, I had to wait outside while my friends had a darshan. I took this time to explore a nearby pond that had stone statues of snakes around it. Once we were satisfied that we have taken ample photos of the Durbar Square, we decided to visit the pottery square. The brochure had photographs of huge courtyards covered with pottery, but ironically, what we saw were courtyard covered with cars. But we decided to do some pottery shopping, as a consolation prize.
Another interesting observation – we call it the “Backdoor Entry”. In both Patan and Bhaktapur, we observed that the ticket counter and the ticket examiner is present only near the main gate, but you can enter through any gate. I know what you are thinking, but I’d say, keep it as a worst case scenario.
Dashain, the longest festival of the year, is known for its animal sacrifices. No pun intended, but what we saw around us were disturbing. The whole streets and vehicles were sprinkled with blood from the animal sacrifices, and we did see a few sacrifices as well. It’s something for which I’d say, “viewer discretion advised”.
Next we visited the Taumadhi Square and the famous Nyatapola Temple. This 5-storey temple is about 30m high and is the tallest Pagoda temple in Nepal and it offers a good view of the Bhaktapur from its top. Another half a kilometer from Taumadhi was the Dattatreya Square. It too has a number of temples, but the distinguishing feature are the famous peacock windows that adorn the walls of the Square. After circuit around Bhaktapur, I conclude that, it was worth it. The major drawback in the tourism development in Bhaktapur is the commercialization. The once palaces of the royal family are now exotic restaurants and the reddish bricked texture that covered the streets are marred by the colourful Chinese plastic toys and stuff.
So as to maintain a religious harmony, we decided to visit a Buddhist Stupa. This one is the Swayambhunath Stupa, that is located atop a hill. The best part about this place is that it offers a panoramic view of the city of Kathmandu. The temple is surrounded by tiny stone carved Stupas and the chanting of the Buddhist prayers gives this area a divine presence. I’d urge you to listen to the Tibetan Incantation “Om Mani Padme Hum”. According to me, it’s a really good piece of music to meditate to and it is a prayer that purifies you. The “Backdoor Entry” works here as well. But trust me, we bought tickets everywhere.
Next interesting fact thing I wanna share with you is that the people in Nepal are very good with the 1.6 mathematics (Currency conversions). But, I must say, I found a few shopkeepers who are rather poor in addition. So, don’t be alarmed if you see that the prices of food items are high even on a roadside kiosk. They’ll make adding mistakes and that too in your favour. But then, be a gentleman.
Our last destination in Nepal was the closest to the place we stayed. It’s the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Yeah, the 3rd one (and the last). But for a change, we decided to visit it at night. So, after a 1.6 km walk from our hotel, we reached the Kathmandu Durbar Square. Its much smaller compared to the other two. Being Dashain, we found the place very crowed with devotees patiently waiting in really long queues. One thing anyone would first notice about this Durbar is the change in the architectural style. There were a few white coloured buildings that are of European architecture and looked relatively new.
And after a wading through the illuminated, yet deserted streets of Kathmandu, we decided to call it a day. This concludes our Kathmandu adventure. After dinner, we slept to the “lullaby” of Bob Marley in our cozy room at Deutsch Home. We have an early morning bus to catch.
Next destination – Pokhara.