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Published: March 22nd 2014
After our visit to Nargarkot, we decided to head to Bhaktapur. We had read a lot of good things about this place and had been recommended to come here from one of the guys on our Yoga course, so it seemed an easy decision to make. Just an hour away from Nargarkot via public bus, we squeezed in alongside the locals and their baggage, rice etc and thanked our lucky stars we had a seat. Alternatives were standing in the isle with less room than London’s Northern line in the morning rush hour or even more unsettling, up on the roof. I mean, we do like fresh air and a nice view while we travel, but on this winding, mountain descending trip, it didn’t seem like a great option.
Arriving in Bhaktapur, we made our way to the guesthouse that we had booked and were nicely surprised at the location of the place. Right in-between the two main squares of Bhaktapur, and within easy distance to all the sights and restaurants, we gave ourselves a pat on the back in finding such a place. At $15, entering the main squares of Bhaktapur isn’t cheap especially by Nepal’s standards, however knowing
that the funds go towards the upkeep of the city and knowing that this is the reason this place looks so fantastic, its money you don’t mind spending. The buildings and structures all in true Newari tradition are beautiful and it’s great to stroll around the square admiring these architectural wonders. The squares are also mainly pedestrianized which is a real bonus too. You do get the odd motorbike whizzing round here, but generally traffic is prohibited and so it gives the place a real sense of calm, and allows you to picture this place as it might have been all those years ago when buffalo or horse would have been the transport of choice.
The peaceful nature of this place continued throughout the day, however didn’t manage to last into the night. Usually a place of calm after dark, the two main squares that we are wedged in-between became a meeting point for Dasain, one of Nepals most famous festivals, where the noise levels began to rise. Far from what you would traditionally associate the word festival with, Dasain seems quite different. Without knowing many of the ins and outs or trying to explain to you what we
have read and heard about it, here’s what we have experienced….
At around 7 in the evening, a bunch of teenagers take to the streets, bang symbols and play recorders whilst others follow aimlessly behind. This goes on for some time between the squares and around the streets until it finally goes quite at around 9/10ish in the evening. It then starts up again at around 4 am with more people joining the procession and seemingly playing their instruments a little louder and if I’m not mistaken, a little worse too. Earplugs fail to drown this noise out unfortunately, and at one point, I honestly thought they were playing in our hotel room it was that loud. The one thing we also actually know about this festival is that animals such as goats and buffalo are sacrificed and beheaded, however fortunately, we have yet to witness this as yet….
Our first full day here would be one where we would take our second hike since being in Nepal. The walk was a modest one by Nepal standards, but if we going to get fit for the Base camp trek, we certainly needed to do all we could, and
so, a trip to Changu Narayan it was. We were told the walk should take around an hour and a half to get to Changu Narayan, and once there we could soak up the peaceful atmosphere of the temples there on top of a ridge some 1700m above sea level. Having walked out of Bhaktapur’s main square, it didn’t take long before we started seeing less of the historic buildings of the centre and more of the village life we were promised. The trail itself was a really simple one to follow, as it mostly followed a winding dusty road, but traffic was scarce and we were allowed to finally see some village life without another tourist in site. On route, we encountered numerous children playing with kites and anything else they could get their hands on whilst trying to plead for any chocolate we had. When we disappointed them saying we had none, they quickly turned their attentions to our cameras begging us to take a photo of them so they could see themselves. This seemed to amuse them enough to forget that we hadnt given them any treats to munch on. As we continued on, we also caught
sight of some of the manual farming work that goes on in the countryside. Women hauling large sacks of wheat and wood up huge hills along with men collecting rice and grain from the fields. Everyone that we encountered on route had a friendly smile and a Namaste in our direction, and at one point, I even got involved myself with some rice farming with some lads that insisted I get involved. Closing in on our destination, we took a slight wrong turn somewhere, and asking one of the locals directions, he invited us to head through his property for a shortcut. Once there, he hospitably asked us if we wanted to come in and drink some tea with him and his family, but feeling like we would be a bit in the way, we kindly refused, but still used his garden as a quick cut-through tho the temple. Once at Changu Narayan, the temples and peace that we were advised of were as promised, and it was great to just hang out in such a historic place that lacked any real number of tourists. The walk back was no less invigorating than coming in, and before we knew it,
the round trip was complete with us back in Bhaktapur.
The day after the walk, we decided just to relax, and take in this wonderful mini-city. We rarely get a chance to do this when we are travelling as we always seem to have time constraints or can never justify a day doing naff all. Here though, we just felt like it was the perfect place to do this, and so a day taking photos, looking around and people watching whilst drinking our first proper coffee since arriving was just what the doctor ordered.
Having been lazy it was time to get the boots back on for a bit more walking. So, we jumped on a local bus and took ourselves to the Central hills town of Dhulikel. Like Nargarkot, Dhulikel is famous for its views of the Himalayas as well as a few decent walks within its vicinity. We didn’t really have too much time to spare here, so we opted just to walk up to the Kali shrine that was here and check out the views, hoping the weather would be kind to us.
Arriving here around midday, we were rewarded for our efforts with
a spectacular view of the Langtang mountain range just from the bus stop. It really is quite something looking up at these giant snowcapped beasts knowing that they really are the top of the world, and for us, that has still yet to get tiresome. The walk up to the lookout point was fairly harmless although being stairs, this always seems to hurt us more than gradual slopes. Once at the top, although some cloud had obscured the view of a few of the peaks, fortuitously some were still visible. As we admired the mountains from the lookout, we were also privee to witnessing some of the blessing s and mantra chanting from some of the locals due to the Dasain festival. It was so nice to sit down whilst this was going on and not being harassed or annoyed by anyone, and just take in what was going on around us whilst kids ran around playing as their parents prayed.
Initially, we was unsure as to whether we should even go to Bhaktapur due to the steep entrance fee of the square and whether it could be justified. Having made the effort there now though, we have already
put it up there with one of the highlights of our entire trip. If you are short of things to do whilst waiting for a trek or even post trek in Kathmandu, we would be hard pushed to recommend anything more than a few days taking in this truly traditional and unique haven.
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