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Published: October 14th 2012
We were up and out early today and just a few steps from our hotel’s alley is a square with a shrine in the middle and taxis and rickshaws hanging about. A nice Tibetan guy with a taxi gave us a really fair price to go to Bhaktapur which is about an hour’s drive away and off we went.
The traffic was pretty heavy going through Kathmandu and we whipped down various alleys to try and avoid the worst of it, I bet these taxi drivers could beat the London ones for the ‘knowledge’. We came out on the ring road and did a bit of race track driving, with cars, buses, motorbikes and push bikes all jostling for the best spots.
Eventually we past through the suburbs, went over the river and on into more countryside scenery before turning up a road passing a large water tank (a type of stone edged man made pond) and pulling up in front of the entrance gate to the Durbar Square. We agreed to meet back in 3 hours, paid our hefty ******** entrance fee and stepped inside.
Well……what a wondrous sight greeted us, it was breath
taking, all these different towering temples with fabulous carvings decorating them. They were built in different periods and in different styles and each was just amazing. There were stone steps lined with elephants, lions, guardians leading up to some temples and small children were enjoying themselves sitting on their backs. Everywhere there were temple bells ranging from tiny to giant and it just went on and on. Apparentley there used to be even more temples in this square but an earthquake in 1934 did a lot of destruction and although most were rebuilt some were not, goodness only knows what it must have looked like before then as, as it is today is just unbelievable.
We were approached several times by men offering to be guides and they weren’t asking for a lot of money but we wanted to just wander and wonder at this spectacle in our own time, which is exactly what we did!
We used the guide book’s walking tour as our basic route even though we wandered off it several times and found ourselves at yet another huge square with two more gigantic temples in it, one of which you could climb up and
walk around the outside – so we did and got views all over the city.
So we wound our way through the streets coming across more and more shrines and water tanks, we popped in and out of small courtyards and meandered down alleyways just marvelling at the architecture and wooden carvings.
We encountered all of life going on just a few steps beyond the main streets, women washing squalling children under the communal tap, women picking through each other’s hair, old people sitting on the covered raised seating platforms just chatting and watching the world go by, shop keepers sorting through their wares, people performing rituals at tiny shrines and artists creating their works – it was truly marvellous!
Then we came across the third of the large squares with yet more temples, rituals and life. From here we entered a tiny little doorway which opened into a tiny little courtyard with a shrine in the middle surrounded on all four sides by towering houses of tiny red bricks and decorated wooden windows and doors, another equally tiny doorway on the opposite side led into a dark narrow alley and then we popped out back onto
a bustling street.
I have to say I totally fell in love with this city which we walked from one end to another, I wish we had stayed here for a night but hindsight’s a great thing, but to anyone planning on going to Nepal I would definitely recommend staying here, it must be even more magical once all the tourists have gone.
Bhaktapur reminded me of how I felt when we visited Kathmandu 25 odd years ago, the overpowering sense of being somewhere truly special, a place full of magic, mystery and beauty.
We found a great little courtyard garden for a bit of lunch and then reluctantly went back to meet our taxi driver.
Next stop for the day was the Changu Narayan Temple which is about 6kms from Bhaktapur and right out in the countryside on the top of a mountain ridge. It wasn’t far to get there but it still took quite a while as the road was really rough and we kept getting stuck behind the strange tractor type vehicles which people use for transportation.
Up and up we went through little villages until we reached a small car park
area before the village. We paid our entrance fee and began the walk up all the steps to the top. The whole route was lined with small shops and stalls and we were the only tourists!
Once we reached the temple we did come across a group of Chinese and four American girls but that was it! The wooden temple was built in a pagoda style and heavily carved and decorated, the figure of Garuda is thought to date from the 5th century and there is an inscribed stone which is dated as 464 AD and said to be the oldest in the whole of the Kathmandu valley.
The site is a UNESCO world heritage site and certainly had a special feel to it, despite the pesky Chinese sticking their cameras everywhere and bribing the local kids to pose for photos – despite the sign asking people not to encourage the children to beg.
So all in all a great day and we topped it off by going back to Ranna’s Kitchen for dinner and being recognised and greeted as old friends!
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