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Published: September 23rd 2011
Nepal continues to treat us with thrilling new experiences and we have yet to leave the Kathmandu valley. After the excitement of the Indra Jatra finale we thought we’d escape the crowds, noise and pollution of Thamel to explore some of the other historic sites in the valley. Our first stop was Bodhnath and its incredible stupa. Normally visited as a day trip from Kathmandu, we decided to spend the night at a guesthouse in the area as a quieter alternative to Thamel. It turns out that our evening was neither quiet nor very restful as it was here that we experienced what one newspaper described as the strongest earthquake to hit Nepal in nearly 8 decades. At dusk we went up to a roof-top patio restaurant overlooking the stupa to have some dinner while we watched the sunset. The floor suddenly started to shake and it took a few seconds for us to register what was happening…earthquake! So what does one do in this situation? We had no idea how to react as this was a first for us. Thank goodness there happened to be a Japanese tourist on the roof at the time that stopped us from heading to
the stairs (apparently the worst place to be). We waited patiently for the roughly 60 to 90 seconds of tremors to stop then grabbed our things and followed the Japanese guy down the stairs (he must know what to do, right?). We then stayed at the base of the stupa (which was the most open area we could find) for about 10 to 15 minutes waiting for any potential aftershocks. People were visibly shaken and crowds of people left the area. Shop owners closed up and there was a lot of praying and spinning of prayer wheels at the base of the stupa.
As it turns out, the earthquake was a magnitude 6.9 that hit the Sikkim region of India which borders Nepal. Thankfully there was little damage in Kathmandu although a retaining wall in front of the British Embassy collapsed killing three people. Current casualties are estimated at over 100 (mostly in India) however the rescue operations are still being carried out and are hampered by mudslides and poor weather.
Nothing else we did in the valley really competes with the above in terms of excitement and we just took the opportunity to relax. We spent 3
nights in Bhaktapur which has some really well preserved Newari architecture and is generally quieter than Kathmandu, although it’s not as “traffic-free” as the guide-books would have you believe and the $15 entrance fee is pretty steep compared to any other site.
The highlight for us was the Bodhnath stupa (even without the quake) as the square surrounding the stupa has a really peaceful atmosphere and the architecture is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
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