Kathmandu and Co (Bhaktapur)

Kathmandu and Co (Bhaktapur)
Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal

8am in Kathmandu. It can’t be more than 12 degrees as I leave my non heated hotel. A 20km drive from Kathmandu City via Bhaktapur and I’m in Changu to check out the oldest temple in Kathmandu Valley, the Changu Narayan Temple. Unlike all the temples I’ve ever been to, there’s not a tourist in sight. Shops are just beginning to set up for the day and I only had to share my Changu Narayan Temple experience with the local wildlife and a few children (same same but different). It is a completely different world here, filled with fields and next to no traffic at this hour of the morning… you’d never know the city and country were in such close proximity. Driving back into Bhaktapur to get to Dattatraya Square, there’s now heavy traffic. The driver advised there are 500 thousand bikes in Kathmandu and from what I’ve read, that’s a bike for half the population here. The narrow streets in to Dattatraya square are a buzz with activity and colour. Fresh produce stalls line the streets and alleyways where you can see food being prepared and cooked first hand… From vegetables to live stock. Nothing goes to waste here… Even animal bones are used for carving and fashioning various decorative items (My friend Laura refers to these items as “dust collectors”). As electricity here is not constant and most people are quite poor, the option to package or freeze items is unavailable. This means the Nepali will only harvest or slaughter what they need or can sell in the same day (unless they can dry or preserve the food in oil or salt etc). In the middle of Dattatraya Square, the oldest part of Bhaktapur, sits Dattatraya temple. Built in 1427 from the timber of one single tree (apparently), it is dedicated to Dattatreya, a Hindu God, who is believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. (Talk about multiple personality disorder!)…. Like many other temples, it has exquisite and intricate carvings from the doors to the eves. There are no plain, exposed surfaces – all canvas’s were taken advantage of. Worth noting, the Dattatraya temple has many erotic carvings. At the time of construction, these carvings were intended to encourage the people to procreate… In Australia, so far, our encouragement to procreate is not so artistic… It’s purely monetary and is called “the baby bonus”… Now a quick (hour long with traffic) drive to the monkey temple (Swayambhunath). To some of you, a monkey temple probably sounds great. For me, I don’t really care for monkeys… So, they lost me at Monkey and had me at a spiderweb of peace flags strung out from tree to tree. Some 365 stairs later, I was greeted by a massive, white stupa (a Buddhist commemorative monument). Painted on this stupa are Buddha’s eyes, eyebrows and a number one in the fashion of a nose. At the very top of the stupa, peace flags are strung out, creating a sort of makeshift circus big top. The Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath) consists of the aforementioned stupa and other shrines and temples. More recently, a library, monastery and museum were added to the site. This is considered one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimages. It was a very clear day, (even through the haze of pollution) and from up here, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the snowy mountain peaks that surround Kathmandu Valley and the City. Back down into Bhaktapur, to the popular Durbar Square, I became acquainted with what is commonly referred to as ‘Old Kathmandu’. Here I visited the home of Kumari Ghar, the living goddess (ok I was only allowed to stand in the courtyard like a Romeo) and climbed the 9 storeys of the old palace to gaze down over the markets below and the sea of buildings that make up Kathmandu. Didn’t get a chance for lunch as I was too busy feasting my eyes on the sights. My afternoon was swallowed up by wandering and exploring Durbar Square and the markets.. 20 minutes and a pottery paddock later – I wasn’t in Cansas/ Durbar Square anymore. I’d led myself into Thamel. Thamel is a touristic, backpacker hub and a full wifi zone. Here, I not only found stalls and shops selling the same things as Durbar Square, I found shops selling EVERYTHING you could possibly want or need in Nepal. Cashmere sweaters and Yak wool scarves, electrical, to counterfeit hiking gear, trinkets and a treasure trove more. If you’re a Westerner in particular and need food, a bed or baked bread – look no further. Thamel has got your back… And your front… And your sides.. Filled with people, smells, animals and vehicles, if you like your personal space, you won’t last long in this place. I concluded my touristing for the day at “The Garden of Dreams”. Located in Kathmandu and a short walk from Thamel, the garden is peaceful but leaves a lot to be desired in the way of flora and fauna. It’s described as “Neo Classical” but I found it “Neo nonexistent”. If you want to lay on a patch of grass and read a book without being disturbed – this is where you’d do it. Honestly, the garden would better suit a name like, “The Park of Dreams That Died”… If you’re ever in Kathmandu, don’t bother going to see it, you will be disappointed. Today, was a great day!

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