Bhaktapur

Another night of terrible sleep. I eventually managed to sleep about 1am. But not feeling as ill today, which is a good start!! I had a bit of fruit for breakfast, which I’ve accumulated over the past few days. And we headed off in a bus at 9am.

The city was so busy, through all the traffic it took nearly an hour to reach the medieval city of Bhakatpur. Again another tourist entrance fee to enter the city, this one being the most expensive at $15 each. This city has 3 main squares. We visited them all, as well as just wandering around the random streets.

We came into the first square – Tachupal Square. This was cute. Surrounded by old wooden shop houses, fruit sellers dotted around and a small temple in the middle. Goats were running around with small children, while old men sat around the edges watching the world pass by. There were lots of signs around for the peacock window. Just down one of the small side streets, a small alleyway packed full of art shops. And I had no idea what I was looking for. Turns out literally just a carved window with a peacock. It’s from the 15th century and supposedly the finest carved window in the valley.

After wandering a few more streets we came to Taumadhi Tole. The towering Nyatapola Temple at one end is 30m high and has several tiered roofs. It really didn’t seem that high, but it’s the tallest in Nepal!

Steep stone steps lead up the sides, flanked by large concrete statues of dragons and elephants. The views from the top across the square were lovely and you could see all the surrounding mountains. In the middle of the square they were getting ready for Nepali new year, a wagon was out and children were playing on it!

Locals were sat all around, some just meeting their friends and others coming to buy fruit. Just behind this square was another small square – potters square. Totally full of drying clay pots. A man was sat spinning clay making them, whilst several mud ‘kilns’ were smoking away behind. To fire the pots, they bury them in a dusty sand and heat this. Odd. Women were working away, turning the pots that were drying in the sun.

We wandered around so many residential streets. Children playing. Women collecting water from the deep wells. Small vegetable stalls. Women sat in groups knitting hats. Older women sat on doorsteps. Baby chickens running around. Men sacrificing goats (we saw 2 separate dead goats) – they cut off the head and leave the bloodied body and head in the street. They were cleaning out the intestines too….

The main Durbar Square wasn’t what I had expected, it was quite empty with a few temples at one end. A strong earthquake in 1934 destroyed much of the original buildings. There was also a waterhole which came with armed security – not quite sure why!! We had quite a lot of hassle from local people here, rather annoying. We left about 1pm. Really hungry..!! But time for lunch!

We called into an organisation called SOC. This was set up for women survivors of human trafficking and teaches them new skills. They run a cafe here also. We got to try making momos. The dough is made from flour and water – you roll it out into a circle and add a spoon of filling, which is vegetables cut up really small, then pinch the edges around to seal it in a moon or sun shape. That was fun!

Then we had lunch, dal bhat..!! Same same. It was good though!!

We were dropped back in the city at a busy junction. We headed down a main thoroughfare, full of shops – camera shops, mobile phones, small food stalls and endless pharmacies. You wouldn’t spot the tourist entrance to Durbar Square, a non-descript stall at the end of a road. And again a fee $7.50 this time.

This is where the Kings were once crowned and ruled their land from, but today is a busy area full of people going about their daily lives. The street just up ahead was called Freak Street. Named after the western hippies of the 1960s who came to Nepal and hung out in this area. They have now mostly moved on, or moved on up to Thamel!

To one of side us was a large square, totally full of metal stalls. Everything in metal – jewellery, statues, bowls – it just never seemed to end!! And on the other side, an ‘English’ style building. Apparently after Nepali people visited England they decided they liked the building style, so have built a few buildings in a different style. They are square concrete buildings, painted white and blue shutters. Don’t remember the last english building that I saw looking like that though….

Infront of us was the Kumari house. A Kumari is a living goddess. There is one per Durbar Square, with the Kathmandu one being the most renounced. This is a small girl chosen for looking a certain way and after passing a series of tests. She lives in this building, only leaving on ceremonial occasions – where she will be carried, she is not allowed to walk. She apparently gets to see her family on rare occasions, but is guided and taught by helpers. Once per day she spends about 30 seconds looking out of a window down into the courtyard of her building. It is supposed to be good luck to see her. The current Kumari was chosen when she was 3 years old. She is now 10. She will remain the Kumari until she has her first period, at which point she will be replaced by a new girl. We were in the courtyard around 5 minutes taking some photos of the ornate latticed windows and were about to leave when we were told to put our cameras away. Security guards were sat in the upper windows on each side and several security men appeared in the courtyard telling us to put cameras away, or there would be trouble. Our guide then told is we were staying – this meant she would be making an appearance shortly.

You are not allowed to photograph the Kumari. The small girl popped into her window. She was dressed in red robes and had paint across her face – a red design with an eye on her forehead and large black stripes by her eyes. She looked down to the people in the small courtyard for about 30 seconds. She looked really sad. But maybe that’s how she has to look. Or maybe she just is sad. It’s a strange tradition.

We were now into the main square area and it was so packed you could barely move. People everywhere. It wasn’t even very big. A man on your left trying to sell flutes. On your right selling tea. In front begging. And pulling your back, a woman with necklaces. A total joke. The buildings were again red and black pagodas and small temples. It was cool. A small cow wandering around, motorbikes weaving between the people (yes the main square and they don’t even close it off for traffic). Shops selling paintings. Women selling pigeon feed (they feed them here….). People, with small audiences reading from books. And the old palace turned to museum.

This really is a ‘working’ square, not just a tourist attraction. We spent a while wandering around between the people and the buildings and all the activities. It was a case of really not knowing where to look!

We left via a different entrance and headed up through a residential area. It was still busy, motorbikes speeding down the narrow alleyways, dodging dogs, goats, chickens and children playing in the street. We passed several fast food momo stalls – busy as people had some dinner! And after an hour of walking, we made it back to the hotel!! Now 6.30pm – been walking all day!! After a short break, we headed out to dinner at 7.30pm.

We went back into Thamel, but this time to a local restaurant. More dal bhat…!! It was really good, but I’m worried I’ll get sick of it soon!! This one came with a kimchi style pickle too, which was really nice. And cheapest one yet, at £1.20. I’m finally beginning to recognise the streets and understand my way around the maze of Thamel! We popped into a supermarket to buy snacks for the road tomorrow. Wow. They literally had everything!!! Nuts, dried fruits, porridge, cereal bars, peanut butter, biscuits, crisps….lots of (western) trekking food. I went a bit mad…!! And at 10.30pm we got back – what a long day of walking around!

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