Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part II)

10 Feb

Continuing around Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part II) is the continuation of my diary about the Kathmandu Valley. My first post can be found at the following link Kathmandu Valley – towns, villages, and local families (part I).

The medieval town of Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley

I left a part of my luggage at Durbar Guesthouse in Patan and planned a one-week trip through the towns and villages situated in the eastern part of Kathmandu. I bargained with a taxi driver to give me a ride to the bus station. There, I asked a few people which bus went to Bhaktapur. In less than five minutes I got in a minibus which was about to leave (or at least this was what they told me – five minutes). We waited for the minibus to fill up for half an hour, though and then left.

On the way, the minibus filled up even more. It stopped every time someone had to get on or off. Therefore, a bus-trip of fifteen kilometers lasted more than one hour. The bus-helper told me to get off the bus in a dusty suburb of Bhaktapur, from where I had to cross the old town and pay the visiting fee just to get to my guesthouse.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - 55 Window Palace with the Golden Gate

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – 55 Window Palace with the Golden Gate

At Nyatopola Guest House, Manika welcomed me with tea and biscuits. I asked her to cook me a portion of chowimen (Nepali spaghetti) for lunch, which was very spicy. The rest of the day, I walked through the historic center of Bhaktapur, listed as a UNESCO heritage site. Bhaktapur was an old outpost on the route from India to Tibet. The town dates back to the XIIth-XVIIIth centuries and has no less than three squares dotted with temples. The Durbar Square is the main one, with the royal palace standing on one side of it. A couple of temples collapsed there during the 2015 earthquake, and the image of the square seemed quite affected. I entered the patios of the Royal Palace, but a gendarme didn’t allow me to enter the Hindu temple of the palace.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - Tachupal Tole - a colorful wooden deity

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – Tachupal Tole – a colorful wooden deity

Taumadhi Tole is a smaller square, but the Nyatapola Temple dominates it with no less than five pagoda stories. It is the tallest temple of the Kathmandu Valley and of Nepal as well, incredibly well preserved after the earthquake.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - Taumadhi Tole - Nyatapola Temple

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – Taumadhi Tole – Nyatapola Temple

Tachupal Tole is the oldest square of the town and it is situated at an end of the historic center. During the evening, I searched for something not spicy to eat, but I ended up with a new spicy portion of chicken momos at a terrace in the Durbar Square.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - Tachupal Tole - Dattatreya Temple with a Garuda Statue in front of it

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – Tachupal Tole – Dattatreya Temple with a Garuda Statue in front of it

The following day in Bhaktapur, I had breakfast on the sunny rooftop terrace of my guesthouse (omelet, toasted bread, milk-coffee, and I asked for the local yogurt, called curt). I ate with a Dutch young woman, Melina, who graduated engineering and wanted to focus on pharmaceutics. She had been in Nepal for three weeks already and she was heading to Malaysia the following week.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - a street close to Tachupal Tole

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – a street close to Tachupal Tole

The Potters’ Square was located near my guesthouse, but it had more rice laid for drying than ceramics. A few potteries crammed in a corner of the square but an old Nepali man modeled a bowl right in the middle of the street.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - at the Potters' Square

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – at the Potters’ Square

The rest of the day, I walked across Bhaktapur’s streets and guided myself with the small map from my guide. The streets were very dusty, women dried and winnowed rice everywhere, and other women who were spinning asked me for money because I took a photo of them. I got angry each time I had to show my ticket for visiting the town at one of its gates. In the evening, I eventually found a restaurant with continental food in Taumadhi Tole, where I could finally eat fried chicken with potatoes, something not spicy after all.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - woman winnowing rice

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – woman winnowing rice

Changu Narayan, Kathmandu Valley

In the morning, I went at the crossroads from where buses went from Bhaktapur to Changu Narayan. I jumped in a minibus where a bus helper charged me more than normal but I wasn’t in a mood for a quarrel. Nevertheless, I got angrier when I had to pay another visiting fee at the entrance to Changu Narayan village. They didn’t give any discount for my ICOMOS membership card. However, I paid and went up to the temple compound, listed as a UNESCO heritage site. There, I discovered a courtyard full of deity statues, altars and the main temple in a pagoda-style, all of them elegantly carved with countless deities.

Kathmandu Valley - Changu Narayan Temple

Kathmandu Valley – Changu Narayan Temple

While I was walking on the streets of the village, I heard children singing in the courtyard of a school. I approached the place and watched the spectacle. When they saw me, they invited me to take a sit in front of the stage and take part at their festivity. On the road back to Bhaktapur, the bus helper tried not to give me back the change after I paid my ticket. I scolded him, and he gave me the rest of the money right away.

Kathmandu Valley - Changu Narayan - a local festivity

Kathmandu Valley – Changu Narayan – a local festivity

Bashgari-Kuttal, Kathmandu Valley

In the morning, I stayed with Manika, the landlady of Nyatapola Guesthouse. She was surprised when I told her that I had just ended a dysfunctional relationship via the internet. In Nepal’s tradition, you don’t choose whom to marry and breaking up or a divorce is very rare.

Kathmandu Valley - Bhaktapur - with Manika at Nyatapola Guesthouse

Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur – with Manika at Nyatapola Guesthouse

When I left the guesthouse, Manika’s husband gave me a ride to the main road on his motorbike. He advised me which minibus to take, a direct one to Dhulikhel. The minibus stopped for good in Banepa, though and there I had to take another one for Dhulikhel. I got off in Bashgari, searched, and rang desperately at Tamang Homestay, where I had a booking. The owner had a ceremony for his father who had died two weeks before, and I had to wait for him in front of the guesthouse for at least one hour. When he finally showed up, he invited me for a tea with biscuits at a small shop near his house. He had to go back at his father’s ceremony and said that I could take part too, in Kuttal village.

Kathmandu Valley - Kuttal village - preparing dhal bhat in huge quantities

Kathmandu Valley – Kuttal village – preparing dhal bhat in huge quantities

We reached a household in Kuttal village, where food was cooked in big cauldrons. I sat on a chair in the corner of a room, and a woman brought me a portion of dhal bhat to eat. Outside, in the courtyard, the members of the dead’s family were putting up for auction grandpa’s belongings. The women had a list and shouted the auctioned item. The people gathered around them put a bid, gave the money, and then each one went to take charge of their new possession. In a room, small plates with bananas, rice, and money were ready for the monks that had helped at the organizing of the grandpa’s ceremony. All grandpa’s sons had shaved their heads and had only a short tuft at the back of their head, according to the Hindu tradition.

Kathmandu Village - Kuttal village - accepting bids for the grandpa's items (the grandpa had died two weeks before)

Kathmandu Village – Kuttal village – accepting bids for the grandpa’s items (the grandpa had died two weeks before)

One of the grandpa’s sons, dr. Dil, offered to show me around the village. Kuttal is a Tamang village, with 400 inhabitants and 40 households. Dil studied at the village school, then in Dhulikhel, and after that he studied medicine in China for six years (he even showed me his photos of the graduation day). He invited me to his house.

They were six members in the family, equally Buddhist and Hindus. His sister was a dentist and his other sister a pharmacist. They took care of two orphans, for whom they paid for school and food. Their mother had died six months ago hit by a motorbike. They lived in a metal cottage after the 2015 earthquake when their house had collapsed. Dr. Dil offered me a glass of Coke, the only thing they had in their fridge, and insisted on offering me a banana, too. When I accidentally spilled the Coke, he refilled it right away. In addition, he said that it wasn’t a problem to give me more Coke because they had enough.

Kathmandu Valley - Kuttal village - at dr. Dil's house

Kathmandu Valley – Kuttal village – at dr. Dil’s house

The Lights Festival (Tihar or Deepawali) lasts five days each year and it is the second largest Hindu festival after the Dashain. Animals are worshiped too, next to deities and humans, to show the respect of the mankind for his animals. On the first day, it is the day of the crow or of the raven, who symbolize sadness and grief. People give food to the birds. On the second day, it’s the dog’s day, and it symbolizes the special relation between human and dog. People give food, put red tikkas, and flower garlands to the dogs.

On the third day, it’s the cow’s day, and it symbolizes wealth and prosperity. People give food and put flower garland to cows, they clean the house in the evening, put flower garlands and candles in the house, and pray to Laxmi, the god of money. After that, girls go out through the village, sing and dance bhailo, and people give them money, rice, and fruit. On the fourth day, it’s the ox’s day, and boys go out in the village, sing and dance deusi, and people give them money, rice, and fruit. This is also the first day of the Nepalese Calendar.

On the fifth day, it’s the brother’s day, when sisters thank their brothers for their protection, put tikka on their foreheads, cook special dishes, offer flower garlands to them, and pray for them. At their turn, the brothers put tikkas to their sisters’ foreheads and give money to them.

Panauti-Bashgari, Kathmandu Valley

In the morning, I had to insist on having the breakfast that was included in my reservation at Tamang Homestay (tea, eggs, lots of bread, and a banana for consolation). After that, I went to Banepa, where I had to change the minibus to go to Panauti. In Panauti, along the Roshi River, there was a temple compound, with deities carved on each small piece of wood and frescoes on the walls of the buildings. In the center of the town, the Indreshwar Mahadev Temple had also an interesting museum, with a contemporary architecture.

Kathmandu Valley - Panauti - Brahamayani Temple and Krishna Narayan Temple

Kathmandu Valley – Panauti – Brahamayani Temple and Krishna Narayan Temple

In Panauti, I walked around the streets colorfully decorated for the Lights Festival. The Nepalis were getting ready for the Nepali New Years Eve. They washed their children in the street or bathed in the river. I tried to go to Namobuddha monastery and even found the right bus. I waited for half an hour in the bus to fill up but when it was about to leave, the engine wasn’t working. Consequently, I gave up my trip to Namobuddha because I wanted to turn back to Banepa in time for the last bus to Dhulikhel.

Kathmandu Valley - Panauti - decorated streets for the Lights Festival

Kathmandu Valley – Panauti – decorated streets for the Lights Festival

In the bus for Dhulikhel, a Nepalese girl sitting next to me, Leeza, asked me many questions. She insisted on paying my bus ticket and went with me to eat a portion of noodles with eggs at a guesthouse in Dhulikhel, where she insisted on paying for me, too. She invited me to come and stay at her house, since her parents were traveling through India and she was only with her sister, Epanzelina. We went at Tamang Homestay, where she talked with the landlady to cancel my booking for the next two days. Therefore, I paid only for the first night I stayed there, packed my things, and moved to the 28Killo neighborhood of Bashgari.

Kathmandu Valley - Bashgari - with Leeza and Epanzelina (my hosts)

Kathmandu Valley – Bashgari – with Leeza and Epanzelina (my hosts)

When we reached Leeza’s house, we had to wait outside for an hour or so until her grandmother came home to open us the house. Leeza put me up in her room, dark and very modest, though. There was a shower only at her neighbors, with cold water, and a toilet outside the house. Leeza was very happy, though. She wanted very much that I stayed at her place during the festival. In that period they must fulfill guests’ wishes, a reason to always ask me what I wanted to eat for the next meal.

Kathmandu Valley - Bashgari - dressed in traditional sari

Kathmandu Valley – Bashgari – dressed in traditional sari

In the evening, Leeza and Epanzelina dressed me in a traditional sari. They put beads on my ankle, around my neck, and braided into my hair, makeup, earrings. Once we dressed up, we went out through the village to sing and dance for the festival at people’s houses. It was the evening when girls sang and danced bhailo, next to the rangoli drawn in front of each house.

Kathmandu Valley Bashgari - bhailo dance around the rangoli

Kathmandu Valley Bashgari – bhailo dance around the rangoli

Rangoli is a flower pattern drawn with colorful dust paint. Inside its petals, people light candles, and the drawing symbolizes a sacred zone welcoming the Gods to people’s houses. All the evening, joyful people danced and sang. Eventually, the girls received fruit, rice, and money.

Kathmandu Valley - Bashgari - a rangoli in front of a house

Kathmandu Valley – Bashgari – a rangoli in front of a house

Dhulikel, Kathmandu Valley

Early in the morning, I was woken up three times by noisy knocks in the door of my room, because each member of the family needed something left or forgotten inside. At 7.30 a.m., I was woken up for good to have breakfast and I couldn’t get back to sleep anymore. I tried to adapt to their concept of having guests and by 10 a.m. I received the lunch, sabai (porridge with noodles and coconut, a recipe brought afar from India).

Kathmandu Valley - Dhulikel - looking at the Himalayas

Kathmandu Valley – Dhulikel – looking at the Himalayas

The rest of the day, I went to Dhulikhel and searched for a place from where to see the panoramic view of the Himalayas. Since I was in Nepal, I hadn’t taken photos of them. I stayed for two hours and looked at the mountains from the rooftop terrace of the Himalaya Mountain View Hotel. Up there, I finally could look in peace at the highest mountains in the world. The mountains I wanted to see so much, the Himalayas.

Kathmandu Valley - Dhulikel - the main square decorated for the Lights Festival

Kathmandu Valley – Dhulikel – the main square decorated for the Lights Festival

Later, I walked a bit through Dhulikhel, a Newari town where the Nepalis celebrated the Lights Festival in the central square and decorated the temples with tinsel. I turned back at Leeza’s house, where I washed and dried clothes until dusk. Leeza stayed with me all the evening. She asked a lot of questions, and I showed her where Romania is on a map. After that, she corrected the tests of her students from the primary school, while she was just in high school.

The next day, Leeza knocked again in the door of my room early in the morning. Then, she left, I packed my luggage and waited for her to turn back and say goodbye. It was the last day of the Lights Festival and the boys of the village were already singing for the brother’s day. I went to the main road, where a bus stopped right away. I reached Ratna Park in Kathmandu in about an hour. There, I walked around confused until I found the right bus for Patan. I went to Durbar Guesthouse where I waited for Om to come back with his clients from the airport. He was smiling as always, accommodated me in luxury room and handed me the ticket for the next day toward the Chitwan Park.

Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part II) is the continuation of my first diary about the Kathmandu Valley (find the version in Romanian at ‘Sate si orase din jurul Kathmandu-ului, Nepal II). My first post can be found at the following link Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part I). And here are all my Travel Diaries from Nepal (x12).

Have you been to the Kathmandu Valley or plan to go there? Leave a comment below this post and tell me what you liked about Nepal or what you’re interested to see there.

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16 Responses to “Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part II)”

  1. Candy March 6, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    I love reading about your journey on the mini buses. I try to picture what they look like and how you had to wait until the bus was filled. I can see how it’s frustrating to get charged more than the normal rate or having to pay another visitor’s fee, but it looks all worth it when I see the beautiful people you have met along the way.

    • Authentic Travels March 7, 2017 at 11:03 am #

      Unfortunately all my pictures with buses weren’t too good to post them, but I think that yah it’s an idea to upload a photo of it.

  2. Chantell Collins March 7, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    Wow what a detailed travel diary! It sounds like you definitely had a very authentic experience. The chowimen sounds awesome! I love spicy but can’t do it super hot. Did you enjoy it? The views from Himalaya Mountain View Hotel look amazing – glad that you were able to find it.

    • Authentic Travels March 7, 2017 at 11:04 am #

      The chowimen was the only things I could eat and not spicy. However, after one month of chowimen you’re really looking forward something new. 🙂

  3. mark wyld March 7, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    Looks like a great place to visit with such history and culture. I love the looks of the temples and buildings

  4. Tamara - @ Girlswanderlust March 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

    A very long travel diary! It gives a clear images of the villages and towns around Kathmandu. 🙂 You’ve met so many local people, I can understand that gives you a big authentic and impressive experience. Nepal really looks like an interesting country to me, especially because I’ve heard (and read from your diary) that the people are so hospitable. Eventhough I don’t like spicy food at all, I can’t wait to visit this country one time, haha! And so nice that you could be part of the festivity of the school children.

  5. Sandy N Vyjay March 8, 2017 at 5:08 am #

    I just loved reading your travel diary. The simplicity of Nepal has been described beautifully. The culture, tradition, architecture have all been blended together amazingly. Simply mesmerizing.

  6. Hallie March 9, 2017 at 5:01 am #

    Awesome recap of the areas. My friend and I LOVED visiting Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan when we were there. I think we appreciated that Bhaktapur was a walking town and didn’t let cars in if I remember correctly and Changu Narayan was a pretty fun little trek up. Such nice memories you’ve brought up. ^^

  7. Cori March 9, 2017 at 5:35 pm #

    This really captures the ups and downs of traveling — the constant hassles and having to be on guard, while also experiencing incredible kindness and generosity. Thanks for sharing your travel diary!

  8. Stephanie March 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

    What an authentic experience. I love that you were able to see people making pottery and working with the rice. Often travelers are far removed from the every day life of the locals. I love the way they dressed you for the festival too. You looked lovely with the sari and all of those beads!

  9. Patricia March 9, 2017 at 5:56 pm #

    I’ve never been to India, but you have me sold on Kathmandu Valley. Thank goodness so much was able to withstand the earthquake. I loved seeing your pics of the temples, and the man creating the pottery in the street! Also, the Lights Festival sounds amazing! I’d love to be part of it all!

  10. Mimi & Mitch March 9, 2017 at 8:05 pm #

    This is a place we are looking forward to go this year. Looking at this makes us even more excited to book very soon!

  11. Colby March 9, 2017 at 11:58 pm #

    I’ve wanted to visit Nepal for quite some time now. It was nice to read your personal experience. It sounds like such a wonderful journey. Also, I quickly learned during my jaunt through Southeast Asia that the people insisting that you to take a photo with them are likely going to ask for some sort of compensation thereafter. Tricky tricky hahaa. Lessons learned.

  12. Claire March 10, 2017 at 3:55 am #

    Nepal sounds like a very special place. How wonderful that you got to take part in the school children’s festivities, and the funeral for the grandpa. It seems strange to auction off his old belongings but actually that makes good sense as he doesn’t need them any more!

  13. Ami Bhat March 11, 2017 at 4:01 am #

    This is the kind of travel I totally enjoy. It is a lovely cultural and heritage experience and I like the way you shared it with the locals. The Diwali festival is quite the same as in India and am glad to know that it is as much fun here. Cheers

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