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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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