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

25 Jan

Kathmandu Valley nearby, Patan (Lalitpur)

Around Kathmandu Valley. In the morning, I admired a cortege of women who walked in a line along the main street of Patan. They wore red dresses and carried small baskets with offerings. A Nepali attending the procession, Basaldun, saw me when I took photos of the women and insisted on going with them. I listened to my intuition, felt safe, and eventually joined the group. The cortege went to a Buddhist monastery – Itiraz Mahavihar-n, just rebuilt on the ruins of a medieval one. However, the ruins of the old monastery had nothing to do with the 2015 earthquake, they were older.

When we reached the monastery, the women lined up in front of its gate. When they came in, they handed the offerings to a lama who heaped them on a stage (bananas, rice, flowers, money, soap etc). After that, they sat down and waited for the monks’ speech. Baldasun told me that he had already been a monk three times in his life but he had given up because they had nothing to eat after midday. While I was taking photos of the monastery, he wrote his FB address and the main tourist sites of the area in my notebook.

Patan - women dressed in red going to the inauguration of the Itiraz Mahavihar-n Monastery

Patan – women dressed in red going to the inauguration of the Itiraz Mahavihar-n Monastery

I spent the rest of the morning exploring the Durbar Square of Patan (similar with the one of the neighboring Kathmandu), an architectural and urban complex listed as a UNESCO heritage site. The square is the most representative ensemble of Newari architecture in Nepal and dates back to the Mala period, between the XIVth and XVIIIth centuries. After the 2015 earthquake, only the stone bases of three temples were preserved, two temples were in restoration, and only one or two temples were functional.

The square was still lively and the Nepalis enjoyed it, though. While I was reading in a corner of the square, Basaldun showed up from nowhere and assailed me with questions. Where are you staying? Have you eaten yet? Where are you going now? He wanted to help no matter what I answered. He said that he was not a guide, but I was sure that he would ask for money if I accepted any of his unlimited offers. Eventually, I managed to get rid of him.

Patan - Durbar Square

Patan – Durbar Square

The Patan Museum was situated in the Durbar Square and had a golden gate. The Royal Palace was close to it, had a gate flanked by two enormous stone lions, and a sequence of patios meticulously decorated, with shrines and fountains. I came back to the square after visiting the museum and the palace. There, I eyed Basaldun chatting with other Nepalis somewhere in a shaded corner of the square. When he saw me, he insisted on going to his place for lunch. However, my intuition told me to turn down his invitation and to loose my track in the square.

Patan - Durbar Square - Patan Museum and Taleju Temple

Patan – Durbar Square – Patan Museum and Taleju Temple

The Durbar Square was full of people, both Nepalis, tourists, and peddlers, so it was not difficult to hide among them. At an end of the square, a Nepali had brought his holy cow, which had three eyes and two snouts. The people in the square worshiped at it, took photos of it, and gave a little money to its owner.

Patan - Durbar Square - the very "Holly Cow"

Patan – Durbar Square – the very “Holly Cow”

In the afternoon, I walked along the streets of Patan town and guided myself with the help of a small map from the guidebook. I admired countless temples, buildings collapsed after the earthquake, and large water tanks in each neighborhood. I passed several Buddhist stupas and a photo exhibition that took place in most of the squares of the town.

Patan - Pim Bahal Pokhari Pond

Patan – Pim Bahal Pokhari Pond

The Golden Temple had patios carefully decorated and the Bishwakarma Temple a copper facade. Budahal developed a sequence of courtyards linked through dark and narrow corridors, where I obviously lost myself and so did a group of Italians. Unlike Kathmandu, in Patan, I could see the living goddess – the Kumari of Patan. Haka Bahal, the house where she lived, seemed pretty shabby though. The goddess had to stay with her feet on a tray because she wasn’t allowed to touch the floor. I took off my shoes and worshiped in front of her. She blessed me and put a red tikka on my forehead. After that, I put some money in a small box, took a photo of her, and left the house happy that I saw a goddess.

Patan - Haka Bahal - the Living Goddess - Patan's Kumari

Patan – Haka Bahal – the Living Goddess – Patan’s Kumari

In the evening, I met Ashnu whom I had found on the Couchsurfing platform. I got on her scooter and she drove me to a local eatery, where we had eggs cooked on dough, fried beans, and spicy vegetables. After that, we went to the Base Camp, a terrace close to Anshu’s house where writers met very often. She introduced me to the editor of the Lalitmag and then we turned back in Patan on her scooter. During the night, I felt sick after eating with Anshu in that eatery. I swallowed a pill and felt better.

Patan - Durbar Square - a local eatery

Patan – Durbar Square – a local eatery

Chobar and Kirtipur villages, Kathmandu Valley

I intended to rent a bike and cycle through the villages south of the Kathmandu Valley. I left all my cash with Om at the guesthouse and searched for the bike rent centers in Patan. One was closed and another one was expensive because they could rent me only an MTB if I wanted to cycle through the villages. They rented cheap bikes only within Patan. I left the rental center, activated my GPS, and started to walk towards Chobar, the nearest village.

I stopped at a crossroads in Sanepa, which seemed a shabby neighborhood. Taxi drivers spotted me right away and offered to give me a lift to Chobar. “500 Rupees,” they said. I looked at my GPS – only 2,6 kilometers. “No, 300 Rupees,” I answered. “400 Rupees,” he dropped the price. I left. “300 Rupees,” he suddenly accepted my last offer. I got into a luxurious car and, in less than ten minutes, the taxi driver dropped me at the main crossroads below Chobar village. From there, I walked to the center of the village in fifteen minutes.

Kathmandu Valley - Chobar - traditional house

Kathmandu Valley – Chobar – traditional house

In Chobar, I walked up picturesque streets, flanked by dilapidated buildings, though, and reached the center of the village where the Adinath Lokeshwar Temple was. It was a Newari temple, both Buddhist and Hindu, built as a three stories pagoda-style, and it had metal items displayed on walls of its courtyard for the good luck and happiness of young married couples.

Kathmandu Valley - Chobar - Nepalis in the courtyard of the Adinath Lokeshwar Temple

Kathmandu Valley – Chobar – Nepalis in the courtyard of the Adinath Lokeshwar Temple

In Chobar, I activated my GPS again and went down to Panga. I passed traditional houses (some of them even luxurious ones, but with dried corncobs hanging at the windows). Nepalis worked the fields and two men sold blankets from door to door. After I passed a small temple, I could see Kirtipur at the horizon.

Kathmandu Valley - Chobar - men selling blankets

Kathmandu Valley – Chobar – men selling blankets

Kirtipur is rather a town than a village and it has buses, shops, dust, and crowds. I climbed some stairs to the center of the town and passed through squares where Nepali women dried rice on large areas after winnowing it. In the main square, I turned down a guide and entered the compound of the Bagh Bhairab Temple, which had a terrace overlooking Kathmandu. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, Nepali sacrificed animals at the temple, but it was just Monday.

Kathmandu Valley - Kirtipur - Bagh Bhairab Temple

Kathmandu Valley – Kirtipur – Bagh Bhairab Temple

After visiting the temple, I walked up along other narrow streets until I glimpsed the three-stories pagoda of the Uma Maheswar Temple. When I reached it, two stone elephants flanked the entrance to the temple. Next to them, a few Nepali rested in the shadow of the pagoda and admired the Kathmandu Valley. I ate a portion of chicken momos (very spicy ones) next to the temple, at Kirtipur View Point Restaurant. There, I met a man from Croatia who had a business with marble in the Greek Island of Thassos and came in Nepal for holidays every year. He had lunch with a Nepali girl to whom he had brought gifts for all her family.

Kathmandu Valley - Kirtipur - Newari houses in the main square

Kathmandu Valley – Kirtipur – Newari houses in the main square

The waiter of the restaurant told me that I could take a minibus from Kirtipur’s Ring Road directly to Patan. Initially, I got in a minibus that went to Radna Park. However, I got off before it left because a girl told me that only the yellow ones went to Patan. The way back to Patan was full of bumps in the road, dust, and many cars. Therefore, I felt grateful I didn’t rent a bike in the morning.

Dakshinkali and Pharping, Kathmandu Valley

On Tuesday mornings, pilgrims bring and sacrifice animals at the temple in Dakshinkali, twenty-five kilometers south of Patan. I looked for the right bus through the labyrinth of the Lagankhel bus station in Patan. A boy guided me and told me to stay in a certain place where the bus for Dakshinkali should come. Eventually, it came, the Nepalis thrust inside, but I still had a seat for myself. The minibus filled up quickly after it left, and I could hardly move an arm. I wasn’t able to see anything out of the window during the bus trip and I could breathe normally only when I reached Dakshinkali.

Kathmandu Valley - Dakshinkali - the religious bazaar preceding the temple

Kathmandu Valley – Dakshinkali – the religious bazaar preceding the temple

Dakshinkali is a destination for Hindu pilgrims and some of them come from afar to sacrifice animals for the Kali goddess. A religious bazaar stretched from the parking place to the temple, and here and there one could buy chickens and offer them as a sacrifice for the goddess. I passed through the bazaar and went down to the main temple situated in a valley.

In front of the temple, the Hindus lined up and had chickens with them, too. As I am not a Hindu, I wasn’t allowed to enter the courtyard of the temple. I could only go around it and spot the place for animal sacrifices. It was located somewhere at the back of the temple, in an area with ceramic tiles. There, I glimpsed some blood on the floor. I also eyed a chicken that struggled for its life in the arms of a boy who was taking it to the sacrifice place. However, the place where the animals were killed was not visible for tourists. People thrust to get more quickly to the temple and a police officer had to guide the crowds. Orange garlands of flowers, candles, and bells were laid all over the place.

Kathmandu Valley - Dakshinkali - the main temple

Kathmandu Valley – Dakshinkali – the main temple

Later, I climbed some stairs from the temple of Dakshinkali, passed a row of eateries, and finally reached the Mata Temple on a hilltop. I had to take off my shoes to enter the temple. In this case, I preferred just to look at the surrounding panoramas. After a while, I went down along the same way and searched for a footpath up to Pharping village. The village sat among yellow mustard fields, in the nearby area, and I wanted to avoid taking another bus for such a short distance. I analyzed my GPS and a man passing by confirmed the footpath to me. It was a safe way and it was going to Pharping quite quickly.

Kathmandu Valley - Pharping - through the mustard fields

Kathmandu Valley – Pharping – through the mustard fields

In fifteen minutes of hiking, I was in the middle of the mustard fields that surrounded Pharping village and spotted the Buddhist temples located in the center of the village. At Rigzin Phodrang Monastery, a Nepali boy convinced me to buy (after a short negotiation, of course) a string of prayer flags. I hung them up at Guru Rinpoche’s cave, for good luck.

Kathmandu Valley - Pharping - Nepalis coming from Guru Rinpoche's Cave

Kathmandu Valley – Pharping – Nepalis coming from Guru Rinpoche’s Cave

I climbed an alley with stairs up to a white Buddhist monastery. Further, I went down to Vajra Yogini Temple, a Hindu temple with elaborately wooden decorations, lively colored. Then I came back to the main street of the village near the Buddhist monastery Sakya Tharig. There, an enormous golden statue of Guru Rinpoche was exposed for pilgrims inside a glass-house.

Kathmandu Valley - Pharping - Sakya Tharig Gompa and stupa

Kathmandu Valley – Pharping – Sakya Tharig Gompa and stupa

The bus back to Kathmandu stuck in a traffic jam along the countryside road. I had to get off the bus together with the other passengers. We walked among the cars for a short distance until we passed a damaged bus, which had no wheels and blocked the road. We got on another bus, inside which we sweated until it left the place, but it brought me back to Patan.

Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part I) is my first diary about the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (find the version in Romanian at ‘Sate si orase din jurul Kathmandu-ului, Nepal – partea I). Its continuation, my second post can be found at the following link Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part II). 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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21 Responses to “Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part I)”

  1. Igor Mozek March 3, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    Kathmandu is on my bucketlist for a way to long man. Must change that as soonas possible.

  2. Faith Coates March 3, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

    Kathmandu has figured in my travel dreams for many years, the cultural and historic aspects of the place enchant me. Your photography is quite spectacular and now I have even more to dream about in full colour – so impressed with your post I am going to have to make it there much sooner than I planned. In my hometown in Canada we have a fellow who has a stall in the market selling momo’s and I have now tried them in New York, Florida, the UK and Ireland and am looking forward to having them in Nepal.

    • Authentic Travels March 3, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

      Well, in Nepal the real momos are very spicy. And I don’t think that this is a problem if you eat them once, but it’s a challenge if you don’t have too many options for 2 months (except momos, dhla bhat and chowemin).

  3. Milla March 4, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    I have been in India a couple of years ago and desperately wanted to head to Kathmandu but in the end I didn’t have the chance to do it. I loved your article and now I’m more motivated than ever to actually plan this trip. Btw I’m so curious to know more about the living goddess but I admit she looks a bit scary in the pic. 🙂

    • Authentic Travels March 4, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

      I could see the Living Goddess only in Patan, not in Kathmandu. i think she was just bored of being photographed by tourists every day.

  4. Only By Land March 6, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    When people think of Kathmandu they think of the earthquake and that is has been destroyed. Your trip proves that life is going on in Kathmandu. I love the reflection photo you took in the city and all your photos!

  5. Marlies March 7, 2017 at 11:16 am #

    I hate people that come up to you and can’t take the hint that you are not interested. Happy you got rid of him eventually. So cool to see the houses with dried corncobs at the windows, haha.

  6. Madhurima Maiti March 7, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    Nepal is a beautiful country and it’s been in my bucket list always. You have given here a very realistic documentation of the place. The pictures are also very realistic and not like those edited and fancy stuff that are far from reality. I have read a lot about the tradition of the living goddess followed in Nepal. Glad that you have a picture of the tradition as well. Nice read!

  7. Mike Clegg March 7, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

    I absolutely love your pictures in this post They really give me a sense of what Kathmandu Valley is like and make me want to book a ticket. In particular the Mustard Field looks stunning and the Chobar house looks quite interesting. I’m also glad you got a picture of that holy cow. I’m not sure I believed you at first when I read that lol. Thanks for sharing this inspiring post.

  8. Sally E March 8, 2017 at 1:41 am #

    I have always wanted to visit Nepal and your descriptions and photos have furthered that desire! Those mustard fields are out of this world – definitely not what I expected Nepal to look like for some reason. Thanks for sharing an honest account of your experience 🙂

  9. Stephanie March 8, 2017 at 6:59 am #

    I was going to say that meal looked so authentic, but I guess it didn’t sit well with you. That’s disappointing, but a major part of travel. I’m also impressed that you were able to negotiate with the cab drivers. I know I would struggle with this, but being informed helps avoid being taken advantage of. Looks like such an interesting trip!

    • Authentic Travels March 8, 2017 at 11:37 am #

      Well, I’ve learned to do many things on the road, and negotiation is one of them. When you know that the prices are 10 times less, you feel like a stupid not to inform yourself beforehand and pay too much.

  10. Sally March 8, 2017 at 10:50 am #

    The earthquake was devastating to see but it is good to see the colour and vibrancy is still there in Kathmandu. I really hope to visit someday and do the Everest Base Camp trek.

  11. Nicole McLaren March 8, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

    I have recently only thought of the city and the earthquake – but I realize now after seeing your post that it is more than that. I should have known better. I love your photos and I am now adding this to my list of places to visit for next year! Thank you for sharing.

  12. Aparna March 8, 2017 at 11:42 pm #

    Wow, sounds like a fantastic experience there. Sorry that you fell sick though! I’d love to go to Nepal and Kathmandu sometime, it sounds quite lovely!

  13. Izzy March 9, 2017 at 3:28 am #

    In your words, my own memories of Nepal came alive. You write so beautifully, truly a pleasure reading this narrative. Also I had no idea there was a Kumari in Patan! What a breathtaking capture of the living goddesses. It’s amazing how you captured her vulnerability and power all in one shot. Gorgeous captures!

  14. Tara March 9, 2017 at 3:43 am #

    Your photos capture the beauty of Kathmandu as if I were right there with you! I love the winding trail through the mustard fields.

  15. Sandy N Vyjay March 9, 2017 at 4:11 am #

    The simplicity of Nepal and the faith of people there never cease to amaze me. The historical sites are endowed with such beautiful architecture that aren’t seen everywhere. Also, the humble locals and their friendly nature made me smile throughout your article.

  16. Paige Wunder March 9, 2017 at 4:18 am #

    What a beautiful post! I’m planning to get to Nepal in the next year or so, and Kathmandu is definitely on the list! That buddhist monastery is just so beautiful. I cannot wait to explore that area! It’s a good thing I’ll only have my backpack, otherwise, I’d be taking one of those blankets home. Ha!

  17. Andreea Bujor March 9, 2017 at 6:29 am #

    Ohh..you are making me miss Nepal by your post and your beautiful photos. I’m happy to see it still stands good after the earthquake :(. I miss the spicy food, the good people of Nepal and that sense of adventure you are presenting here. Nice to meet you . I ‘ll subscribe to your blog.

    • Authentic Travels March 9, 2017 at 9:34 am #

      Unfortunatelly I don’t miss the spicy food. And i don’t think that you can subscribe to my blog for the moment, I’ll take care of that.

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