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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Want to subscribe to my travel diaries? Just leave your email in the subscription form below and you’ll be notified when I publish a new travel diary.