Browsing in Bhaktapur

Woke up about 5.00am to go to the loo; my throat was quite hoarse and tickly and I put it down to the drying effects of the air-conditioning.  Went back to sleep again, then woke up at 8.00am when the alarm went off.  Trevor said it had been 2.45am (!!) before the football had finally finished; after extra time it had gone to penalties, which England had won 4-3.  🙂

My throat was still dry and tickly and I hoped it would be OK once I’d gone out into the fresh air.  We packed up most of our stuff and went down to breakfast, where we saw Charles and Julie; Vee and John had left for the airport several hours before.

We enjoyed our breakfast then decided to walk up the street and look around the shops for a bit; there was certainly no hurry.  Not all of the shops were open yet, but we managed to browse in one or two of them; one had a lot of handcrafted textile goods in, such as shawls and bags, pashminas and household things like cushion covers and wall-hangings.

After walking back to the hotel we spent some time sitting outside by the pool; my throat was still dry and husky and I reluctantly decided I was going down with a cold.  Just my luck!  😦

We returned to our room and had a cup of coffee, then finished packing up all our luggage to take it down to the foyer at 11.15am.  We found Anal and Madern waiting for us, so we were able to leave straight away, once we’d settled our bar bill and checked out.

It seemed strange, us being the only ones on the minibus.  We set off into the traffic and were advised it was only a 45-50 minute drive from Kathmandu so could plan on arriving around lunchtime.

Just before 12.00 noon our vehicle pulled up in a small gated courtyard; we had arrived at the Hotel Heritage, Bhaktapur, which would be our base for the next couple of nights.  It looked lovely; a traditional style building set in ornate gardens and stone terraces. In fact, the Hotel Heritage was the first deluxe hotel to be built in Bhaktapur, and was like a living antique shop, full of intricate wooden carvings, ornate decor, stone floors and exposed brickwork in the walls.  Colourful handmade curtains, cushions and throws were everywhere, and of course there was a ever-present smell of incense in the air.  What an amazing place; we got a fantastic welcome from the hotel staff.

We were advised by Anal that we were on our own now; someone else would be coming on Friday morning at 7.00am to take us to the airport.  We thanked him and Madern for all their help and for making our visit a memorable one, then we handed each of them an envelope containing a generous tip.  Everything of interest in Bhaktapur appeared to be within walking distance of the hotel, so we’d feel perfectly confident exploring the city by ourselves.

Our large room on the first floor, number 202, was amazing.  All dark wooden carved furniture, stone floor, brick wall with colourful handmade accessories, included a patchwork quilt and hand-woven rug.  A small side-table contained complimentary bottles of water, some fruit and a few canapés, and there was a large settee, ample wardrobe space and a cool, stone-floored bathroom containing a bath tub with shower over it, sink and WC.  It all looked lovely and was so unusual.

We weren’t hungry after our substantial breakfast, but we thought we’d have a short rest before venturing out and exploring our immediate vicinity.  The hotel proprietor had given us a leaflet, showing the nearby attractions with detailed maps on how to get to them.

First of all, we decided we’d explore the hotel gardens, so we wandered around and saw that there was a bar/pub called the “Tribal Bar” which, in keeping with the rest of the hotel, was ornate and comfortable, with antique wooden tables, comfortable, squashy armchairs and settees, and a row of large padded stools along the bar.  We knew where we’d be going tonight!

It was hot and humid, and I wasn’t feeling up to much walking, so we decided to sit at one of the parasoled tables and enjoy a freezing cold beer each.  The hotel served the strong  Nepal Ice beer, which comes in 650ml bottles.  There were another three people sitting at a nearby table; we judged from their accents that they were from North America.

There were also some other guests in the hotel grounds; a female tabby-and-white cat with her two half-grown kittens – they looked to be about 10 weeks old.  The tabby striped kittens were as alike as two peas in a pod, and they were frisky and playful.  Being cat lovers, we couldn’t resist stroking and petting them and, as we sat down to enjoy our beer, they settled down near our table.  🙂

Afterwards. we took a slow stroll out of the hotel and along the road, where we had noticed on our map that an interesting-looking temple, the Bahari Ajima Temple, was close by.  There was the usual ornate wooden carvings, lots of gilt, mosaic tiles, small hanging tinkly bells and the little alcoves where you could light a candle.  There was wooden board next to the temple explaining what everything was, but because it was all written in Nepalese then we didn’t have a clue what we were looking at!  It all looked very nice though.  We also passed a shoe-shop on the corner near the hotel; it had lots of sequinned and hand-embroidered shoes and sandals in.  I bought a pair of ornate red velvet mules; they were very different and cost less than 10 quid!  🙂

We then decided to walk into the main town to get an idea of our bearings and plan what we were going to do tomorrow, as we had the whole day to explore.  We therefore walked through the dusty streets towards the main square; we noticed that there wasn’t as much traffic as there was in Kathmandu and the streets, although busy, were not too crowded.  Once again, Trevor and I were conspicuous as the only Westerners to be seen.

We passed little open air refreshment stands, and even a lady roasting some corn-on-the-cob by the roadside and making a few coppers selling them.  We also saw an “emporium” of different shops, including a pharmacy and a small supermarket, as well as clothing shops.

As we walked along, having to be constantly mindful of the traffic (there were a lot of motorbikes and scooters, if not actual cars, and there were no pavements) we browsed in the little individual shops, looking for bargains or unique souvenirs of our amazing visit to Nepal.

Eventually we came to a bridge that was the gateway to the cultural centre.  Some of the historic buildings of Bhaktapur were badly damaged in the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, that registered 7.8 on the Richter scale.  Therefore, in order to help fund the extensive repairs and restoration that was needed, a sign at the bridge proclaimed that visitors were required to purchase a day-pass to allow them to visit all the monuments.  For non-Nepalese visitors, it would cost $15.00 per person for the day.

At this point we saw another couple of Westerners hovering by the bridge sign, a couple of young girls with backpacks; they looked like students.  We decided that we’d be better off coming back in the morning and paying our 15 bucks apiece then for the whole day; therefore getting better value for money.  As it was after 6.00pm now, we decided we’d just return to the hotel and chill out there.

Back in our room, we pottered around for a bit then decided to eat in the hotel about 7.00pm.  Because we’d had no lunch, we were fairly hungry by now, so we got washed and changed and went downstairs again.

The hotel restaurant was called “Kutumba” and was apparently open to non-hotel residents.  When we went in, we were the only ones there so we were shown to a table for two and given time to peruse the extensive menu.  Shortly afterwards, a group of three young men came in; it transpired they were from Belgium and were also guests in the hotel.  The restaurant had a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere aided by the soothing Nepalese music playing softly, and the small candles flickering on the bar and on the tables.

I enjoyed a delicious prawn cocktail which was a bit of a twist on the ‘usual’ prawn cocktail, as the sauce was quite spicy and the prawns were served warm.  I then followed this with a tasty mutton biryani in which the rice was served in a spicy sauce and contained peppers and vegetables and the odd burst of chilli!  It was all washed down with a glass of white wine.  Every now and again the chef would come out of the kitchen and ask us if we were enjoying the meal – we were certainly getting top-class service tonight!

Afterwards we decided to go along to the Tribal Bar which we’d looked at briefly earlier on.  We settled ourselves on the huge bar stools and ordered a beer each, then spent some time chatting with the bar staff.  As usual, because we were the only people in the bar, the staff were intrigued by us and they kept asking what we thought of Nepal and of the hotel.  The bar was great; they were playing some background jazz music and it looked as if it would be a friendly lively place when it was full.

There was no live football tonight; they were just showing a re-run of the England match, and we sat and enjoyed our drinks and half-heartedly watched the game and passed the time in a laid-back way until we were tired, so off we went to our comfortable bed with its handmade patchwork quilt.

Tomorrow was our last full day in Nepal, so we determined to make the most of it.  We slept well.

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