Heritage and History

Got up at 7.30am to find that the electricity in the room had gone off; this was a regular occurrence in Nepal.  It would come on for a few seconds; then go off again, so it was difficult to keep our phones charged up.

When we looked out of the window we were pleased to see it was dry, so we got ourselves ready then went down to the Kutumba restaurant for a good breakfast to set us up for the day.

Once again there were only us and the Belgian group in the restaurant so we were afforded the usual king’s welcome.  It was not worth the hotel’s while to put on a huge collection of cooked breakfast items, so there was only continental breakfast available.  We therefore enjoyed cereal, toast, juice and coffee before returning to our rooms and gathering together sunhats, cameras, map, hand-gel, toilet paper (!!) and, of course, credit cards and money in case we saw any unique souvenirs.  🙂

Off we went around 8.30am into the streets, which were not too hot or crowded at this time of day.  We decided to go to the bridge where the pedestrian “toll booth” was, pay our $15.00 each and spend as much time as we wanted, at leisure, exploring all the treasures Bhaktapur had to offer.

On arrival at the bridge we couldn’t see any sign of anyone in the little toll-house (indeed the door was firmly closed) but, as soon as we put one foot onto the bridge, a guy in an official-looking uniform seemed to materialise out of nowhere and asked us for our ticket!  We explained we’d only arrived yesterday so he led us over to the toll-house, made out our day-passes and we handed over our 30 dollars.

Referring to our map, we thought we’d make our way first of all to Pottery Square, but we wanted to explore as much as we could en route, as we had all day.

We crossed the bridge and walked up the narrow, uneven streets full of narrow, uneven houses, some of them with tattered-looking clothes hanging outside to dry.  Many of the doors onto the streets were open, but when you glanced inside the interior of a lot of the buildings was pitch dark; I didn’t know whether the occupants used heavy curtains or draperies to keep out the heat, the dust or both, but the overall effect was claustrophobic.  Perhaps the people liked somewhere quiet and dark to rest after the noise, heat and traffic outside.

In between the little houses were the occasional small cafés; a lot of them were known as “Mo:Mo” cafés (written like that, with the colon) and we’d previously been advised by Anal that “mo-mo” was a type of steamed dumpling, very popular in Nepal.  The cafés had photos of some of their dishes on boards outside, and customers were enjoying their breakfasts inside.  We were dubious about eating at any of these little places as we didn’t want to risk a “Delhi Belly” when we’re flying home tomorrow!

We strolled along until we came out at what was obviously a large, man-made green lake, which it transpired was called the Siddha Pokhari lake.  It appeared to be largely covered by a layer of bright green lichen or moss, but here and there we could see large, orange and black fish jumping, or coming to the surface to catch flies.  We walked all around the perimeter of the lake before heading in the general direction of the squares.

We came to Pottery Square.  Like much of the rest of Bhaktapur, there was an awful lot of building work going on; piles of bricks and stones, and rubble and the clanging of tools on masonry and the rumble of the cement mixers going round.  In among it all we saw the rows of newly-created pots laid out in the sun to dry.  The many pots and bowls and other clay items are made in the locals’ houses, then displayed for sale; it was quite cool to see an item that had only been created that morning.  The clay used was of different colours too; some was the usual ‘reddish’ colour but others were a dark-grey to black.  Because of the restoration work and the lack of visitors the square was not as busy as usual, but there were nevertheless several stalls set up, their owners trying to tempt us to buy their wares.  There were also a couple of locals who, spotting a potential opportunity to make some money, offered themselves to us as guides for the day.  We politely declined and continued on our way.

The little shops with their hand-crafted wares displayed a wide range of attractive goods, and I spotted a shop that was selling hand-knitted 100% woollen pullovers, hats, scarves, gloves and hooded jackets; it was the latter I was particularly interested in.  After browsing around a couple of the shops I saw what I was after – a purple and white knitted, fleece-lined woollen jacket with a zip front, hood and hand-warmer pockets.  It was very well-made and had quite a lot of weight to it; it would be a lovely warm jacket for the winter.  The shopkeeper wanted 2,800 rupees for it (about 20 quid!!) but we knocked her down to 2,500 rupees, and handed over 3 x 1,000 rupee notes.

At this point the lady showed me some interesting, brightly-coloured circular bags with zips around the outside.  When the zip was undone, the bag opened out into a rucksack, complete with shoulder straps and a couple of small external pockets!  It was an ingenious idea and the lady said we could have the rucksack for 500 rupees instead of its usual price of 800.  So we took the jacket and the bag for the 3,000 rupees – great bargains!  🙂

Well pleased with my purchases, we walked along until we came to the renowned Durbar Square.  In the wake of the 2015 earthquake the square, like the other places we’d seen in Bhakapur, was undergoing extensive building and renovation work.  Many of the historic, intricate buildings had wooden props and scaffolding up around them, and the Durbar Square gave the impression of being an area of chaos instead of the peaceful and spiritual visit it was supposed to be.  Nevertheless, we determined to have a look at the palaces, pagodas and temples and make the most of our visit.

Almost immediately, we were accosted by a local guy who offered to be our guide, saying he’d give us a 2-hour tour for 500 rupees.  We politely declined as we preferred to do our own thing and didn’t want someone hanging around us all the time.  The guy would not take no for an answer, and trailed behind us, offering his unwanted opinion and interrupting Trevor and me when we were speaking amongst ourselves.  Trevor repeatedly told him we didn’t want a guide and it took a full 20 minutes before we finally got rid of the guy.  We were then able to take our time and examine the buildings, take photos and just look around.

The first place we stopped at was the famous Golden Gate, which is the main entrance to the courtyard of the Palace of 55 Windows.  The door is surmounted by a figure of the Hindu goddess Kali and Garuda (mythical griffin) and attended by two heavenly nymphs. It is embellished with monsters and other Hindu mythical creatures of marvelous intricacy. Percy Brown, an eminent English art critic and historian, described the Golden Gate as “the most lovely piece of art in the whole Kingdom; it is placed like a jewel, flashing innumerable facets in the handsome setting of its surroundings”.

Then, of course, was the famous Palace of 55 Windows itself.  Like a lot of the buildings, it was undergoing repairs, but nothing could detract from the intricate, detailed Newari architecture; the wooden trellises, the decorative window frames and the mellowed brick work.  The interior of the palace wasn’t open to the public, but one end of it had been turned into a small museum for which there was another charge if you wanted to go in.

Next, we went to the Nyatapola Temple.  Nyatapola in the Newari language means five storeys – the symbolic of five basic elements. This is the biggest and highest pagoda of Nepal ever built with such architectural perfection and symmetry. The temple’s foundation is said to be made wider than its base.  At each side of the steps leading up to the pagoda were effigies of Buddhas and Elephants.  We sat on the cool stonework for a short time, and just people-watched and looked around at the life passing by in the area.  Several times more we were asked if we needed a “guide”, and each time we told them no, thank you.  You couldn’t blame them for trying to make a living, though.  🙂

While in front of the Nyatapola Temple, Trevor took a photo of me holding up my copy of Take A Break magazine, so I could send it in to try to win £40.00. Indeed I did send it in, and it was published. 🙂

My photo appeared in Take A Break magazine

We continued in this way, looking at the ancient buildings and many temples, browsing the shops and just pottering about.  After about three and a half hours, when the sun was at its highest and the air was hot and humid, we decided we’d take a slow walk back along to the hotel and sit outside in the lovely gardens for a rest, along with the inevitable cold bottle of Nepal Ice each.  😉

We arrived back at about 1.00pm and enjoyed our beers, sitting at a parasoled table outside the hotel reception.  I think the American and Belgian guests had left by now, and Trevor and I were the only ones remaning in the hotel!

We sat out for about an hour, then it clouded over and started to rain a little, so we went back inside and had a lie-down.  At least the electricity was back on and the room was nice and cool again.  I had a glass of water with some paracetamol to try to keep my nasty cold at bay (regular readers of this blog may remember I had a cold on the last holiday we were on as well, in January).  😦

When we woke up, we spent time re-packing the suitcases and generally getting sorted out and trying to put the depressing thought out of our mind that this time tomorrow we’d be on the aeroplane, heading for home.  I decided to have a refreshing shower but I couldn’t get the water to come out of the shower-head, so it ended up being a bath.  It didn’t really matter though, because I felt clean and refreshed and I blow-dried and styled my hair.  Then we just pottered around until dinner time, where once again we decided to eat in the hotel.

We had the excellent personal service again, as the hotel’s only guests.  I ordered a delicious, savoury vegetable soup to start followed by nasi goreng, a rice dish of Indonesian origin, although many Asian countries have their own version of it.  This as unlike any nasi goreng I’d ever tasted before, however, as it contained fresh green chillies and it packed quite a punch.  The chillies were just what I needed for clearing my blocked sinuses, however!  🙂

Afterwards we adjourned to the Tribal Bar, where the bar staff were pleased to see us.  There was no live footy on tonight, however, so we just spent the time pleasantly at the bar; I enjoyed an unusual cocktail which contained rum, lemon, honey and local spices; it was served with boiling water so was more like a hot toddy than a cocktail – just what I needed.  I will have to make it at home.

At some point some other customers came into the bar, so the bar staff went over to talk to them.  We finished our drinks, said goodbye and “namaste” and returned to our room as we had to finish our packing and be up early in the morning (5.45am) as breakfast was at 6.20am and the minibus was coming at seven to take us to the airport.

We settled down in room 202 for our last night on Nepalese soil, after a very good day.

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