Kathmandu Valley (I) – exploring towns, villages, and local families – Nepal
Kathmandu Valley, Patan (Lalitpur)
Short Description: In Kathmandu Valley, I explored the main square and the lesser-known neighborhoods in Patan. I also managed to see the Living Goddess in Patan, the Kumari Devi. In the evening, I went with Ashnu to a local eatery and a nice terrace in the expats’ neighborhood.
In the morning, I admired a cortege of women walking in a line down the main street in Patan. They wore red dresses and carried small bowls 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, a new monastery 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 carrying offering bowls lined up in front of the gate. When they entered, 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 in Patan in my notebook.
I spent the rest of the morning exploring Durbar Square in Patan (similar to the one of neighboring Kathmandu), an architectural and urban complex listed as a UNESCO heritage site. The square was the most representative ensemble of Newari architecture in Nepal and dated back to the Mala period (14th – 18th centuries). After the 2015 earthquake, only the stone bases of three temples had remained, two temples were under restoration, and only one or two temples functioned.
The square was still lively and Nepalis enjoyed it, though. While reading my guidebook 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 me with something no matter what I answered. He said he was not a guide, but I could bet he would have asked for money if I had accepted any of his unlimited offers. Eventually, I managed to get rid of him.
Patan Museum stood in 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 returned to the main square after visiting the museum and the palace. There, I eyed Basaldun chatting with other Nepalis somewhere in a shady 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 lose track in the square – which I did.
Durbar Square was full of people – 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 with three eyes and two snouts. People in the square worshiped at it, took photos of it, and gave some money to the owner.
In the afternoon, I walked along the streets in Patan using a small map from my guidebook. I admired countless temples, buildings that collapsed after the earthquake, and large water tanks in each neighborhood. I passed several Buddhist stupas and a photo exhibition taking place in most of the squares of the town.
The Golden Temple had patios carefully decorated and Bishwakarma Temple a copper facade. Budahal developed a sequence of courtyards linked through dark and narrow corridors, where I got lost, and so did a group of Italians. Unlike Kathmandu, in Patan, you 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 had to take off my shoes and worship 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 living goddess.
In the evening, I met Ashnu from Couchsurfing. I climbed on her scooter and she drove me to a local eatery, where we had eggs cooked on the dough, fried beans, and spicy vegetables. After that, we went to the Base Camp, a terrace close to Anshu’s home where writers met often. She introduced me to the editor of Lalitmag and then we returned to 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
Short Description: I wanted to rent a bike but I couldn’t find one. Eventually, I took a taxi to Chobar village and then walked down to Kirtipur small town. From there, I found a bus going to Patan bus station.
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 bike rent centers in Patan. One was closed and another one seemed too expensive as they could rent me only an MTB if I wanted to cycle through villages. They rented cheap bikes only in 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, a pretty 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. “Ok, ok, 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 down picturesque streets flanked by dilapidated buildings and reached the center of the village with Adinath Lokeshwar Temple. It was a Newari temple, both Buddhist and Hindu, built as a three-storied pagoda. It had metal items displayed on the walls of its courtyard – items for 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) with dried corncobs hanging at the windows. Nepalis worked in the fields and two men sold blankets from door to door. After I passed a small temple, I could see Kirtipur on the horizon.
Kirtipur was rather a town than a village and it had buses, shops, dust, and crowds. I climbed some stairs to the town center 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 Bagh Bhairab Temple with 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 down along other narrow streets until I glimpsed the three-storied pagoda of Uma Maheswar Temple. When I reached the temple, two big stone elephants flanked the main entrance. Next to them, a few Nepali rested in the shade of the pagoda and admired the Kathmandu Valley. I had 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 on the Greek Island of Thassos and came to Nepal for holidays every year. He had lunch with a Nepali girl to whom he had brought gifts for all her family.
The waiter from the restaurant told me I could take a minibus from Kirtipur’s Ring Road directly to Patan. Initially, I got in a minibus going to Radna Park. A girl told me that only the yellow ones went to Patan, so I quickly got off the bus before it left. 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. The rental centers knew why they didn’t rent normal bikes to go to villages.
Dakshinkali and Pharping, Kathmandu Valley
Short Description: I took a bus to Dakshinkali, the temple where animal sacrifices were made on Tuesday mornings. From there, I hiked up to Mata Temple, then descended and hiked to Pharping village through mustard fields. After visiting several monasteries, I took a bus to Patan. On the way back home, we had to change buses due to a traffic jam.
On Tuesday mornings, pilgrims usually brought and sacrificed animals at the temple in Dakshinkali, twenty-five kilometers south of Patan. I looked for the right bus through the labyrinth of Lagankhel bus station in Patan. A boy told me to stay in a certain place where the bus for Dakshinkali would come. Eventually, it came, the Nepalis crammed 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. The most crowded bus of my life!
Dakshinkali was a destination for Hindu pilgrims, and some of them came from afar to sacrifice animals for the Kali goddess. A religious bazaar spanned from the parking place to the temple, and here and there one could buy chickens to sacrifice them for the goddess. I passed through the bazaar and went down to the main temple situated in a valley.
In front of the temple, Hindus carrying alive chickens stood in line to enter the temple. As I am not a Hindu, I couldn’t 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 struggling for its life in the arms of a boy who was taking it to the sacrifice place. However, the place where animals were killed couldn’t be seen by tourists. People wanted 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 in Dakshinkali, passed a row of eateries, and reached 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 without entering the temple compound. After a while, I went down along the same way and searched for a footpath going 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 to me the correct footpath. It was a safe way to hike up to Pharping quite quickly.
After fifteen minutes of hiking, I was in the middle of the mustard fields surrounding Pharping village. From there, I 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 for good luck at 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 and lively colored wooden decorations. Then, I came back to the main street in the village near the Buddhist Monastery Sakya Tharig. There, an enormous golden statue of Guru Rinpoche was exposed for pilgrims inside a glasshouse.
The bus back to Kathmandu stuck in a traffic jam on the countryside road. I had to get off the bus together with other passengers. We walked among cars for a short distance until we passed a damaged bus with no wheels blocked in the middle of the road. We got on another bus, where we sweated until it put in motion but it brought us back to Patan pretty quickly.
Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part I) is the first travelogue about towns and villages in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. You can find the version in Romanian at ‘Sate si orase din jurul Kathmandu-ului, Nepal – partea I’. The continuation of this travelogue can be found at the following link Kathmandu Valley – exploring towns, villages, and local families (part II). And here are all the Travelogues from Nepal (x12).
Have you been to Nepal or plan to go there? Leave a comment below this post and tell me what you liked in Nepal or what you want to see there.
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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 🙂
I am so happy you liked it Sally.
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.
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).
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. 🙂
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.
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!
Nepal is such a beautiful and intriguing country. I have only good memories from there. Ok, maybe the roads are a bit bumpy and dusty, but that’s the charm!
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.
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.
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.
I am happy you have noticed the same things that amazed me while in Nepal.
Your photos capture the beauty of Kathmandu as if I were right there with you! I love the winding trail through the mustard fields.
Oh, yes, that was a great trail. I loved it too. So photogenic!
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!
I was very happy to see the Kumari in Patan as well. Unfortunately, it has become a touristy thing since we were allowed to see and take photos of her at certain hours. However, she is real and they worship her, so that’s pretty fascinating I guess.
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!
Well, my stomach is not used with KTM food, so it was inevitable.
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.
I don’t know if I will ever do the EBC, it is so touristy and crowded that I prefer something more authentic and remoter.
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!
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.
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!
I didn’t go to Nepal right after the earthquake for the same reason. But now things are pretty much back to normal, except some ruined temples which need to be reconstructed.
Kathmandu is on my bucketlist for a way to long man. Must change that as soonas possible.
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.
I loved those dried corncobs. They are so photogenic.
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!
I like my posts to be authentic, nothing to hide, so this is why I post and write about the bright and down side as well. I am glad you have enjoyed my posts about Nepal.
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.
That holy cow must be an exception of Mother Nature but it is true. This is why I took the photo. I don’t know if it was holy or not, but it was unique for sure.
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.
Yes, the earthquake in 2015 was pretty devastating in some parts in Nepal.