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).
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