24th December, 2015
Bhaktapur or Place of devotees is 13 km from Kathmandu (1500 RS for 7 days). With the slogan of “ Creation of predecessors- Our art and culture”, Bhaktapur is the cultural capital of Nepal from the 12th to the 15th century. 1401 meters above sea level, this UNESCO site has one of the best preserved courtyards and city centre. The earthquake completely destroyed over 50% of all the heritage sites in Bhaktapur. However, the town is still unbelievably rich in traditional art, architecture, history and craftwork. If Patan and Kathmandu are known as the city of living art and a living museum then Bhaktapur is a combination of the two and a lot more interesting.
Shaped like a flying pigeon, the town is home to Hindus and Buddhists. There are three squares in Bhaktapur.
- Durbar square- the main square filled with stone art, metal art, wood carvings, terracotta art, the Golden Gate and many more architectural wonders. Many festivals are held in the square.
- Taumadhi square- apart from the stone sculptures, it is best known for the multi-roofed temples and rectangular temples.
- Dattatraya square- the oldest part of the city and most renowned for wood carvings.
Along the way are shops, restaurants and lots of smaller temples embedded in residential areas. The locals blend in with the landscape so wonderfully and life continues.
The best way to see Bhaktapur is to walk along the cobbled streets and make your way around the entire area. Most importantly- try to talk to the locals. Friendly and hospitable, they welcome you into their neighbourhood and greet your curiosity with a big smile.
I’m glad to have the chance to visit the many streets, sights and sounds that would otherwise be forgotten. There were tourists in Bhaktapur however most tend to linger around the main squares. I didn’t see any other tourists in the outskirts of the town. My feet carried me here and there- with no real aim, I walked past many back alleys and streets that are uniquely Nepalese.
In a neighbourhood close to the Hanumante river (south of the town), I saw some smoke bellowing in the background. I stood quietly behind the damaged stone carvings and watched as a group of people were chanting and crying. It was only after a while that I realised they were saying goodbye to someone who had just passed away. Life ends, a body becomes ashes and then away it goes with the wind. The place was very quiet- I could hear nothing except for the chanting and sobbing- memories of the person still remains and in one way or another- perhaps dying is an escape- the end to all sensations be it joy or pain.
The area that I found myself in used to be a place of worship and I imagined it to be littered with impressive stone carvings. As I stared into the eyes of the Buddha- untouched and in tranquility, I could almost make out a whisper ” I’m still here and yes, it is still very beautiful.”
After witnessing the ritual, I decided to head back into the centre of the town. I ended up at a local restaurant where the owners use wood to cook me some momos.
I agree- the earthquake might have damaged half of the carvings but a sense of faith, peace and strength continues in Bhaktapur.
“Hi, is that a Sony camera?”
I looked to my right and saw two girls in santa hats smiling at me. I never thought that my little Milou (nickname of my camera) would start off a great 90 minute long conversation with two amazingly engaged and super female travellers. LuLu and Caitlin have been travelling in Asia for many months and Nepal is their last stop before they head back to the States. With their red santa hats and beautiful smiles, I couldn’t help but become engrossed in our conversation which ranged from Nepal’s history to the importance of travelling as well as the need to let go of all the bs and live a little. Caitlin spent her time teaching kids in Thailand and like her friend LuLu, who works in the field of environmental protection, both enjoys travelling. We chatted a lot about the environment, global warming, human development, geopolitics and it was great to talk to well-informed travellers who also shares my excitement for US Senator Bernie Sanders. I’m not American but man do I admire and support him!
Such a great way to end the Nepal trip. Despite the hardships with water shortage, fuel crisis, power cuts and dealing with the aftermaths of the two earthquakes, what I’ve learnt from Nepal and her people is that one must remain positive, happy and satisfied at all times especially during times of difficulties. When I compare myself with them and indeed the locals from all the developing nations who I called home in the past, I am really pathetic, weak and hopeless …. (sigh)
Goodbye Nepal. I wish you the best.