Sunday, February 21, 2010

The 'medieval' town of Bhaktapur.

Springing out of the lush Kathmandu valley is Bhaktapur, a World Heritage site, a town seemingly frozen in time. Every inch of the town, from the crumbling buildings to the cobbled streets to the old palaces was made from a rich blend of wood, mud-brick and copper. Amidst those earthen tones were the splashes of color from saris, run-down workmen trucks, and the bright blue doors that dot the alleyways. The place was dripping with romantic allure, reminiscent of a medieval era.

Bhaktapur is composed of two main squares, both dominated by centuries-old pagodas, palaces, and other architectural structures. Most everything was exquisitely carved, and all devoted to the Hindu god Shiva and his various reincarnations. I spent the first few hours of the day ambling around the two squares.

This is Nyatapola, the tallest and most classical pagoda in Nepal, guarded in front by five gigantic pairs of temple guardians.

This was a small part of the incredibly ornate Golden Gate, made of gilt copper repouse. The gorgeous figure, only as big as my hand, depicts the 10-armed deity Taleju.

Mayhem in the streets, as women flock to buy offerings for the worship of one of their local gods, Bhairab, an incarnation of the more mainstream Shiva.

The main part of Bhaktapur took only a few hours to see. After that, I wandered the backstreets, and discovered the heart of the town. Newaris (a prominent ethnic group of Nepal) continue life as is on the streets, refreshingly untouched by any sort of commercialization or catering to foreigners. The feel of an intensely proud, inward-looking culture pervades the entire town.

I spent the rest of the day moving from place to place, sitting down in inconspicuous places and watching the people go about their lives -- the conversations between locals, the women with children, gossiping old ladies, schoolchildren going home for the whole day.

I sat, and took photographs, and no one noticed me, and I had a richer few hours than all my time so far in Nepal.

Perhaps spoiled by previous foreigners, these innocent-looking young boys asked me for money in exchange for taking this photo of them. They were perfectly happy with candy instead.

My favorite part of Bhaktapur was Potter's Square, where each step of the pottery-making process can be observed, from kneading the clay, to forming the pots on the wheel, to carving out the designs, and finally to drying them in the sun. I spent quite some time here.

And then goodbye to Bhaktapur. I took a taxi back to Kathmandu before sunset, not wanting to risk the sketchy roads after nightfall.

As you read this, I am doing a 4-day 3-night trek in the Annapurna mountain range, 200km west of Kathmandu. Following that, I am going paragliding in the same region, before heading back to Kathmandu on February 25th.


justinnhli said...

These are the most beautiful photos you've put on your blog yet. I feel like I'm watching a travel show on TV.

Lexie said...

i agree, these photos are gorgeous. the stories about the kids you meet abroad make me giggle!

Siri said...

Really good photo's Faye! I enjoy following your journey's :) Take care!

Nepal trekking tour said...

all trekking picture are really amazing. i think your treks in annapurna area was very much fantastic and i think the flying over Pokhara it also very enjoyable. hope to see u again in nepal