Thursday, May 26, 2016

Out and About in Kathmandu, Nepal (14-17 May 2016)

Although we were in Kathmandu, Nepal, for the opening ceremonies for the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC), we had free time to look around.

14 May - Saturday

Yesterday we arrived in Kathmandu and went to our hotel, Park Village Hotel and Resort. We then walked to ECDC with Tom Morgan for our first visit with Pushpa Basnet and her children. At ECDC we met a couple from Germany, Joachim and Helga Schulze and their daughter Kerstin, who lives in Singapore. They have been supporters of ECDC and were here for the opening. Helga told us about a temple a short distance from our hotel that we should visit.

The Budhanilkantha Temple is a Hindu temple north of Kathmandu and close to ECDC. At 7:30 AM, the monks gather to wash the Sleeping Vishnu statue. According to one of the locals that greeted us near the statue, the statue was discovered by a farmer while he was plowing his field. This is one of a couple of stories about the origin, none of which have been proved true, or not.

Unfortunately, we never made it there in time to see the ceremony. However, on our first visit, it was Saturday which is their weekly holy day and the crowds were very large. As you can see in a couple of the photos, the of people waiting to lay gifts at the feet of the statue was quite long.

Around the grounds of the temple, there were prayer flags and  many place for the religious to offer prayers and gifts.

Prayer candles and joss sticks

Prayer candles

Joss sticks

Prayer flags: blue symbolizes sky and space, white symbolizes air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth.

After this visit we went to the ECDC facility for the opening ceremonies.

15 May - Sunday

We started today with another visit to the Budhanilkantha Temple, and a leisurely stroll around the nearby neighborhood. Today the crowds were significantly less than yesterday. This made for easier viewing of the grounds.

Entrance gate to the temple

Part of the temple grounds

Outside the temple grounds...

Shops near the temple

Pat looking for something to buy

The streets are made of mud after the rain

Cable in a drainage ditch.

A gate near the temple where the road split because of the big earthquake last year.

A driver considers driving over the break in the road but didn't do it!

An interesting vehicle

Remember these? Used everywhere.

Clothing store

Yarn or rope drying

This looks like it could be yarn, but can't tell for sure

This building may have either been damaged in the earthquake or from being forced to give way to the road widening.

The road our hotel is on

16 May - Monday

Today we took a tour of Kathmandu. Our guide was recommended by Monique Kovacs Nathan, our friend from the U.S. Embassy. Deepak Risal was and excellent guide. We were picked up from our hotel at about 8:00 AM, where we had gathered with Sharon Kuggelmass, Kerstin Schulze and her parents, Joachim and Helga.

Our tour (the star at the center top is the Park Village Hotel)

Our first stop was an area near Rani Pokhari, which had been partially drained of water so it could be worked on.

Rani Pokhari under renovation

From here we wandered through markets, past temples and into throngs of people, during the rest of our first stop. Here are some of the things we saw:





Anchovies and other products of the sea


Flattened rice is one of the items sold here


Hot peppers



We bought some black salt from this vendor

You can see three colors of salt at this vendor's stall

Black Nepalese salt


Weighing fruit for a customer

Closeup of the scales used in many stalls


Throughout the country, there remain many signs of last years earthquake

One of the shops we passed repaired these musical instruments - the back is a bellows, pumped with one hand, while the other hand plays the keyboard. Sounds like an accordion, as might be expected.

The Power Grid common in 3rd world countries

Silver and copper everywhere.

Motorcycles in these narrow streets could be hazardous to one's health.

Selling goods to drivers on the bridge

Just across the bridge, we met our van for a short ride to the Unesco World Heritage Site of Swayambhunath, a complex with an access of 365 stairs (we drove up), lots of monkeys and a beautiful stupa.

Our tour guide, Deepak Risal

Stupas near the entrance

Buddha's eyes

Monkeys on the stairs

The dark spot under the arm is a baby monkey

Waiting to have a picture taken

Looking out over part of the Kathmandu Valley

Some of the sprawl of Kathmandu Valley

Across the valley is a home for monks (the golden-roofed building)

Looking down on some of the stalls just below the Swayambhunath complex

Swayambhunath Stupa

These are a group of stupas purchased by rich people to bury their families

The top of Swayambhunath stupa is meant to resemble a lotus blossom

Prayer wheels

Another Buddha statue

Prayer flags are everywhere

Flutes for sale


The next stop on our tour was for lunch. Deepak gave us two choices, one of which served typical Nepalese food - which is what we chose, unanimously. Unfortunately for me, he didn't give us the complete details, as I'll explain. We soon arrived at The Bakery, across from the U.N. compound.

My first Everest beer

The U.N. compound across from The Bakery Cafe

When we sat down and were given menus, I decided to order my first Everest beer (one of the 3 major Nepalese beers). I told the waiter and pointed to the menu. He didn't seem to understand, at first, so I repeated my order. Still no understanding of what I wanted to drink. I was getting rather frustrated with the waiter, and less than pleased. I had the same problem ordering my food. Only after my beer arrived, I heard the conversation at the table, explaining that all the waiters were hearing impaired and that we were supposed to use some simple sign language (which was shown on signs around the restaurant - that I hadn't seen).

After lunch, we headed to our second World Heritage Site, Patan Durbar Square. This area sustained severe damage from the earthquake in April, 2015. Some of the building have been repaired, but there is still much destruction visible all around.



Since we were so close to another temple, the Golden Temple, our guide recommended we walk a few blocks to visit it. We all agreed and off we went.

Entrance to the Golden Temple

Elephants standing on tortoises on either side of the entrance to the inner courtyard

Gold leaf covering a wall of the temple

Buddha inside the main shrine

Monkey holding a jackfruit

Monkey in chains with prayer wheels in background

Fierce dragon

The Golden Temple was worth the diversion.

We then headed to the final stop, the World Heritage Site, Bhaktapur Cultural City. This site consists of 3 major squares: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square and Dattatreya Square. As you can see from the photos, there is still much damage from the earthquake in April, 2015.

Walking from the bus parking to Bhaktapur Cultural City

Up the steps

On our way to purchase tickets

Across from the ticket office


Our ticket

Bhaktapur Durbar Square (1)

Bhaktapur Durbar Square (2)

Bhaktapur Durbar Square (3)

The Golden Gate - entrance to the 55-window royal palace

Inside the 55-window palace

Royal bath at the 55-window palace

Hindu God and Big Bell

Part of outer enclosure, still under repair

Erotic art on the eves of a temple

Erotic art on one of the temples we passed

Bhairavnath Temple

Nyatapola Temple on Taumadhi Square

Cyber cafe on Taumadhi Square

Making mandelas

One of the interesting passages near Pottery Square

Pottery Square (before the earthquake, this square was often filled with pottery for sale)

Pottery kiln

Famous yogurt - very tasty

We then were taken back to our hotel, with just sufficient time left to change clothes before being picked up by the staff of ECDC, who were taking us to dinner. Dinner was at a restaurant that Pushpa and her brother and sister had played in when they were growing up. At that time the building had be abandoned and they were told it was haunted and, therefore, they must not go near it. That was one of those parental commands that made it all the more interesting to disobey.

The restaurant is now Bhojan Griha. "The historic residence of the royal priest was built over 150 years ago. It was on the verge of collapse and took over 6 years to restore." We sat on cushions on the floor and enjoyed an excellent Nepalese meal and a traditional show of dancing and music.

Waiting to go into Bhojan Griha

The inner courtyard

Playing an organ-like instrument

Interesting traditional dance

A traditional dance

Sprouted-bean soup, yummy

Everest beer in an elephant-handled mug

Out trip was exciting and rewarding. We made many new friends that we hope to see elsewhere throughout the world.

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