Kathmandu, Changu Narayan and Bhaktapur

After I bored you with three blogs on out trek up the ABC I added insult to injury and left you freezing up there for two weeks… To make things worse you will have to wait for another week or two in the icy oxygen poor sanctuary as I my blog today will describe our visit to Kathmandu, Changu Narayan and Bhaktapur. Three magic, overwhelming and very different experiences all crammed into two days and the Kathmandu valley.

Kathmandu the crammed, polluted, colorful, noisy, congested and fascinating capital of Nepal attacks all your senses once you inevitably plunge into it. This first photo represents this vivid blurred impression upon stepping into the Tamel – the rather touristic downtown. Upon pulling out my camera I promptly lost my glasses… and had to find an emergency replacement in the market (they served me very decently for the next four weeks).

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Cramming into the tiny taxis, which surprisingly manage to navigate the completely derelict local roads is the ultimate mode of transport. Unless you opt for one of the Rikshas which boast a horn made of sprite bottle…

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We first completed our business reserving porters, trekking permits and transport to the trail head in the office of Swissa our amazing travel agent, where we also amassed loads of “The North Fake” equipment to keep us warm and dry. This turned also out to be the best place to buy local currency. I know this sounds like somewhat blunt advertizing but they very much deserve it.

After business comes fun in the form of a visit to the Swayambunath Unesco Heitage site Buddhist/Hindu temple, better know as the “Monkey temple“.

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The back (western) side of the temple boast three huge golden statues.

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The Eastern side of the site has a huge stupa complete with Buddha eyes and prayer flags in bright colors.

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The temple serves peacefully side by side both Buddhist and Hindu worshippers – imagine a churchmosque or a synachurch.

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From the top of the Monkey temple we descended to the Durbar square the ancient center of royal Kathmandu. This extremely crowded square is home to multiple amazing temples as well as the royal palace. This was our first encounter with the beautiful Nepali wood carvings that adored many of the temples and could get pretty pornographic…

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Holy men in bright colors wandered among the temples.

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Most of the temples are built of stone as are the statues. The most impressive and fearsome one is the Kala Bhairab Shiva statue. Carved from a huge black rock painted in bright colors and sorrounded by families that bring donations and rach out to touch it.

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We stayed in the square until it got dark and navigated our ways throught the dark crowded alleys back to the Tamel.

The next day took us to Changu Narayan and Bhaktapur – an altogether very different experience.

Changu Narayan is a small village perched on the top of a hill with potentially great views. Unfortunately the brown asian fog (polluted air) did not enable it to live up to this potential. In all other other aspects this beautiful place did however more than fulfill our expectations.

The magnificent temple of Changu Narayan has the oldest written inscription in Nepal from AD 464. It is built of metal and  wood and protected by lions carved of stone with piercing eyes.

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Behind the Temple a kneels a moving statue of Garuda from the 5th century below touching carved figures of  musicians.

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The temple and the narrow street winding up to it are wonderfully serene and only relatively few visitors come up here. Along the street artists are creating and selling genuinely beautiful works.

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While local life goes on.

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From Changu Narayan we drove down to Bhaktapur one of the three kingdom cities (Kathmandu and Patan are the other two). Among these three Bhaktapur is by far the most beautiful and pleasant and considerably less crowded. It has a big Durbar square with royal palace and many temples.

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In on of the squares women pulled up water from a deep well while chatting and laughing.

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The spacious squares are interconnected by  narrow alleys with wooden carved windows and small shops . Many of these sold gorgious handwoven scarfes and textiles.

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In one of these side streets we discovered a lovely workshop for lovely hand made paper.

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In the yard next to it was a pottery workshop.

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As always the women are toiling and the men are watching or playing.

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Tiny shops sold fresh steamed momo dumplings.

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And pedlars on the street, in shops and even on bikes sold fresh fruit and vegetables.

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Yael with a recent acquisition.

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Our gang of teenagers after the finished plundering the city:

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Sunset time to say goodby.

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