Posts Tagged With: Bhaktapur

Guide to Bhaktapur

1.  Bhaktapur is easily accessible from Kathmandu via bus, taxi, or car hire. In my case, the private Nagarkot-Changu Narayan hike I booked at Mountain Trotters included a car that brought me to Nagarkot and picked me up at Changu Narayan from which it brought me to Bhaktapur.  Returning to Kathmandu a couple of days later, my hotel provided transport for NR 1000 to Thamel which is about the price taxis hanging around the entrance of the durbar square.

2.  Entrance fee is at NR 1500 for most foreigners.  If you will be visiting on multiple days whether on day trips or staying a couple of nights, ask them to extend the validity of your stay up to the end of your visa.  At the back of your entry ticket, they will write your passport number, country, entry date to Bhaktapur, and the number of days you need.  They didn’t ask for a passport picture.

3.  Do stay overnight.  I stayed two nights and it was one of the best decisions I made in my Nepal trip.  The place is magical early morning and after dusk once most of the tourists have gone.

 It’s a beautiful experience to just watch the locals heading to the temples and shrines for their religious rituals and hearing nothing but the sound of bells.  At the Pasupatinath Temple, a damaru drum sounds with the bells.

Plus you get to photograph Nyatapola Temple with less people.

It will be your chance to listen to bhajan singing at Taumadhi Tole (around 6pm) where I saw one.

4.  Book a room that can give you nice views of the square.  I stayed at Golden Gate Guesthouse.  

5.  After visiting the squares, head to the side streets and experience much more — crumbling buildings, hidden shrines, local life, etc.  

6.  There not too many good places to eat as prices are overprices and dishes uninspired.  

The cafes are much better.  If you want to dine with a top view, head to Temple View Restaurant at Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Cafe Nyatapola and Nyatapola Restaurant at Taumadhi Square, Cafe de Peacock at Dattatreya Square, and Pottery Cafe at Pottery Square.  Other places such as Highland Beans Coffee (which is my favorite cafe) at Dattatreya Square offer ground floor views.

7.  There are a few atm machines and money changers but I found them to be little lower than in Thamel.

8.  Get dolls, puppets, thanka paintings, and pottery at Bhaktapur as these are where they’re made.  The small lane from Durbar Square to Pottery Square is lined with stalls. The rest of the stuff can be found at Thamel and are much cheaper.  Oh, ceramic magnets in Bhaktapur are at NR 200 compared to NR 250 in Thamel.

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The Streets of Bhaktapur

Being in the heritage area of Bhaktapur is like being in a time warp.  Brick-tiled streets, shop houses, old men chatting at rest places called phalcha, ancient temples, people making offerings,  bhajan singing outside temples, and many more.

Head to side streets, slip through passageways, enter courtyards, and it’s as if you’re in a different world.  Bhakatapur is truly magical.

One of the two lions standing guard at a platform at the durbar square

 

“Bhajan” singing at Taumadhi Tole in the evening

Nyatapola Temple

Taumadhi Tole in early morning

A “phalcha,” traditional Nepalese resting place

Pottery Square

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Good Morning, Bhaktapur

I wake-up past 5:30 in the morning to the sound of bells clanging.  I’m certainly going to miss this when I return to Kathmandu much more when I get back home to Manila. Bhaktapur is a lovely town to spend a few days in.  If only I did not have to tick-off some items in my shopping list, I would just have stayed here.  On the other hand, the craziness of Thamel will help transition me to the craziness of Bangkok before flying back home. 

It’s about 2 degrees and freezing.  I think I’m turning into a bowl of ice-cream.  Nevertheless, I take a stroll to Tamaudhi Toll for better pictures of the Nyatapola and Bhaighamari temples. The square is busy with vegetable vendors and people on their daily religious rituals.

I muster the courage to drop by one of two stalls  on a side street for an egg roll and two ring-shaped fried bread which I point out.  Cheap at NR 40 and comes wrapped in a newspaper.  Hahaha!

Down the road to Dattatreya Square.  The shops haven’t opened yet but the road is alive with a few vendors setting up their wares, army recruits jogging, and people heading to wherever their feet takes them this morning.  Dattatreya is busier as the two  temples are teeming with worshippers.  The bells are busy clanging.

The goats are their usual selves basking under the cold sunshine. This ram, on the other hand, is busy eating some grains thrown by worshippers.

Vendors spread out goods for offerings in the temples sometimes chasing away one of the goats who are attracted to the flowers.

 

I revisit some of the sites that fascinated me yesterday such as the peacock window.  With no pedestrians or pesky touts from the wood carving and thanka shops, I get a better view and picture of the window.  I also discover other windows with smaller peacocks.  

I head to Highland Beans Coffee and Travellers Cafe for some omelette, grilled cherry tomatoes, sliced fruits, toast, and cup of black tea; what the menu calls a “simple breakfast” and watch Bhaktapur go by.

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A “Bhajan” Evening at Bhaktapur

The sun sets and the day visitors from Kathmandu lrave. Bhaktapur reverts back to whst it really is, a living ancient Newari town still steeped in its ways.

I follow the sound of drumming and end up in Tamaudhi Tole.  A group of elderly  musicians playing drums and cymbals are gathered in a circle on the dance platform on the front right of Bhairabnath Temple.  

An old man leads the singing of bhajan, devotional songs, from an open book while the rest follows.  It sounds almost chant-like.  More men join the circle sitting cross-legged on simple mats laid on the floor.

On the front right porch of the Bhairabnath Temple, a much smaller group of men are gathered. The music of the two groups create a mesmerizing cacophony of sounds.

Three young men and an older man arrive and join the group in a circle.  Out of some long cloth bags lying on the floor come  long thin oboe-like instruments.  The instruments add a little fanfare to the music.

The surprise doesn’t end there.  The two gentlemen and young lady seated together behind the circle bring out shawms!  All along, I thought they were just spectators.  Their sound dominate the ensemble.  I notice that the the two groups of aerophones don’t play together. 

In the meantime, another group has assembled at the front left porch of the temple singing and playing music instruments.  

The entire square is filled with music.  The temple bell  on the right side of the temple soon joins in played by a teen-aged boy in the small group.  Close to 7pm, the three groups stop.  The smaller group that was first to arrive, clasp their hands in namaste, pack-up their instruments and leave.  One of them, a bespectacled youn man smiles at me and nods.  For a few minutes, the square is silent.  

The two remaining groups resume their music.  Once again, the shawms dominate.  A few minutes later, the group in a circle ceases to play. Finally, the other group dominates the square with their  chanting punctuated by a single double-headed drum and a few pairs of cymbals.  The square is nearly empty now except for a few vegetable vendors and a couple of Nepali police patrolling the streets.

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Bhaktapur Walking Tour 3: Dattatreya Square

From Taumadhi Tole, I take the road by the left side of Bhairabnath Temple  and follow its winding routh past shop houses rest places, and small squares.

It is an interesting walk as you realize you’re not merely ambling down a touristy road but one that’s actually trodded on by locals going about their day to day business.

The road narrows and I turn left to a hiti.  I walk down a few steps to get closer.  It’s so peaceful like I’m in another world so far removed from the busy lane I had just veered away from

I retrace my steps and the narrow lane opens up to the square with Dattatreya Temple looming over it.

The two wrestlers, Jayamel and Phattu guard the entrance.

Fronting the temple is a stone pillar topped by a garuda.

On the opposite side of the square is Bhimsen Temple whose open ground floor gives me a chance to rest my feet.

The square is alive with tourists and local people going about their everyday business.

I take the small lane to the side of the temple  and see a small colorful shrine to  Bhimsen.  

Nearby is a large water reservoir.  

Beautiful brick buildings overlook the reservoir.

I am particularly taken in by this building with beautiful wood work.  I see two people enter and I wonder what it is.  A house?

I take a small lane on the side of the reservoir to Salayan Ganesh temple whose three-tiered roof is visible from it.  

Dedicated to Ganesh, the deity with a head of an elephant, inside is a stone revered for resembling the his likeness, albeit vaguely.

A row of stupas sit quietly near the temple.

I walk back to the  square and head behind Dattatreya Temple to a smaller square to gaze at the Wood Carving Museum where a puppet looks out of a window.

The museum facade is beautiful.  

Opposite it is the Brass and Bronze Museum.

I follow the sign to the Peacock Window which is on this wall.

It’s easy to miss.  In fact, I take the photo of a window with a smaller, no less impressive peacock.

The real one or at least what all the guide books talk about is a few meters further down.  Touts at the Oriental Woodcraft store tell tourists admiring the window that it’s free to head to the store’s 2nd floor to get a better view or photo.

Back to the square behind Dattatreya Temple, I take the lane to the left.  Beautiful old buildings line the street but the best is this one with fantastic woodwork.

Across is a shop selling king curd, yogurt with honey, a Bhakatapur specialty. It’s thicker than the usual curd and a little sweet.  A cup costs NR 35.

Large servings are placed in clay bowls.

I retrace my steps and head to Cafe de Peacock overlooking the square for an uninspired and overpriced (NR 375) buff fried rice.

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Bhaktapur Walking Tour 1: Durbar Square

I wake -up to the sound of bells, something that has defined the Nepalese sonic landscape for me in the past week I have been here.  Everywhere, in both Buddhist and Hindu temples and shrines are iron bells of all sizes being rung by locals sounding out their faith.

I’m glad I chose to spend two nights here in Bhaktapur at a room with a view of the square.  It was magical having the square to myself with only the locals going about the temples making offerings, chanting, and sounding out the bells.  It is just a little past 7 in the morning and the tourists have yet to come.  I soak in the atmosphere.

Pashupatinath Temple is busy with worshippers swinging the damri and ringing the bells.  Nearby, the mighty Teluja Bell sends out its deep ringing sound filling the square.  

In counterpoint to the sacredness of what is going on inside the temple are the sculptured trusses that hold one of the tiers.  Figures in kama sutra that will make anyone blush.

The light is perfect for photographs and I take in the sights of the square.

The Palace of 55 windows.

The octagonal Chyasalin Mandap whose steel retrofitting allowed it to survive the 2015 earthquake.

I enter the Golden Gate past some Nepalese soldiers that guard the Royal Courtyards where photographs are strictly forbidden. 

 

The metalwork is astounding in its detail.

I am unable to enter the Taleju Temple as I am not Hindi.  I head to the Royal Bath instead, a magnificent sunken pool guarded by gilded Nagas. 

The tourists have come and the square becomes busy.  I move on to Taumadi Tole and Dattatreya Square.  I return to the Durbar Square later in the afternoon when there’s less people.
Only the staircase remains of the this temple to which my balcony and room windows open to.

In front of it are two stone lions that face the street that leads to the  Kumari House.  

Just follow the lions!

It is here that the first kumari of Nepal, the living goddess, was installed.

The entrance is easy to miss as it is crammed between souvenir shops.  

It is quiet and peaceful inside.

You know you’re in a Buddhist place when you see prayer wheels.

I  walk the side streets and come upon this beautiful stone shrine tucked in a hidden corner; its bas-reliefs seeming to leap out.


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