Magical Medieval Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur durbar square travelUpon our arrival to Kathmandu, Nepal we were awe-struck by the beautiful temples and stupas hidden in every nook and cranny of the city (view this Kathmandu slideshow to see what we’re talking about), but little did we know that 20km away there would be a medieval city that would top it…enter Bhaktapur. As a UNESCO World Heritage site and the capital of Nepal until the second half of the 15th century, Bhaktapur gives a glimpse of what a royal Nepalese city looked like 800 years ago.

 

Bhaktapur nepal travel tipsThe five-story Nyatapola Temple towers above the city as one of the tallest pagoda-style buildings in the Kathmandu Valley. Touristy restaurants surround the plaza to admire it but if you ask a local how to get to You Me Mini Rooftop Restaurant, you’ll find the best view around–plus cheap eats. At the foot of Nyatapola Temple be sure to admire each tier’s guardians: mythical wrestlers, elephants, lions, griffins, and goddesses of Baghini and Singhini…each level’s protection said to be ten times stronger than its predecessor.

 

Bhaktapur fountainPublic baths are all over Bhaktapur, most with gorgeous carvings and fixtures. Trying for no apparent reason to mimic the faucet design, we’re doing our best impersonation of a ferocious snake-goat-elephant-dragon face.

 

Bhaktapur street market sceneWhile Bhaktapur may the best preserved of all the ancient Nepali cities, nothing feels too precious. All day cobblestone streets serve as markets, temples double as vegetable stands, and palace gates become flower stalls. (Traveler tip: If you go to Bhaktapur, spend the night so you can see the city awaken without the tourists.)

 

Bhaktapur architecture The windows and doors of Bhaktapur are adorned like no other we’d seen in the world. Forget squares or circles, these things spread like eagles through brick. We came across this window, which is approximately 80% frame and 10% opening, after taking a “wrong turn” down a side-street. I say “wrong turn” in quotes as it wasn’t on our walking tour map, but then again, that’s always where you find the real gems.

 

Bhaktapur temple prayersAs the daylight heads west, the Shiva devotees come to Durbar Square to light their yak-butter candles, play drums, ring bells and sing rhythmic chants.

 

travel tips for BhaktapurWith coffee and local sweets in hand, our Dutch friend Seb, Anne and I made our way to our hotel rooftop to watch the sun rise over the city. The golden hue over the mountains and ancient city’s streets was worth the lack of sleep.

 

traditional nepali dressMost men in Nepal where these fantastic Dhaka topi hats in colorful patterns. While observing them, we couldn’t decide whether these old men were explaining the ways of the world to the young gentleman, or he was telling them exactly how the internet works.

 

bhaktapur temple sceneThis photo captures a little bit of the magic that is Bhaktapur. A traveling cushion salesman taking a breather, sitting on massive wooden chariot wheels, that are paraded down Bhaktapur’s streets during Nepalese New Year, in front of a beautiful 500-year old Hindu temple.

 

hindu rituals in BhaktapurIn Nepal, there is such an incredible fervor for Hinduism that we never quite knew what was a festival or another given day of the week. Walking through the streets, we noticed nearly a hundred women lined up at the four corners of this reservoir, flower throwing, foot scrubbing and gift giving in droves.

 

Bhaktapur kilns Aside from the plethora of temples, wood carvings, and creamy yogurt, Bhaktapur is well known for its black pottery. After seeing young boys prep the clay and ladies spin it on the wheel, we marveled at the their old-school method of firing.

travel to patan durbar squareUNESCO considers the three cities of the Kathmandu Valley as one world heritage site and after Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, we were missing just one: Patan. Somewhere between Kathmandu’s hustle n’ bustle and Bhaktapur’s pristine grounds, Patan is a bit more gritty, but way less touristy and packs one heck of a Durbar Square. This Krishna Mandir temple is one architectural beauty out of nearly a dozen packed in this palace square. More than a tourist attraction it’s the heart of city. So to get a feel for life in Patan, we tucked under a pagoda roof for a little people watching with old ladies saying mantras, kids texting from a temple stoop, and old men chatting over masala tea.

 

Spending three days in Kathmandu, two days in Bhaktapur and an afternoon in Patan gave us a hearty taste of ancient Nepal but for the complete Nepal experience, you’ve got to get into the Himalayas. Stay tuned for our next blog on our ten-day trek to the Annapurna Base Camp.

 

12 comments on “Magical Medieval Bhaktapur

  • January 15, 2013 at 11:57 am
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    Bhaktapur, the city of doors. Great report! And the streak continues with camera. ‘Love some of those shots. My favorite? 042-img_5708.jpg – Man & Goat in front of Music Center. Hah. Love it!

    Reply
    • January 20, 2013 at 5:10 am
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      ken, doors and windows…other worldly! thanks, glad you liked it, and glad i could keep the camera streak alive 🙂 – i also loved that goat, i voted to have it inline, but in the end we opted to use one that “told the story better” 🙂

      Reply
  • January 15, 2013 at 9:04 pm
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    Fascinating… Did you take advantage of the public baths? lol. The photos are extraordinary!! xoxo

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    • January 16, 2013 at 11:27 am
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      Lol, I tried to jump in….but Anne pulled me back. Would have been quite the photo shoot! Thanks for the love on the photos, makes me smile!

      Reply
  • January 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm
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    I’d never make it out of there – SO much to see. Love the brick streets (and their herringbone design), roof-top gardens… Wow!

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  • January 19, 2013 at 9:57 pm
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    AMAZING! What a cool city. Would love to see it someday. You guys know how to see the world the right way!

    Reply

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